Grumpy Bird

Children’s books are a wonderful place to read powerful truths about life, people and how the world works.  In fact, sometimes I think they are wasted on children, who probably already know these simple lessons – it’s the adults who need reminding.  My current favorite is called Grumpy Bird (Grumpy Bird, by Jeremy Tankard).  This story, with extraordinary illustrations, is about a bird who wakes up one morning in a terrible mood.  He’s in such a terrible mood that he doesn’t feel like flying.  So he decided that today he will just walk.  He sets out and soon meets a friend who asks what he’s doing.  When he announces grumpily that he’s walking, the friend happily says, “That’s great!  I’ll come too.”  And off they go.  Bird meets one friend after another, each of whom thinks walking is a terrific idea, despite Bird’s irritable responses to them, and soon he has a train of animals in his wake.  At some point, Bird notices that whatever he does, his friends will copy him and soon he is having a great time making them play follow the leader.  He’s having such a good time that he forgets to be grumpy.  The powerful truth?  It really is possible to change your mood – it’s a question of where you focus.

Yesterday, I was a Grumpy Bird.  Nothing felt right and none of the things on my to-do list cheered me up.  As I ran an errand at the Container Store, I noticed that the piped in music was an old Stevie Wonder song.  I stopped to pay attention and realized that my body felt lighter, my step quickened, and I suddenly felt like smiling.  Later in the day, almost without thinking, I put on some music I hadn’t listened to in a long time – a wonderful jazz album by guitar master Ronnie Earl.  This music, too, lifted me, and I found myself chopping vegetables in time to the music.  I was no longer a Grumpy Bird.  So I began thinking:  how do you change your mood?  Life sends us all kinds of reasons to be grumpy, from small irritations to serious setbacks.  But after the first few minutes, being grumpy is really not much fun.  What helps?

frownPay attention.  Look around.  Listen to the birds arguing in the tree.  Notice the silly music in the store – it’s usually designed to improve your mood and make you buy more, sure.  But you could just let it improve your mood and stop there, couldn’t you?  Notice how something you like tastes.  Smell something good.  Notice someone around you smiling.  Pet the dog.

frownFocus small.  It’s so often the huge issues that make us grumpy:  Where am I going to find a job?  How can I improve this relationship?  How can I be a better parent?  How can I afford to live the way I want to?  But if we focus on something small, something that we can control, some immediate accomplishment, it can make us feel better.  Grumpy Bird made his friends all hop on one foot and got a kick out of it.

frown Be present in the present.  Those huge issues that weigh on you began in the past and expand far into the future.  It’s a cliché to tell yourself to focus on the present, to be in the moment.  But it can be a mood changer.  Right this minute, what would you like to do?  What would you like to hear?  Smell?  Taste?  What do you notice right this minute?  What happens if you pay attention to that?

frown Let yourself smile – laughing is even better.  Even if you are completely alone, in fact, especially if you are completely alone, it’s hard to stay grumpy if you smile.  Really let yourself smile.  Even if you start with a grimace, if you let yourself play with it you really do start to feel a little differently.    You may not want to joyously embrace the whole world, but it does lighten the grumpiness a little.  And let’s face it.  It really isn’t much fun to be grumpy after the first few minutes, is it?



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This blog is about the many things that are important to me. I hope they will resonate with you as well. My dream is for it to be a conversation, with comments and additions by all of you who read what I – and my guests – write. I hope you will feel free to share your wisdom. I’m looking forward to the conversation.

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