Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
I like to think is that I am always right, no matter what. I like to think that
if I am angry it is justified, that if I have a complaint or concern I state it
in a calm and rational way, always remembering to say, "I think" and "I feel,"
rather than, "you always," and "you never." I see myself as a reasonable person,
and always and ever an adult person.|
So, here's the deal: I flipped out
this weekend. I lost my temper and I told my husband everything - and I mean every
single thing - that I was thinking. I told him clearly, concisely and in a very
loud voice. A clear, ringing voice. He had no difficulty hearing me, and neither
did anyone else in the house. Or the neighborhood. I was so very clear and my
volume was so good that some (unwise) person might have described what I as doing
It happens. I am a mature and level-headed person much
of the time, but sometimes I am not. Sometimes it does not take very much more
than somebody pointing out to me that I am running pretty close to late or asking
me if I would like to have an egg to just completely denude me of any shred of
cool. I mean, wouldn't it bother you? Being offered an egg for breakfast and all?
So, the bad part was not humiliating myself in front of my family
as I stood in the kitchen wearing one shoe, spewing invective at a man who only
offered me breakfast and pointed out the time in a helpful way. The bad part was
what came after. The bad part was that not only did I not get to have a nice egg,
and breakfasted instead on the roiling stew of my own bile, but that I had to
spend the whole rest of the weekend trying to make up for it. It was just awful.
First, I apologized. Have you ever apologized and throughout the whole thing never
once said, "but you"? It is very hard. Very, very, very hard. Through an absolutely
gargantuan force of will power I did not once say, "but you." "But you offered
me an egg." "But you said it was 8:20!" Not one single "but." At all. Whew!
In kindergarten nowadays they teach you to apologize when you should. And then
they teach the other person to say, "apology accepted." These good lessons were
not taught to people my husband's age and my age. Thinking about it this weekend
I tried to remember the times in my life when I have been apologized to and what
I said in response. I remember things like, "yeah, right," and "fine," and maybe
a "just you wait," once in a while.
I should not have been, therefore,
surprised that I did not receive an "apology accepted" from my poor husband. You
see, what with me being perfect and all, my husband has not had the opportunity
to enjoy being the innocent and blameless victim very often. He says that it is
more often than I think, but he is wrong. You cannot live with another human being
for any length of time without a few ruffled feathers now and then or even the
occasional one shoe on and one shoe off hissy fit. My husband and I have not had
very many of these. We are more the kind of people who hoard up our hurts and
anger and misunderstandings and take them out in the middle of the night to re-examine
privately. We are the kind of people who get ulcers rather than the kind who get
mad, holler a little, then kiss and make up.
So. I had to apologize. I
had to think of more reasons why what I did was not right or nice or even very
. . . um . . . you know, sane. I had to confront my behavior and resolve to do
better. Over and over and over. All day long. It was terrible. Just awful.
I have a friend who quit smoking a few years ago and she told me that she will
never take up the habit again because quitting was so difficult for her that she
can't imagine going through it twice. Well, after this weekend my husband has
nothing to fear from me. I may get mad, I may feel hassled and stressed and by
golly I might not want an egg at some future point in our marriage, but I found
the experience of having to apologize for my poor behavior so grueling, so annoying
and so unpleasant that I will never, ever, ever need to do it again. No more crow
for me, not if I can help it.