Today I’ve been thinking about Louisa May Alcott’s novel, Little Women, in which the four girls talk about their “bosom enemies” — their special faults.
And certainly one of my bosom enemies is score-keeping. My Twelve Commandments include “Spend out” and “No calculation,” which are meant to remind me not to keep score, not to stint on love and generosity, not to keep track of who’s done what.
“I gave the Little Girl a bath last night, so you…”
“I let you take a nap, so you…”
“I had to make the plane reservations, so you…”
It’s awful. I see that. And yet it’s so hard for me to resist thinking that way. One thing I did was to decide always to do certain tasks myself — like changing a dirty diaper — rather than to see myself keeping score. And I try to bite back the words as I find myself starting to start to bargain or trade or make claims. I keep reminding myself of what St. Therese wrote: “When one loves, one does not calculate.”
I thought I was making some headway — and I do think I have, actually. Nevertheless, yesterday, in the nicest possible way, my mother pointed out to me that I show quite a bit of this pattern. Which is remarkable and discouraging because 1) my mother almost never offers advice or criticism (nowadays; it was different when I was younger) and 2) I’ve never talked to my mother about my fight against this fault; she just picked up on it on her own.
So I’ve been thinking about a particular scene from Little Women. Marmee tells Jo that she, too, suffers the bosom enemy of a quick temper (another one of my faults).
[Jo] “Yours, Mother? Why, you are never angry!” And for the moment Jo forgot remorse in surprise.
[Marmee] “I’ve been trying to cure it for forty years, and have only succeeded in controlling it. I am angry nearly every day of my life, Jo, but I have learned not to show it, and I still hope to learn not to feel it, though it may take me another forty years to do so.”
So I may be in for a long battle.
From 2006 through 2014, as she wrote The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, Gretchen chronicled her thoughts, observations, and discoveries on The Happiness Project Blog.