Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Being a grouch

It's not so easy being the other green, i.e. more akin to a grouch than Kermit's lighter shade of green.

When I was a small child I had an Oscar the Grouch finger puppet, though it is long gone.  (I don't think I was particularly grouchy as a child, but perhaps my parents saw hints that I might develop in that direction.)  Anyway, I saw a few on eBay but didn't feel obligated to pick one up.  My own kids were only incidentally aware of Sesame Street.*

Anyway, six months ago, we had the division picnic on the Toronto Islands, and I enjoyed myself more than I expected to, even though the vegetarian samosas were delayed.  It was a nice day and we could sit and chat with different people.

How much a difference the setting can make.  Last night was the holiday party for the division and we were upstairs at the Rivoli.  I felt cramped.  The finger food for vegetarians was severely lacking.  One other major change was that I have given up soda and I don't drink alcohol, so going to a bar is just not my idea of a good time.  Given that most of our after work socializing (mostly when people are heading off to new opportunities) happens at bars, I will just stop going (and subsequently become a bit of a pariah).  I also felt incredibly constricted in the place (even though there were some seats) and didn't feel like chatting about anything (work or non-work), so I left after 20 minutes.  It's not that I don't have things that might be interesting to discuss (either my writing or upcoming theatre events) but I seem to prefer doing this in one-on-one interactions.

Still, I think under normal circumstances I would have stuck around longer, but I do not want to celebrate anything in this dumpster fire of a year.  I probably still in some shock and denial over all these terrible election outcomes.  While I am definitely glad to be out of the U.S. (though perhaps suffering a bit of survivor's guilt), there is no question if the U.S. continues to decline (and I don't see how things can possibly improve anytime soon), it will drag Canada down with it, so it is sort of like the people of Pompeii partying in the shadow of the volcano.

One of the more difficult aspects of my personality is that it is difficult for me to enjoy myself fully when I think about all the problems of the world.  Of course, this is paralyzing and overwhelming when you really stop to think about it (one of the characters of Carol Shields's Unless is driven around the bend when trying to face up to all the problems of the world).  So I block it out most of the time, as most of us do.  Do I really do much about other people's problems?  No, since the scope of them is so overwhelming.  I do side with liberals who favor state-sponsored approaches (which can still never cope with all the need out there) as opposed to conservatives who tend to help out a few people in a personalized way and are satisfied with those gestures.  (I probably sound more snarky than I intend right there, but it is an interesting point, which is debated at some length here.  It has been shown that there is a form of self-licensing that if we are good in one aspect of our lives (i.e. voting for progressive politicians or commuting by bicycle or even recycling) then this gives us a certain amount of credits that we can use towards being selfish in other aspects of our lives.  This is kind of depressing, though I have seen it in myself at various points.  Here is a pretty decent paper exploring the phenomenon.)  Anyway, while I do feel kind of financially squeezed, I will see if I can increase my United Way contribution from my paycheck before the year is out.  While worthwhile, this is unlikely to put me in a better frame of mind, and I'll probably still skip all the rest of the holiday celebrations this year, since I am feeling deeply Grinchy/Grouchy right now.

* I just didn't like the direction the program took in the 1990s -- while Elmo actually became a recurring character in 1985 he didn't start to dominate until the early 1990s (a veritable nadir for children's television with the parallel introduction of Barney & Friends), and the show's pacing and themes became kind of unwatchable to me after this point, not that I really tuned in until I was deciding whether to let the kids watch the show.

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