I had a couple of grouchy days this week. In all the places I practice centering — the car, the indoor pool, on the phone, at the grocery store — I responded to the unexpected with gritted teeth and halted breath. Instead of catching myself each time, I let my uncentered-self enjoy the ride to self-righteousness and judgment. It was mostly internal. I wasn’t mean to anyone — didn’t say or do anything I regretted later. But it wasn’t fun. It sapped my energy and lowered my happiness quotient.
An on-and-off kind of thing, the mood lasted about two days. I finally found my way out of it through curiosity and fascination. What’s going on? Is it something I ate? Drank? Not enough sleep?
I was telling my sister Paula about this — she teaches fifth grade in Illinois — during a late afternoon phone call. I said I’d been a grouch but was trying to practice what I teach by noticing the grouchiness and finding one thing in the grouchy moment to appreciate and shift my mood. I was working on moving from grouchy to grateful. We laughed, and she said there was probably a blog post in there somewhere.
Then she said, “You know that’s a digraph.” And I said, What’s a digraph?”
Digraphs and Blends
One of Paula’s areas of expertise is English, and she explained that a digraph is a pair of letters that combine to make one sound, as in sh (shoe), ch (cherry), th (think), or wh (who). Some digraphs are called “blends”. These are the ones where you can hear both sounds, as in dr (drum), bl (blue), sc (scarf), and GR. Grouch. Grinch. Gratitude. We laughed again, and got a little more playful, curious, and — GRateful. We had a GReat time (these digraphs and blends are everywhere — how many can you find in this sentence?!).
Well, I diGRess bit. The point is I pretty much GRew out of my GRouchiness by learning about diGRaphs, and laughing with my sister. We had fun blending two emotions into one centered moment.
As I looked back, I noted what it was that helped me find my way out of grouchiness and into gratitude and a new way to practice centering. I think these can apply whenever you find yourself in an attitude or mood you’d rather not be in:
- Acknowledge it. Name it. In the aikido sense, blend with it. It’s hard to stay grouchy, angry, or mean, when you start to blend with the emotion by looking at it, feeling it with awareness, and investigating what’s going on.
- Get curious. Wonder a little where the mood came from. You don’t have to know. Just asking helps. Where does the grouchiness reside in your body? How big is it on a scale of 1–10? The minute you get curious, it begins to diminish.
- Be kind. Move from judgment to fascination. For yourself and others. We’re all on the mat of life, doing our best.