the crankiness, it lives

by Toni McGee Causey

I have no blog for you today. Well, not a real one.

It’s been a week of watching people (non internet related) be rude and bitchy to one another, as well as watching other stuff sort of implode (not this list or any group you’d all know). Last week, four people I know lost their parents (four different people died), and one of those was a cousin. Every one of them had been older or had suffered from a long, extensive illness, so not one was a surprise, but still, it makes you stop and think. Then this week, watching people dismantle friendships because it’s simply better for them is just… well, crappy.

None of this is directed at me (thankfully), so this is more just me, being in the periphery, aware of the pain raging all around me. Not able to help, not able to fix anything, not able to offer anything wiser than, “Yeah, it sucks.” And it’s affected my writing way more this week than it should have, this intrusion of anger and hurtfulness. What I’m writing is hard enough, really. It’s heartbreaking. I’m nearly at the end, and the book is ripping me to shreds. I have to gird up to get through this next part, and that’s difficult to do while witnessing the harshness I’ve seen this week. It makes me just want to go be a hermit. Sometimes, I think Salinger had the right idea.

I don’t even feel like ranting. I just feel… tired. Tired of the cranky. So, ‘Rati, I am opening this up to you today. What do you do to get through the day, when it seems like the world around you is just determined to stomp on the last little piece of empathy you have left? Links, books, movies, anecdotes, mantras, quotes… what? I’d appreciate it if you could help me rescue this next week.

36 thoughts on “the crankiness, it lives

  1. Anonymous

    My sister-in-law is being taken off life support after a massive stroke. She is 64. My brother is destroyed. They love each other very much.

    My best friend's father is dying in the hospital of heart complications. He is 88. He is an amazing man.

    Two friends of mine have had to put their dogs down this week.

    Several friends of mine have lost jobs and lost their homes.

    Other friends have died in the last four weeks. One found dead in his van after weeks of being missing. Asthma attack. Another fell down and hit his head and wasn't found for hours. Too late.

    Just ask Cornelia or Louise how their year has gone.

    2010. Can't wait for it to go away.

  2. Catherine

    Toni I find if it feels like a lot of people are imploding like nasty hissing kettles of rude around me I look at whether I'm doing the supportive routines that keep me on an even keel. I can't control how they are acting (and yes it's horrible to stand by and watch people hurt), but if I'm feeling grounded (even sorrowful grounded) I don't flare up at them or get totally drained (which I did when I was younger)…I look to having enough energy to go the long haul.

    I try to get a deep tissue massage once a month. I swim and or do laps with the kick board. Swimming is one of the few times my mind quietens. I look to really basic things like is my house tidy. I'm not by nature a neat person, but there is a level of daily clutter that nags at me. It's a visible undone to do list that is relatively easy to fix. It's a tiny thing on the grand scale of people dying in the world and rudeness, but being able to find keys easily, or a pen that works helps me deal with people in pain/or causing pain better.

    If I'm really uptight and it's windy outside I'll walk into the head wind as strongly as I can. Something about making forward movement against resistance eases me. Sensible highway driving with really loud music to sing along to at full voice helps me too.

    Weeding helps me also. After 9/11 I did about three full days in the garden, ripping out weeds, trimming things, just getting my hands in the dirt. Even over here I'd keep bumping into someone that had close connections. We'd be gentle with each other and connect.

    This may seem a bit pollyanna, but when things are shitty I look for the non-shitty. I try to be non-shitty and make sure that with my small interactions throughout the day I'm leaving people feeling better about themselves, not less able. At the very least I can be respectful, and then I work up to genuine smiling from there.

    I find the absurd (at least to me) every day. Often times this is at my own expense…but I get a chuckle regardless. Sometimes it's fashion choices. Yesterday while I was having coffee this guy walked into the cafe and he had apricot fisherman pants on and a laced up at the throat cheesecloth shirt. Part of my brain noticed this and went, hmm interesting choices…and then I noticed that he'd walked ten feet with both hands on his hips with a rolling gait. He was walking like a pirate. Yet he was happy, confident, maybe a little arrogant with his take no prisoners stance…but really no harm, no foul.

