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Delicious Crow

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
What 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 as shrieking.

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? Sheesh.

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.
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" >
May 1, 2007 Column

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