Goodbye Grumblings

Find the good

I thought I was cranky. Turned out I was sad.

On a June Sunday this summer, I got home from Scout camp with Husband and Thing Two, and for the next day or so I felt cranky and out of sorts. Really unpleasant-to-be-around cranky. I thought maybe it had to do with the state of my house, which had reached critical mess, as it often does at that busy time of year. It was only as I wrote a long-overdue email to an old friend that I began to understand how I really felt: I was sad.

A place I loved along the Saint Lawrence… totally unrelated to Scouting, grumbling or sadness.

The Monday before camp had been my last regular Cub meeting as Akela, the “old wolf” who’s in charge of a Cub Scout Pack. At the camp, I spent most of my time helping the youth and other Scouters who were the camp organizers. I wandered over to visit my Cubs a few times, and as they clustered around me telling me things and asking questions, I reminded them with some glee that I was now Scouter Susan instead of Akela. It was fun to grin at them and say, “I’m not in charge here,” though it did feel a little odd.

When I got home, away from the constant action of camp and into the privacy of my home, Grumblings set in.

Writing things out helps me clarify my thoughts, but when I’m upset or cranky — that is, when I really need to clarify my thoughts — I don’t always remember that helpful technique. It’s hard to be rational when I’m tangled up in Grumblings. I’m thankful for my good friend who helped me find understanding and get to the heart of things simply by being present in my thoughts as I wrote to her so far away in Germany. Writing to her gave me the opportunity to recognize and acknowledge the feeling, and to let myself feel it.

Now that I think about it, I understand why I felt sad. Over more than a decade, I identified strongly as a Cub Pack leader. Whenever I’d hear about interesting activities for kids, or games, or local places to visit, I’d file the information away as possibly useful for Cubs. When I saw craft materials on sale, or camping supplies, or large quantities of juice boxes, I’d consider stocking up for Cubs.

Every Monday evening was a flurry of getting home, gathering materials and then spending an hour-and-a-half with 12 to 25 boys and girls from 8 to 10 years old. There was no danger of my bringing work stress home with me on Mondays, because as soon as I turned off my computer at work, I was gearing up mentally to be on for a couple of hours, checking off mental lists and contingency plans.

The work of emailing parents and other Scouters, planning activities and camps and doing paperwork spilled over to the other days. In a normal week, I could easily spend two or three hours on Cub stuff. If there were a camp or other activity to plan, that time could increase to eight or more hours over the week.

I never counted the hours, so my family may have a different perspective. I know that like many other activities, Scouting expands to fill up all available time and energy. It was fulfilling volunteer work, and much of it was fun — especially the time spent with the kids.

Being a Cub Scouter helped me to learn and grow.

I was an introvert who learned to get comfortable in a circle surrounded by kids all yelling “We’ll do our best!” at the top of their lungs.

I found a new and more powerful version of my commanding “mother voice.” The leadership skills I was picking up at work were transferable to Scouting, as I’ve mentioned before, and vice versa. (Now that I think about it, perhaps not all skills. I’ve not used my mother voice at work, and I don’t intend to.)

The organization has been of real benefit for my family, and I fervently believe that it’s worth supporting with my time, in spite of the usual politics and differences of opinion that crop up in any organization. I won’t be involved in the weekly meetings, but I will continue as a service Scouter, someone who helps Cub Scouters deliver great programming. I don’t regret the change to a different, more behind-the-scenes role. It’s time for a new generation to get the benefit of that kind of leadership opportunity, and it’s time for the Pack to get some fresh ideas.

What’s the lesson in all of this? I need to practise self-awareness and pay attention when I’m cranking out bad-tempered remarks and tone. It may be that I’m actually sad or nervous, or even worried. Instead of stomping around and wondering why I want to pick a fight with everyone, I need to sit down and either scribble or type out the words out until I understand what’s going on.

Does anyone else act cranky when experiencing sadness or some other emotion? Please leave a comment or write to me at susan at and tell me I’m not the only one who behaves like that!


About GrumblingSusan

Word lover. Story addict. Daydreamer. Optimist. Ottawan. Treehugger. Scouter.

8 Replies

  1. Gwen Six

    Good story! I too suffer from that type of exhausting unmanageability from time to time. Tom always notices and asks if there’s an anniversary or birthday or death we need to be aware of or if I’m feeling OK…that question always triggers the memory banks to go to work for me and unleash whatever is in my head bouncing off those boney walls up there…..and then its can finally be released and my life is calm again! Hugs!

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Hugs to you too! It’s wonderful to have someone who notices and helps.

  2. Kath

    I don’t know why it can be so hard to remember what works when things don’t. I’m impressed that you noticed the connection and marked it for future reference. Thanks for sharing this with us, because I always figure I am the only one who can’t seem to figure out what to do to get through (even though evidently I did manage somehow before, and the time before that).
    Congratulations on getting back to writing, too. Another talented blogger just wrote about her intention to keep doing so, and how hard it can be. My favourite line:
    “I love writing, and I’ll get it wrong forever now that I am an adult and getting things wrong is the only way forward.”

    1. GrumblingSusan

      The alternative to getting things wrong sometimes is not doing them at all, and as I get older I realize that I don’t want to look at possibilities that seem out of reach wishing I’d tried. I think the progression has to start somewhere: we can get things all wrong, then partly right, and then almost all right. Being an adult to me means accepting that I may fail sometimes.

  3. Fran

    That is a beautiful message, and lesson Susan.

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Thanks Auntie. 🙂 Love, Susan

  4. Jenn

    You’re definitely not the only one! It’s hard to make changes, no matter how necessary, and it’s important to acknowledge how important that phase of your life was, and realize that ending it will leave a gap for a while. Knowing you, I’m sure you will fill the void with another, just-as-fulfilling activity. We could all learn something about ourselves if we spent some quiet time (with pen or without) to work through our feelings.

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Introspection is crucial, isn’t it, and so easy to avoid when we all have handy little computers in our pocketses! Thanks for your comment, Jenn. 🙂

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