    I think balance is key. My supportive routines are really about creating balance so I can deal with other people's and my own pain, sorrow and anger. I try to be honest without being cruel. I listen where I can, and suggest counselling if it's totally out of my skill level. I try to work through any anger of my own and not hit out at anyone. I look to create kindness towards myself and others. Looking for it, encouraging it, nurturing it within and without. Being nice matters damn it.

    I sometimes find that saying, 'This too shall pass' as the most annoying saying because it seems really inadequate for the level of pain some people feel. Yet, for me it's been mostly true, whatever I am feeling right now mutates with time into something else. The good, the bad and the ugly. I look back on things and see them differently in hind sight.

    That's pretty much all I've got.

    No..a smidgeon more… I also still get a kick out of 'U can't touch this' and the hammer pants and dance moves. Makes me smile every time I watch it.

  3. Barbie

    Posts like this make me see just how good I got, and, man, I got it pretty darn great. Really, I shouldn't complain about a single thing. Still, things get dark and, when I do, there's one thing I know how to do. I escape. Taking my mind far away from my body was always the way I avoided pain — and the world in general — and it still helps me greatly. When I feel I can't handle things, I read, and I write, and I watch tv, and I give all of myself to that activity, and, for that time, everything is okay.

    I just finished reading Sabrina Jeffries' A HELLION IN HER BED, and it was exactly what I needed to get my mind off things.

    My greatest safety book is I'M WATCHING YOU, by Karen Rose. It feels like a hug every time.

    My comfort movie is, lately, STARDUST, though, THE SOUND OF MUSIC will always help. When I was a child, I'd watch the whole thing, then rewind it and watch it all over again. And again. Seriously. Sometimes, I watch CRASH. It's not really an easy, light-hearted movie, but I love it so much, it always gives me peace.

    When I want something really, really mindless, I just go to fail sites, like or or something really random like or

    Of course, there's always kids and cat videos on YouTube.

    I think, for me, ANYTHING that will take my mind off what's going on, off the real world, is good enough. Even daydreaming.

    I'm sorry you're feeling so overwhelmed, Toni. I hope you feel better soon. ***BIG HUGS*** 🙂

  4. Reine

    I write. Writing is the only thing that helps me when my world turns to shit. I don't focus it. I write about anything. My family is in a lot of pain now. I don't try to avoid it, and I'm not overly proactive, but I listen and interact as seems appropriate. But writing is how I listen to myself, and I need that. I also hug my dog Kendall.

  5. Grace

    I've found that if I change my routine, even briefly, like standing out on the back deck, doing a repetitive household chore, going for a walk, slipping in a DVD, doesn't really matter what it is, the movement, the temporary distraction and I'm ready to go again. I DON'T call a friend, spouse, relative or whoever and talk. Tea & Sympathy doesn't work for me . I save that for the funerals. Distraction, catch my breath, does it for me. Of course, its a highly individual thing but there is some sort of morbid comfort in the thought we are not alone in our suffering. No one escapes.

  6. Chris Hamilton

    There was a man who had a horrible loss. People flitted into and out of his life, expressing condolenses, then moving onto the next thing. His kids called from the coast. His loss was theirs, too, but work and money and their kids schedule made it impossible for them to get back. It's true, he thought, that old song Cats in the Cradle. So he just sat and looked out the window, at nothing in particular.

    His brother came and talked incessantly about how to fix things, to move on from the bad things, and find a way to forge ahead. The man said nothing, inside alternating between rage and amusement at his siblings hubris. After a time, when his brother thought everything was as it should be, he smiled reassuringly, clapped the man's shoulder, and left.

    The man cleaned up the mess his brother had made with coffee and sandwiches and took his seat again at the window, watching the blue sky dim as a blanket of high clouds weaved itself in the heavens. As he watched, he tried to make sense of everything, but couldn't. It was too big. Far bigger than a pep talk and a sandwich.

    Then a woman he knew came over. When he opened the door, she wordlessly put her hand on his left cheek and the warmth felt good. She was silent as she came in and took off her jacket.

