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Confessions of a Closet Curmudgeon

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I love mankind -- it's people I can't stand.

-- Charles M. Schulz

This isn't the kind of article you might normally expect to find on the Living page, where the general tone of what's offered here is cheerful, positive, uplifting, an eternal look on the bright side of things, in search of the magic elixir that will turn life's lemons into lemonade.

Lord knows, we all can use daily doses of positive reinforcement. Especially now, when the world has gone into the great cosmic crapper and we're all left wondering who stole the toilet paper.

If you're searching for that kind of material, look around and you'll find lots of great stuff, just down the block from where you found this post. And normally, I'd be among those harbingers of harmony and happiness.

But after writing last week's post, Happiness Is Overrated, I seem to have written myself into a corner, where I find myself in discovery of and wrestling with, some startling information. My task this week is to write myself back out again, hopefully emerging with a greater sense of my true identity and possibly helping you shed some light on your own.

Let me explain: My take on happiness in last week's post drew in many interesting comments. Mostly, readers agreed with my premise, that happiness exists much lower on the food chain than joy and that most of us are really seeking the latter, while confusing it with the former.

We tended to agree that happiness is temporary and situational, mostly related to conditions being aligned with preferences, while joy comes from within, an eternal state, arising from Being as opposed to Doing, generally accepted by readers as the origin of happiness.

A few self-proclaimed "curmudgeons" weighed in last time, "happy" to find an article on the Living page that wasn't gooey-sweet and Pollyanna. One such reader requested that I write something about love for curmudgeons and since I began my last article by announcing that I'm not one, his request sent me on a journey in search of material. It turns out I didn't have to look very far.

The corner I wrote myself into turns out to be the "Curmudgeon's Corner." Having spent nearly a week there, I'm ready to come out, and in more ways than one. For I've not only been in the Curmudgeon's Corner, while there, I discovered I've been in the Curmudgeon Closet. Hence, you all are invited to my official "coming out."

After finding the Charles Schulz quote, and spending time sleuthing stuff written by people who wear their curmudgeon credentials like a badge of honor, to my surprise, I've discovered my own not-so-latent curmudgeonly tendencies, wrapped in an interesting "costume" of enlightenment.

I've discovered that I'm a kind of "New Age" curmudgeon! It's oxymoronic, I know, but then I always did love contradictions and coloring outside the lines. The curmudgeon in me hates the term "New Age," which conjures up images of naval-gazing, tarot card-reading, tree hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, granola-eating flower children of the 60's and 70's.

But as much as I hate to admit it, I have to cop to being a New Age type. Can you hear my closeted curmudgeon choking on those words? Astrologically, I'm a double Aquarian. What does that mean? Remember the 70's musical, "Hair" and the song, Age of Aquarius? Peace, love and brotherhood, baby! Step right up! I've got it going on in stereo!

The curmudgeon in me could care less about astrology. "As above, so below." What's all that nonsense about, anyway? The double Aquarian/ New Agey me gets it completely. I was put on the planet to teach about harmony, unity and love. That's my Aquarian mission.

We are, after all, in the Age of Aquarius for the next two thousand years, so we might as well all get with the program. Sooner or later, probably later based on how things are going so far, the planet will be transformed and humanity will realize it's true nature.

"That is if humans haven't already destroyed the planet in our race to dominate its resources," says the N/A Curmudgeon, reminding Miss Double Aquarian that things look pretty bleak and she'd better get a move on if she's going to save the world. But I seriously digress.

What is a curmudgeon?

According to several sources, a curmudgeon is commonly thought of as: "A crusty, irascible, cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas". Hmmmm, then why do I find them so adorable?

It must be why I prefer this definition by Jon Winotur, author of The Portable Curmudgeon:

"Curmudgeons' reputation for malevolence is undeserved, They're neither warped nor evil at heart. They don't hate mankind, just mankind's absurdities. They're just as sensitive and softhearted as the next guy, but they hide their vulnerability beneath a crust of misanthropy. They ease the pain by turning hurt into humor. Nature, having failed to equip them with a serviceable denial mechanism, has endowed them with astute perception and sly wit."

