A number of years ago, Thing Two said I was "severe and terrifying," a phrase that has, off and on, bothered me. Then, a couple of weeks ago and again yesterday, a friend mentioned my book reviews and how they tended toward the critical. Now, that's not saying the exact same thing but still...
Here's the problem: I don't do well with people who can't be bothered to try (several of Thing One's family never seem to have learned basic English grammar and their FB posts and emails make me cringe; a cousin who lives in near squalor). People who apparently only get their news from NPR or Fox or Rachel Maddow or The Daily Show bother me because I hate siloed thinking - at a minimum, read or listen to one thing that doesn't exactly agree with you. If your ideas and beliefs are so shaky that you can't hear the other side, that's a huge problem. And I don't do well with books that are - to my mind - flawed.
Many years ago I had to read Ethan Frome which, up until the end, was a decent book. But that ending! Really, suicide by toboggan? (oops! spoiler alert) Living in upstate NY, we knew that was impossible and implausible, however romantic the notion was. A former colleague, to whom I'd complained about this years later, said that books only work if you can buy into the world and clearly, there was a break in that world for me.
Having a teacher try to convince me (and others in my class) that this wasn't a problem probably did get my back up. And, obviously, that's stayed with me over the years. So when I see a book that doesn't - for me, always and only for me! - set that world clearly, or when a character isn't as whole as they could be (or does something that seems implausible), I do tend towards the critical. Perhaps a little severely so. Recently this friend and I disagreed about a book that had one very obvious flaw if you really knew the world in which it was set (I happened to). Was my review severe? I'd like to think not, I'd prefer to think of it as realistic.
This tends to carry over into other areas, like when I see colleagues not pulling their weight or finding things burdensome when at other schools, it's far worse. Over the past few years I've tried, really tried, to not be that critical in person, to let my irritation rest and to find a more zen approach to work.
As the new year approaches, a new year with several challenges personally and professionally, let's see how well that works.