    She didn't say a word when she picked up a folding chair and placed it on the floor next to his. She didn't say a word as she made coffee, brought a tray, and put two cups down on it. And she didn't say a word as she sat next to him and looked out the window.

    As they looked, the high clouds filled in and became dark and low. And rain came, beating on the rose bushes the man cared for each year. As the water rolled down the window, a single tear rolled down his left cheek.

    The woman sipped her coffee, then put the mug down on the tray, then folded her hands and put them in her lap.

    "Yeah," she said. "It sucks."

    And they sat in the darkening house, the only sound, beating of the rain on the roof.

    Sometimes being the one who only says "Yeah, it sucks." Has enormous value. Sometimes that's more than enough.

  7. JD Rhoades

    I take the dog for a walk. He's gotten good with voice commands, so I can have him off the leash in the immediate neighborhood and in the woods around the house. Watching him frolic around in the trees, investigating every scent before taking a break and running back to me, eyes bright and tail wagging, is an antidote to all the cranky, mean-spirited, petty, and just plain stupid people I deal with every day.

    It can still be overwhelming sometimes, though. Hugs…

  8. billie

    Riding, writing, getting out into nature where every minute there is something beautiful happening. Massage, chiro, focusing on what I'm eating/drinking, yoga. Often when everything around me feels mean and out of control I will pick something very tedious and meaningless to do inside the house or out at the barn – washing the baseboards with something that smells really clean and good, de-webbing the rafters in the barn with peppermint soap, Put music on and get lost in the chore. Cooking a complex meal that requires many steps, with music and a glass of wine. And during really crazy times, I simply unplug myself from the internet, the radio, any place I would get outside news. We don't take a newspaper nor do we have TV, so for me getting off the computer pretty much takes care of it.

  9. Cornelia Read

    Oh, honey… I think we're writing very similar books. And all these suggestions are so good.

    I'm trying to go walk along the river when things get really bad. Just be out in the open air, which is something I avoided for, like, a year now. The first time I did it, I went down the wrong part of the path and ended up in really overgrown woods. It was great, reminded me of when I used to go bushwack trails through the woods as a little kid, made me think of Indians and all goods stuff.

    This too shall pass.

  10. CJ Lyons

    Get lost. Seriously. Give yourself the gift of a few hours and literally lose yourself in a great (not just good) book or movie.

    Turn off the phone, turn off the computer.

    Take a long hot bubble bath with a glass of wine and some dark chocolate.

    Ask your sig other for extra cuddle time.

    Taking care of yourself is taking care of others.

    Doctor's orders!

  11. Gayle Carline

    For me, I know of three things I can do, one of which is bound to either make me feel better, or make me weep until I get the icky up and outa my soul:
    1. Be with my horses. Massage them, brush them, let them run around the turnout while I watch, get on them and wander around the arena. I'd take them out on the trail, but one is a scaredy cat and one is a show horse (
    2. Go watch a sporting event with my hubby. This can be live, or sitting at a bar watching a TV screen. It's practically the only time my laconic guy speaks, and I love to hear his passion.
    3. Watch this: It's my son, a senior in high school here. He's a freshman at Cal State Long Beach now, in the music program, and I'm fiercely proud of him.

    Between my horses and my family, the world seems less sucky.

  12. judy wirzberger

    Ah. Wish I could help. Recovery is different for each of us. I believe the only to get through pain is to embrace it. Lie on the couch and feel it, let it go into each pore and feel the awful heaviness of it and then take a deep breath and release it, inch by inch, organ by organ. When I feel on top of the world I tell myself "this too will pass" and when I cycle to the bottom, I say "this too will pass" — so enjoy or endure and through it all, know that you are loved and loving.

