Dec 09, 2013 0 Share

The Scrooge Virus


Illustration of Scrooge frowning and holding candle.
Thinkstock

I’ve come down with an early case of the “Bah Humbug” this year. I can’t imagine why, but I’m very short-tempered these days. In spite of my inner voice coaching me to be cheerful and merry and show my fellow citizens tidings of joy, I end up immensely irritated by something an innocent bystander has done while I wait for my latte at the barista counter. Maybe I should try decaf? No … it’s more than that. I catch myself watching other grumpy people with scowls on their faces, wondering if I look like they do. I catch myself beginning to scowl as I start to worry about scowling.

I really want to be pleasant to others, make them smile, and possibly turn someone’s day around by a random act of kindness. So what’s getting in the way?

As I started to ponder my own funk, the recent news about oxytocin caught my attention. I remember hearing a radio story on the topic, and the autism link wasn’t what piqued my interest. What I honed in on was the real need humans have for socialization and the effect that socialization has on the brain. Cognitive functioning may be impacted by how we humans socialize. So maybe the Bah Humbug is caught by spending too much time alone. Maybe I’ve been spending too much time at home behind my computer, and not enough time in the company of others.

This experience with my own socialization woes has me thinking about Cameron’s social health. I wonder if the Bah Humbug I’m experiencing is similar to what Cameron experiences on an ongoing basis. Maybe, like me, Cameron wants to be the cheerful person who brightens a stranger’s day with a kind word, but his frustration tolerance gets in his way, and he shuts down at the first sign of annoyance. Maybe Cameron tries to suppress his snappish and snippy responses to people, but he doesn’t have the ability to edit his attitude before it’s too late. Does he reflect back on his poor social interactions, and wish they had gone differently? I certainly reflected back on the interaction I had yesterday with the insurance call center in my effort to get my daughter’s same-as-always, life-long medication refilled. Maybe, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have shouted at the representative when she suggested that perhaps this time the medicine was different when I asked why the claim was being denied. Sometimes things that are meant to stay in the thought bubble accidentally get said out loud. I’m afraid that’s one of the side effects of the Bah Humbug.

So the one benefit of my struggle with the Bah Humbug is that I better understand Cameron’s social challenges. I understand now what it’s like to want to be one way, and end up acting in an entirely different manner. It’s frustrating, to say the least. But does Cameron really want to be social? Or am I projecting my own desires for him? He’ll soon be at a point in his life where it will become abundantly clear. His potential move from home to join a postsecondary program will certainly give him the opportunity to grow socially. Let’s hope the Bah Humbug isn’t contagious.