Monday, July 6, 2020
When I turned eight, my mother let me have a small birthday party with two other neighborhood girls. It was probably a scaled back affair because later in the month, I would be making my First Holy Communion, and a big shebang was planned.
To protect the innocent, I’ll name the two other girls at the party Karen and Debbie. Karen lived closer, and we played together a lot, but as is often the case, when Debbie, whom I went to school with, came up the street and joined in, there would be tension as Debbie would try to monopolize Karen. It was the classic case of “three’s a crowd.” Most of the time whenever Debbie commandeered Karen and turned her against me, I’d come home crying.
I can’t tell you much about the party, what kind of cake we ate, what paper hats with rubber band chin straps we wore, or what presents I received, but more than 50 years later, I can remember in great detail an incident from the party.
Normally, I’m a very even-tempered person, but as the three of us were playing outside after eating cake and ice cream, Debbie lapsed into “mean girl mode” and began to gang up on me and try to turn the head of Karen.
I was doing a slow burn until we began to play a game in our front yard and was using an old stump as base. Debbie suddenly shoved me off the stump, and I remember thinking as I lay on the ground, What? This is my birthday! This is my day! I jumped back on the stump, looked her in the eye, and hauled off and punched her in the face.
Shocked, Debbie stared at me, and as I stood on the stump towering over her like some little Mussolini, I pointed at her and shouted, “You, go home! Now! This is my party, and I don’t want you here!”
And she did.
I admit as I was winding up to punch her, I had this great feeling of relief as I was giving in to this beast inside me demanding vengeance for her treating me so shabbily on my big day. When my fist connected with her freckled face, it was a very satisfying, consuming feeling. Until it wasn’t any longer.
Though Debbie had it coming to her, that feeling of giving in to a misplaced, unbridled passion is still palpable and left a big impression on me as I knew it was wrong. As a little girl soon to make her Communion, I had been schooled that my reaction was wrong, and later, I’ve come to know that giving in to that base emotion of anger is dangerous.
With all that’s been happening in the world with injustice, violence and riots, maybe you’re feeling that ravenous beast of anger and vengeance within you rearing too, demanding to be fed with acts of meanness and violence, but I caution you. Don’t feed the beast.
Because the beast is never satisfied. The beast, once unleashed, is difficult to rein in. The beast isn’t interested in justice, righting wrongs or giving peace a chance. The beast only wants to create discord and destruction. And the beast’s ultimate prey is you. Once unleashed, the beast will not stop until it devours you too.
This article originally appeared in the July 2020 edition of Northern Connection magazine.