  13. PK the Bookeemonster

    When I am in the lowest of my lows, I let myself have a good ol' brooding mood. For a little while. Indulge it or it won't go away. Listen to music that says something to you personally, journal, or whatever, something that doesn't irritate you more.
    As for people around you who are rude, etc., yeah, there's a lot of lost people out there. We're not responsible for them and they can't touch us nor does it usually have anything to do with us. They don't know how to deal with whatever they're going through so they lash out like children. Keep a bubble of personal integrity around you. I like to kill them with kindness; it drives them nuts.
    And the deaths….I don't feel sad for deaths. I feel sad for suffering but not deaths. My vision of the process is that that soul finished its journey on this level of reality. I believe that they feel sad for *us* because we are still going through what we experience here. In a way, I see it similar to someone graduating from high school or college — it isn't so much as a sadness as simply a change after going through a whole lot of life lessons.
    It could be worse: you could be a Cowboy fan-for-life like me. 🙂

  14. JT Ellison

    This is going to sound cheesy, but when I'm especially low and utterly frustrated, I try to get out of the house and smile at a stranger. There is nothing better to release negative energy than going out of your way to be nice to someone you don't know.

    Toni, you deserve a break today. Do something just for you.

  15. Kaye Barley

    Toni, I'm sorry you're going through such a tough time, sweetie.
    The world has gone crazy, I think, and people are reacting badly. Perhaps because so many are afraid. Afraid of losing their jobs, losing their homes, losing their self-respect.
    Your words about becoming a hermit ring just right with me.
    The work place isn't what it once was, back when it could be fun and there was loyalty on both sides of the workforce fence. To make a very long story very short – its one of the reasons I've decided to take early retirement, effective Feb. 1.
    In the meantime, I'm watching this video about A Random Act of Culture a whole bunch (and sending you a hug).

  16. Allison Brennan

    I believe times like this–times of change, conflict, disagreement, sickness, death, financial trouble–show a person's true character. Those who rise to the challenge in the face of adversity and hardship and loss, without trampling everyone around them, are the people I am proud to call my friends.

  17. Debbie

    Healing: Sitting side by side with time.
    You inrelationship with others changes their lives and you suffer because you care. Companionship with another's pain demonstrates love and love is a choice in action. Partnership with pain is a choice we make in our humanity. My grandfather said from the time I was a child, "A closed fist does not give, neither does it recieve.' Keep reaching out: Toni, you better peoples lives as you do, and they yours.

  18. Dao

    I'm sorry you're going through such a difficult time, Toni! Whenever the world is giving me a lot of crap, I pop in a DVD of "The Big Bang Theory" and laugh my silly ass off. It works all the time! That's why I love that show so much. A friend of mine does the same thing but she's a fan of "The Office." She also told me working out is another way to release stress and she does kick-boxing. I'm not such a fitness buff like her but a walk under the sun usually makes me feel better. Also, playing with my cat always makes me feel loved. My cat is very intuitive and whenever I am in a low day, he is around to make sure I don't do anything crazy.

  19. Pari Noskin Taichert

    On those rotten days, I search out beauty. I search for reasons to be grateful. Doing this doesn't change anything around me . . . but it does give me the strength to carry on.

    I also subscribe to and get their beautiful sayings delivered to my inbox every morn. That helps too.

  20. Dudley Forster

    Toni sorry to hear about your awful week. I completely understand the urge to “fix it” — to feel helpless when you care so much. Reinhold Niebuhr’s famous prayer speaks to me when I feel like this.

    "God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference."

    Sometimes all you can do is just let people know you are there and care about them.

    Now for some happy things for next week.

    My oldest daughter, when she is feeling down & oppressed to the point it affects writing spends time at and and watches a lot of Mystery Science Theater 3000

    For me it’s music. I run to my favorites. Sometimes it’s Chopin’s Nocturnes, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition or Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. Other times it Davis, Coltrane, Brubeck, Within Temptation, Epica, Evanescence, Loreena McKennitt or Sarah McLachlan. Sometimes it’s the beauty of the music and sometimes I let the music express my pain and it drains away. I also escape by reading, but not dark, usually some swashbuckling adventure like a Clive Cussler or James Rollins.

    Here’s an idea, get a rip roaring Princess Bride: Storming the Castle board game going. boa

    There are of course hundreds of hysterical videos on the net. Here are a few linked to me this week

    A woman goes back to work after thirty years

    And since we all know you love football (This one was on Allison Brennan’s FB page)

    Since I am writing Steampunk there is this warning:

    Finally, if all else fails you can go to my favorite website for cynics.

