By Joseph Walker
So I'm sitting in front of my computer, wondering where this week's column is going to come from, when all of a sudden I hear that old, familiar voice inside my head: "Hey, guy, what's happening?"
"Oh, no. YOU again. Look, I've got deadlines to meet. I don't have time for you.
"You NEVER have time for me, but we always manage to find some, don't we?"
"Yeah, and that usually means trouble -- for me."
"You mean like when you were 15, and you were goofing around with some sparklers on the 4th of July, and I came along and asked how far you could throw one?"
"That's EXACTLY what I'm talking about. Why didn't you warn me about how quickly a well-thrown sparkler can turn a dry, weed-infested field into a three-alarm fire?
"You didn't ask. But, hey, it was exciting for a while there, wasn't it? Almost as exciting as the time I talked you into taking the ol' Corvair for a spin without your parents' permission, and, as I recall, without a driver's license. Yeah. That was great, wasn't it?"
"I thought so. I'm just glad nobody got hurt. You would've been responsible…"
"Hold on just a second, buddy boy. YOU would've been responsible. I'm just a part of you, remember? Only I'm the part that makes you want to do dumb stuff, which I've gotta tell you, has been pretty darn often during the past 54 years. Like when you were little and you took that pack of baseball cards from the store. I was the one whispering, `No one will ever know.'"
"That's right. I remember."
"And the time in high school when those kids wanted you to sluff school to go water-skiing? That was me, reminding you of how overwhelmingly important it is to be popular."
"Big deal. I was a kid, and kids are susceptible. You haven't had much impact on me lately.
"Oh yeah? How about in April, when you were putting together the information for your taxes? Or the other day, when that clerk didn't charge you for the gum? Or this morning on the elevator, when you stood opposite that beautiful young woman in the shorts and the…"
"OK, I get the point. Maybe I do hear your voice once in a while, but I don't pay as much attention as I used to. It may have occurred to me to fudge a little on my taxes, but I didn't. And I brought the gum to the clerk's attention. And I barely notice that young woman on the elevator.
"Honest. I've learned that you don't have to act on every impulse. In fact, the opposite is true. If you want to control your destiny, you have to first learn to control yourself. The greatest power in the world is power over self. It's just a matter of deciding who's going to be in charge: me or you.
"Are you trying to tell me that you think you've got me under control?"
"Not completely. I still give you too much power sometimes, but I'm trying."
"Well, you're going to have to try a lot harder. Weren't you the one who was whining about your deadline a little while ago? Well, it's almost here, and I've distracted you long enough to get you in SERIOUS trouble. Just like old times!"
"Maybe. Then again, maybe not."
--Joe Walker firstname.lastname@example.org
By Joseph Walker