"Astute perception and sly wit" -- who wouldn't sign up for that? And how about this lack of a "serviceable denial mechanism?" Sounds good to me! Doesn't everyone aspire to these qualities?

And as the blogger at Carson Curmudgeon writes:

"Perhaps curmudgeons have gotten a bad rap in the same way that the messenger is blamed for the message: They have the temerity to comment on the human condition without apology."

Heck, I've made a living out of commenting on the human condition without apology. The only difference being, I'm more focused on what's possible for human being as opposed to what's wrong. But don't accuse me of being a Pollyanna, just because I'm optimistic, have a calm and sunny disposition and am terminally friendly most of the time. My "inner curmudgeon" is alive and well and on the look out for Polly and her band of merry maidens. There is no room at the inn.

The enlightened observer in me knows better than to rant about the human condition. It is what it is and besides, none of it is "real." It's all a fabrication of our minds. We live in the stories we make up about reality, not reality itself. But if we did reside there, curmudgeons would be put out of business because there'd be nothing to complain about.

Meanwhile, my curmudgeon self, the impatient one, the one my friends affectionately call "Abruptus Interruptus", doesn't think anyone's time should be wasted by dealing with ignorant or indecisive people, real or not real. "Let's get this show on the road and life isn't moving fast enough" is my curmudgeon's mantra. She's always in a big hurry! Don't ask me why. I have no idea. She's compelled to move and move fast.

I do my best to keep Abruptus Interruptus under lock and key, preferring that she not get too much airtime. But on occasion, when she's been good for too long, Abruptus Interruptus breaks out, forgetting that nothing is worth getting her panties in a bunch for and then she proceeds to do exactly that. Imagine a race horse being penned up in its stall for weeks. How long do you think you could keep one from busting loose? My point exactly. Now, perhaps you understand what I'm up against.

The Curmudgeon Hall of Fame

We curmudgeons have a lot of good company. Some of our favorite actors and entertainers have portrayed lovable grouches. Ever wonder why they were so good in these roles? Here are just a few of my favorites:

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau -- two fabulous Grumpy Old Men.
Heath Ledger- Batman's ultimate Joker
Andy Rooney- CBS' 60 Minutes-
Carroll O'Connor- Archie Bunker
Art Carney and Jackie Gleason- The Honeymooners
Lewis Black- Red, White and Screwed

These are all extremely compelling characters. Perhaps character is the operative word when it comes to curmudgeons. They'd like people to believe they're cantankerous and mean, but I suspect that crusty exterior is paper-thin, just waiting for someone like you or me to pierce it with just the proper dose of kindness. Even Heath Ledger's Joker, one of the scariest characters I've ever seen on film, had a mother who loved him.

Which brings me to my original intention for writing this post: how does one express love to a curmudgeon?

Unfortunately, I'm out of space, but I'm still not out of the corner. I haven't yet addressed the request to write about love and the curmudgeon. To be continued......but I'll leave you with a preview of coming attractions. Here's what you get when you let a curmudgeon out of the closet:

See what I mean? Imagine what the world would be like if all the curmudgeons were suddenly transformed and allowed to roam the streets! Now I get why we have such a violent reaction to the Pollyannas. It's because we are them in hiding!

Meanwhile, all you curmudgeon types please listen up. You could help me out by weighing in on the subject of love. I know you probably have distain for the very idea of talking about love, but come on. You can let down your guard just a little, can't you? In the name of being better understood by those for whom such things come easily..... give us a taste of what a curmudgeon really wants when it comes to love.

And for you non-curmudgeons or those of you still in the closet about your own inner grumpiness, what have we stirred up for you? Who are your favorite curmudgeons and how do you manage to love them?

I invite your commentary here and/or on my personal blog and website Rx For The Soul. And feel free to Become A Fan, it won't cost you anything, it'll make my day and I'll fan you back.

I welcome your inquiries and personal contact at: judith@judithrich.com

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