In the past few weeks, I've been fortunate to spend lots of time really connecting with young people. Like really young. I took in the Olympic Closing Ceremonies with Luka (9 mos.), flew from Saskatoon to to Edmonton beside Nate (10 mos.), went swimmin' with Nevaeh (7 yrs) and Naima (3 yrs), took a shopping trip with Finn (2 yrs), and spent last night watching movies and gossiping with Cole (2 yrs) and Carson (9 mos.), and all of their wonderful moms and dads. The thing I couldn't help but notice is that one of the traits we commonly ascribe to babies or young children, was absent in all these little guys. I was prepared to deal with it before paying social calls on all of these babies, and yet it was wholly absent, and it made me wonder why I continue to tolerate this behaviour in adults. Well, no more. Starting now.
Dream: No more sulking, pouting or whining from anyone, even and especially, me.
Goal: Achievable. I'm not saying youngsters don't get upset, of course they do. So too should adults. But when a baby gets upset, they might kick and scream, or rant and rave, or throw a raucous tantrum, but sooner or later, they are completely over it. One notices that sometimes even before the tears have dried on a baby's face, they've spotted a butterfly or a firetruck, giggled at a funny face, or scooted off in pursuit of something shiny. Little ones are certainly fragile in the physical sense, but have the strong, flexible emotions to live completely in the now. "One of my carrots fell to the floor, I'm completely devastated. I don't see how I can continue any longer. I may as well just pack my bags and--oh my god, another carrot! You are a jewel of a Mummy! Look at this carrot I'm enjoying!"
Why then, as adults, do we pout for hours, sulk for days, hold grudges for years? What's the point? Are we such delicate flowers, our feelings so precious and pliable that any perceived slight can turn our world upside down? We can walk and talk and think and reason, but please don't say the wrong thing or else we'll fall to pieces? Come on.
Plan: Identify those situations that potentially create a pouty, whiny, sulky James and get over it.
Let me clarify that I in no way mean to impugn or discredit people facing legitimate challenges and/or suffering with depression. I have no idea what that is like, but I'm smart enough to know that I haven't faced any insurmountable emotional burdens myself, and that depression is a whole other ballgame. I wouldn't wish clinical depression and it's associated maladies on anyone, but I certainly know and love people who faces such illnesses every day with dignity and determination. This is not an indictment of you. This is to encourage your healthy brothers and sisters to grow a pair, to see the big picture, to not get excited over the small stuff.
I have become far less of a pouter/sulker since meeting Dr. Jon. We've taken the maxim "Never go to bed angry" and extrapolated it to mean, "Never leave room peeved." With a mother and eldest brother who are both psychiatric nurses, the Doctor comes from a family who puts it out in the open, sorts out the sore spots, says what they mean, means what they say, and passes the rolls around the dinner table every night. Jon puts it out there, and has no tolerance for emotional manipulation or the bevy of bullshit I have in my arsenal. If he senses I'm discontent in any way (and he gets it right every time) he says, "What's bugging out? What's the problem? Why are you upset? Why? Why? Out with it. Tell me. Let's sort it out." and the like until I explode, "WHY do you leave one piece of paper on the toilet paper roll? Who EVER needs just one?" or whatever the issue is. My example argument is trite, but we've gone over the relationship minefields (money, sex, work, nose hair) in the exact same manner. He doesn't let me stew, and thank god. He doesn't let me avoid confrontation either, which has certainly been my m.o. since forever. I feel like the epitaph on my family plot might read, "Here Lies The Ostime Family. Let's Change the Subject." This is not to say we never get upset. If I discover I'm short one ingredient while cooking dinner, or if Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo didn't record on the PVR, or if his computer freezes up mid-project, we are an intolerable two. We yell and curse and rage but eventually, we get the fuck over ourselves.
Knowing these things, when I see other couples that employ sulking and pouting, it really cooks my noodle. I was once on the subway near a young couple where the woman was having a full on sulk. Sighing, shaking her head, and not answering her long-suffering mate. "What's wrong, babe? What'd I do? Are you pissed?" and she kept denying it and denying it and then finally she turned to him and snapped, "I just need you to know when I'm hungry!" I swear to you. I'd accuse her of being infantile, but as I've said, I don't even see infants like that. Another time, I was out for dinner with some couples, and one man was giving his companion major attitude. From what I could surmise, they had been shopping earlier in the day, and the man either didn't have a credit card or it was maxed out or something, and he was mad that his girlfriend wouldn't front him the money to buy a video game. He was sulky all night and kept saying things like, "I get paid on Friday, you know! This Friday!" In front of all of us! It was just gross.
I compare these situations to another time when I showed up on the doorstep of a dear couple I know to spend the weekend. They had just figured out, the day of my arrival, that somebody had been putting nails behind the wheels of their parked cars in the driveway. They had had a few flat tires in the past, but hadn't connected the dots until that day, when the gal's tire had deflated just feet from the driveway and they found the offending spike. She had a job interview the next morning and had just found out the car couldn't be fixed in time. Was on the phone with the car people as I ding-donged and stood there with my suitcase. In spite of these terrible circumstances, zero pouting and sulking. Or rather, if sulking/pouting did occur, I never saw it. They were gracious hosts, I had an amazing, hilarious time, and that's just the name of their tune.
I really have to quit my bitching. Bitching and kvetching are just the tarted-up cousins of whining, and doesn't give any better impression than the sulkster does. I love a good bitchfest, but I've noticed that bitching begets bitching, it doesn't truly make anything better in the long term. Have you ever noticed that the quickest way to find common ground with an acquaintance is to complain about a situation you have in common? I might say to a new co-worker, "Just so we're on the same page, Sally is a total beast, right?" and they'll go, "Oh I know!" and we're off to the races. But as I say, I've got to curb that impulse. When someone complains about their lives to me and I can see their situation objectively, I never feel that connection through kvetching. If they say, "I work in this office, and I work with this woman, and she's always so bleeeerg", I think to myself, "Oh stop it, you're getting paid, aren't you? No one's holding a gun to your head." So why do I think it's cute when I do it? It's not. I shouldn't.
It comes down to how one chooses to see the world, I guess. Babies get to discover the world every day and it's pretty rad. There's always a new experience, new touch, new taste. Every moment has the potential to be bigger and better than the last. Babies don't sulk when things don't go their way because babies don't know what way things are supposed to go. They're just catching a wave, enjoying a flight, or chonkin' on a carrot. They take the world as it comes, tiny bodies be damned. They're some small stuff that's worth getting excited about.