Friday, June 1, 2007

Confessions -- jcarolek

I can admit I have not always acted with decorum. I have let my temper get the better of me and been very sorry after it happened. I could justify my anger and my reaction but I could not undo the action I took. One such event occurred the year before we moved to England.

I was in fourth grade, my sister was in fifth. I had already lived nine of my years measuring up quite inadequately to my older sister, and her latest “talent” was one that really had me irritated. She had learned how to “drum” her fingers on the table. Actually, she had fingernails, so she drummed her nails on the table….

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On and on she would drum. It was maddening, both because of the irritating sound, but also because I could not do it myself. (I couldn’t whistle through my teeth or through a comb or any number of things other kids could do, but the fact that Jeannie could drum her fingers made me insane.)

One afternoon during nap time, that time when we rarely slept and usually got on each other’s last nerves, we were coloring in our coloring books. Jeannie, I’m certain out of pure spite, began that incessant drumming.

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“Jeannie, quit that!” I demanded.

Her smile told me she was enjoying my pain….

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“Jeannie, if you don’t quit that, I’m going to punch this pencil in your leg!” I warned her.

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And without another thought, I took that plunge! Into her leg I punched that pencil. Unaware I would actually break the skin, I was mortified when I saw that indeed I had done just that.

Now, I just knew I was going to be in deep trouble with Mom and Dad. Jeannie would run and tell them and I would get the belt I very much deserved. But I learned something that afternoon. My sister was way smarter than I. She did not tell. No, had she done so, we both would have been in trouble for not taking our naps. And, as long as she did not tell, I lived in fear that she WOULD tell.

I spent a lot of my childhood regretting that single impulsive action. I doubt my sister has thought about it since she was ten, if indeed she thought about it the next day. But I learned my first lesson in regret for my own impulsive, bad behavior. It was, by no means, the last such action, there were at least two more that stand out vividly in my mind.

Still, there came a time when I grew to accept that I was the one who had to pay the consequences of impulsive, irrational acts, and I began to take the time to consider alternative ways to deal with impulsive instincts. I like to think that process is what defines maturity. I can still get angry, get my feelings hurt, feel as though all my hard efforts go for naught, but I know I will only add to my burden if I give into impulse.

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