Tuesday, 10 April 2012

24 March, 1888 - 'On Impulsiveness' by Lily Watson - 'The Impulsive Girl in her Domestic Relations'

For previous sections of this article, please click the tag 'On Impulsiveness' below. And for a series of articles on "district visiting" (that's what we call it when we go into the inner city to bestow charity upon The Poors) click here.

People who meet Miss Impulse only in congenial society are tempted to think she must make her home a very happy one. She is generally entertaining, for she says whatever first comes into her head; she is naive, bright and sparkling. They do not know that, even supposing her to be in the main a good girl, she is dreadfully trying to live with. Swayed by the feeling of the moment, she is either up in the clouds or down in the depths; chattering gaily on some absorbing topic, or dull and gloomy because she happens to feel dull and gloomy, and has never acquired the habit of considering anything beyond her momentary feeling. She is so very charming, when she is charming, that her friends feel it the more. When the Impulsive Girl comes down with a dismal face to breakfast, a chill falls upon the family circle.

Inquiry "What is the matter?" or expostulation will only make things worse. She does not know that anything is the matter; she is not in the least offended, or sullen, or desirous of making other people uncomfortable, but she just feels "flat" and has no idea of controlling or hiding the impulse of the moment. So there she sits like the mummy at the Egyptian feast.

When she wants to do anything it must be done "straightaway", for she will give nobody any rest till her wishes are carried out. She will rush home some day full of a new plan of arranging the furniture, the garden, the greenhouse; she has seen it at So-and-so's, and it is such an improvement! After about a week of commotion and confusion the fancy subsides, and the work is left half done. Or it is some new "fad" of benevolent work that is taken up; she zealously joins a society for district visiting, and the poor people are charmed with her; she is so sympathetic, so ready with generous and indiscriminate help,so thoroughly like a friend to them, with no pride nor stiffness, that they think there never was such a district visitor. In many of these ways the Impulsive Girl is to be loved and imitated. But alas, alas! she cannot persevere at any one thing. Her visits become less frequent; at last her poor friends find to their dismay Miss Impulse is not coming any more. "She cannot find time; home claims are foremost" or some such excuse presents itself.

Excuses of all kinds are in great use and favour with the Impulsive Girl. She has never laid to heart the benediction pronounced on "him that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not." After accepting an invitation, for instance, she will be seized at the eleventh hour with the conviction that she does not want to, and will not, go. Of course in describing these vagaries it is taken for granted that Miss Impulsive has no competent authority to control her. But it is not so easy to control an impulsive person past the age of childhood as it might seem to the uninitiated. If she does not want, for instance, to go out for an evening and you compel her, she will wear such a look of gloom and martyrdom that you will wish you had left her at home. She has no wilful intention of making herself disagreeable; she is not exactly sulking; but she feels bored, and has no conception of any reason why she should not show it.

If the Impulsive Girl gets safely past the shoals and quicksands that lie especially in wait for her, into the smooth waters of a happy marriage, it may seem that her matronly position will steady her at once. Not in the least! Supposing that she has a child of her own, she is a passionately loving mother, but she will be at one time in the nursery nearly all day long, at another time off and away for unreasonable periods. Perhaps, as the result of excessive devotion alternating with unintentional neglect, her first baby falls ill. Then no words can describe her anguish; she wildly tends it day and night, and if she is not forced to take rest and food, she very quickly breaks down. Let us hope that when the baby recovers she will have learnt wisdom; for maternal love is the most effectual of teachers, and as her friends say (those, at least, she has not discarded), "after all, her heart is in the right place."

Apropos of invalid nursing, which is sure at one time or another to fall to every woman's lot, it is as well to understand that impulsiveness is absolutely out of place in the sick-room. All must be done by method and order, with patience and gentleness. No giving of medicine in doses of rapid succession, and then forgetting it for hours; no letting the thermometer frisk up and down; no sudden bursts of emotion; no whims and vagaries can possibly be tolerated here. The Impulsive Girl, being very affectionate, is usually intensely anxious about her relations, and determined to nurse them herself. She insists on being present during some slight operation, and then creates a disturbance by fainting away, or going into hysterics in the middle. She wants to nurse night and day without cessation, and if not checked wears herself out in three days. Then she adds to the discomfort of the household by falling ill, and making a great fuss about it; for the Impulsive Girl is as bad a patient as she is an incompetent nurse. When illness enters a house, the best and kindest thing to all concerned is to send Miss Impulse straight out of the way.

Next time: the Impulsive Girl as a fellow-traveller.

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