There’s a scene in American Beauty when Kevin Spacey, in his role as Lester, on-screen husband to Annette Benning’s character, Carolyn, starts to lean into her on their couch.
They are laughing a bit about how things used to be. The scene is getting intimate.
And then, out of the corner of her eye, Carolyn sees the bottle of beer in Lester’s hand tipping towards the $4,000 Italian-silk upholstered sofa they are sitting on.
Then it happens. The words “Lester, you’re going to spill beer on the couch,” slip out of her mouth and the spell is broken.
The moment is over.
Some of us seem to start out life with an extra keen sense of when the proverbial beer is about to spill on the couch, and some of us seem to develop that sense as we age, as we acquire more expensive things, as we get tired and build up anger, or frustration, or resentment.
And although many people may be able to identify with Carolyn’s character as they watch that scene, I bet that almost no one desires to be her.
Most people don’t want to hear themselves saying words like that, but those words can start to come out as automatically as a cab driver honking the horn the second the light turns green.
The only way to stop it is to start to interrupt the habit. Break the pattern, even just once. Catch yourself before the words come out. Take a deep breath. Let it go.
And maybe even let the beer spill every once in a while.