The other day, after the girls were sleep, we were talking about our schedules. We had an upcoming dinner date with some friends—not old, close friends who know all our faults, but new friends with whom we still need to be polite.
“Hmmm…I’m not sure I’ll be back in time to be there,” the Big Man said. “Let me see what time my flight lands.”
“You’d *** better be home on time!” I said in the rudest way. “We’ve already rescheduled once, that is just too rude. This dinner has been on your schedule for two weeks!”
I was astounded by the violence of my own reaction and lamely tried to make a joke of it. “Umm, I don’t know where that came from,” I said in a calm voice. “Clearly I tapped into some wellspring of rage.”
“Seems like it!” the Big Man answered, unruffled.
Joking about it helped, but still, that was a bad moment.
It’s good that the Big Man isn’t terribly disturbed by my snapping, but on the other hand, I fear that his imperturbability is the result of years of harpiness on my part.
I remember when we first started dating, and I snapped at him for the first time, he said to me in a very serious way, “I don’t like being snapped at.” I recall it so vividly. We were on the subway, going back to his apartment from his office at Sullivan & Cromwell. (In fact, now that I think about it, that may have been the very day he threw away the piece of cheesecake.) It would be terrible to think that he’s just become inured to my snapping over the years.
In any event, no matter what he thinks or how he reacts, I don’t want to be the kind of person who behaves that way.
I keep making this resolution, over and over, and I keep backsliding, over and over. I comfort myself with examples of Tolstoy, Pepys, and St. Therese, all more elevated souls than I, who kept re-making the same resolutions throughout their lives.
Samuel Johnson, too, repeatedly records in his diary his vows to “avoid idleness” and “rise early.” At one point, he wrote, “I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving; having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of doing is short. O GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions.”
And so, once again, I resolve to speak tenderly and light-heartedly.