    Well off to a NaNoWriMo write in.

  21. KDJames

    My first defense always seems to be to diffuse things with humour. But since my sense of humour is dry and warped and sometimes sort of sick, that doesn't always work.

    I don't know what to tell you, Toni, other than I'm sorry it's all piled up on you at once. It's hard when the anger and pain don't involve you directly and there's nothing you can do or say to make things better. Or even different. I do think there comes a time when you have to say, "Enough." When you need to bitch slap your empathy and just not be available as the person others can turn to and dump on. Not easy to accomplish when you truly care, but sometimes it's necessary.

    There are things in nature that soothe me. Watching snow fall. Starting at the ocean and listening to the waves. Standing out on my deck in the sunshine and looking up at the leaves, listening to the simple sounds of the birds and squirrels.

    Or maybe you should take a trip to the range and blast the hell out of a few virtual targets.

    Hugs and love. Next week will be better. Or it will be infinitely worse and you'll be able to look back on this past week with fondness and appreciation. No. Wait. It will be better. Definitely. Much better.

  22. toni mcgee causey

    Thank you all, so very much–you've made me smile. I really needed this, and I appreciated every single response. I'm working my way through some terrific links!

    Last night, I watched How To Train Your Dragon with my granddaughter, and today, we've watched UP. Playing with a 3 year old while watching movies: guaranteed pick-me-up.

    You all rock. Thank you!

  23. Double T

    Hon, sending you [big hugs]. When I was going through "stuff" I pretty much closed off. Went out and raked leaves or sorted through my grandmothers photo albums, putting them on acid free paper and such. Grandma took a lot of pictures so it took awhile. I had a 3 and 5 year old in the house so I didn't want to be Mommy Monster and snarling and bitching. But with a 3 and 5 year it does make you have to get up and join the world. Thank goodness for Disney movies. Also had to learn to play hot wheels and legos 🙂 Sometimes stepping outside of the normal "grownup stuff" and enjoying the wonder of discovering things again with a child helps put things in prospective again.

  24. Reine

    Dudley, that video is hysterical! I'll watch that whenever I'm feeling sorry for myself about having to take disability leave. By the time I'm ready to go back, it'll be like that, probably already is!


  25. Reine

    Toni, I'm really glad that you did this for your blog today. I have so many more resources for the down times. I'm going to email my granddaughter in Denmark now. Thanks for putting this out. I know it's hard.

  26. Allison Brennan

    Guaranteed to cheer you up: read the intro to the new anthology ZOMBIES VS UNICORNS edited by Holly Black and Justine something. Kelly bought it today and read the intro to me while we were driving and we were both cracking up.

  27. Laura

    It's really nice to know what other people do to cheer up or ground themselves. My boyfriend of nearly 4 years left me two weeks ago, with barely an explanation. Just walked out.
    Getting through each day is a challenge. I've found things like reading this blog help, but more importantly to make me smile I read my old Sweet Valley High collection, and look up the snarky blog sites about it online. It's something that's just mine. They have websites like these for the babysitters club, enid blyton, and a myriad of other teen book series from Nancy Drew to Twilight. It's ridiculous amounts of fun. And it's distracting. (I've also taken to wearing my Sweet Valley High tshirt to work – desperate times)
    I hope thinsg start looking up for you. And bring on the end of 2010!
    Laura 🙂

  28. Doug

    When I am angry or upset I clean house or workout. I find it is important to shut off my brain at times like that.

  29. Shizuka

    Long baths, funny movies (or TV episodes if the concentration's gone), and most importantly horrendous amounts of sleep. Like ten hours during the week and as much as your body can take during the weekends. The hot bath, tons of blankets, long sleep combo seems to cure most things for me. If all else fails, I watch a really sad movie and let myself weep over someone else's troubles.

  30. Gretchen

    Watch the bad romance video from OTR and encourage the people around you to get over their bad's too short to eat sour grapes all the time.

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