Brad and I have coined a phrase to describe the sudden onset of irritability. We call it "Instant Bad Mood." While Brad falls prey to Instant Bad Mood biennially -- his even-keel Minnesota stoicism does not encourage such sudden dips in temperament -- I experience Instant Bad Mood fairly regularly. Here are some triggers:
- Shops that sell Christmas decorations year-round. There I am, browsing Sven and Ole tee shirts and wild rice soup mixes in a Grand Marias, MN, gift shop when out of the corner of my eye, I glimpse twinkling lights, animated Santas, moose-on-skis ornaments and those miniature towns tucked into faux snow. Instant Bad Mood. I'm cranky, I'm grouchy, I want to pick a fight with the cashier. Why in the world do I need to face Christmas schlock on July 14? Isn't it enough that Christmas descends upon us mid-October, even before we've packed away the grimacing jack-o-lanterns and light-up ghosts?
- Being prodded into watching SNL clips online at 10:56 p.m. My husband has this really annoying habit of booting up Kristen Wiig sketches about 3.5 seconds before I am ready to retire to bed. "Oh honey, I meant to show you this earlier. You have got to watch this...it's really quick, but you are going to die laughing," he says, cajoling me over to the computer. Brad has yet to learn that while I might find Kristen Wiig highly entertaining at, say, 6 p.m., at 10:56 p.m. I am less than amused. Instant Bad Mood.
- The myth of the family dinner. I am convinced that all the social scientists who have concluded that having dinner as a family every night is a critical activity and imperative to the survival of our society do not, in fact, have any children of their own. If they did, they would realize that the family dinner is a recipe for Instant Bad Mood. They would see that dinner every night with two children under the age of seven results in the following:
- flatwear clattering to the floor -- at least two utensils per child;
- milk spillage and occasional gushing (out of nose);
- falling -- at least one child tumbling from chair and sustaining injury;
- multiple episodes of uncontrollable giggling;
- some form of animal noise;
- 14 complaints about food quality;
- 12 requests for additional beverages and condiments, each request timed perfectly to the moment I am about ready to pull my chair up to the table;
- at least one blurt of the following words: poop, penis, toilet, tooty;
- zero adult conversation;
- Instant Bad Mood.
So what does all this commentary about Instant Bad Mood have to do with faith, God or spirituality, you're wondering? Nothing really, except that it reminds me that life's disappointments and annoyances are real, here every day, facing us and daring us to contend with them in the best way possible. For awhile I assumed that once I believed in God, once I had faith, I wouldn't fall prey to such lowly faults -- to irritation and crabbiness, envy and gossip. That I wouldn't yell at my kids and sigh at my husband and wish that dinner didn't really involve children at all. That Instant Bad Mood would vanish along with all my other faults.
But more and more I'm realizing that I'm the same flawed person. The only difference now is that I know God, and that knowledge alone inspires me to strive for fewer Instant Bad Mood moments. Fewer eye rolls. Fewer sighs. And a little more appreciation, especially for the dinners that don't involve clattering flatwear and tumbling kids.