I saw a placard with this saying on it one day when I was out shopping. I’d been away from home for a few days, a rare occurrence at the time, as I had two young children and was more or less the sole educator and provider for them. Well, my husband was the provider, but I was their constant companion and oversaw everything. It was exhausting. On this particular occasion, I’d gotten away. Probably for some educational workshop, but I honestly can’t remember. I only remember that placard, which I eventually bought. It brought a smile to my face as soon as I saw it. I had wanted to give it to my husband who’d been working so hard that he was rarely the pleasant happy joking guy I’d married. I missed that. And as is often the case for parents with children, I missed him. So I bought the placard, but when I got home, well, I just couldn’t give it to him like that – calling him grouchy or grumpy, even though he was. It would have been too hurtful, too unkind, and so instead I said, “It’s for when I feel that way, when I wake up grumpy. I can send that part of myself back to bed. I can put it to sleep and let the happy, grateful part of myself wake up. “
And so it went. Instead of giving my husband the placard, I put it on our bathroom counter near the sink. Every day, each morning and evening, and sometimes in-between I read those words: “Sometimes I wake up grumpy, but sometimes I let him sleep.”
I’d just glance at it as I washed my hands. How am I feeling today? Am I grumpy? Do I have to be? Can I change that? With that little placard, came an awareness I had not anticipated. Here I went from shaming to recognizing and then more. I went on to put the grumpiness asleep, to send it back to bed, and to wake up other parts of myself. My happiness, my contentment, my wonder, my joy. I began to become aware of how stressed I felt, how pressured, but that those things aren’t grumpy. I began to see that with all the things going on in my life, I still had a choice. I had a choice in how I felt about them, how I reacted to them, how I was.
It became a joke then. My husband went on a work conference near Disneyland, and he brought the children each a toy dwarf – Grumpy, of course. He embraced this quality. We all did. We laughed about it together. We kidded each other. We played even in the midst of not enough sleep, too much stress, we laughed, loving each other.
The placard still sits on my bathroom counter next to the sink. It has taken some wear over the years too. Someone dropped the placard in water – and since it was only paper printed and glued onto a block of wood, the paper was damaged, the words somewhat unreadable. My daughter, seeing that I was upset, made me a new one. She took a marker and a scrap of our new kitchen tile. She surprised me with it one morning. Now it is also a reminder of resilience. We can remember, we can give each other, we can help each other wake up, or go back to sleep.
It is also a reminder of my choice. I can choose to be so many different qualities. Some feel good, some encourage others to come close, some push others away. Some make me sad, others make me smile. Some warm my heart, some stiffen me. Which will I choose? Which will I wake up?