Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Opening up a can of worms

Did anyone ever promise us that life would be packaged up all nice and neat and folded into a Belk's Department Store bag?   No.... it's more like those things that we take apart and can't get back together.  Like taking a man's dress shirt out of the plastic with all those little pins in it - and then trying to put it back in when we find out that it doesn't fit. Or fitting Pringles potato chips back in the canister after pouring them out in a bowl. Once something's out of the bag, you just can't just seal it up and pretend you never opened it.  I guess that's where the expression "opening a can of worms" comes from.  And regretfully, we can never take back words and actions that we say or do in anger no matter how much we want to.

I remember once when I told my mom a bit of gossip about someone we both knew.  I was in my twenties and knew better, but hey - it was just my mom.  These are pretty much the exact words she used, because they have stayed with me all my life. "Now why did you think I needed to know that? Even if you know this to be 100% true, which you don't, what good could it possibly do to tell it and if it doesn't do any good to tell it, don't."  I was rightfully reprimanded and have always been grateful for her words of wisdom.  I lost mom in my thirties but her words are still stuck like glue just like she said them yesterday.

There are events in my life that I can look back on and be ashamed about what I said or how I treated someone - words of anger or just plain immaturity.  And it's so weird how they just pop in my mind when I least expect them to. I'm pretty sure it's called "guilty conscience".  The first one that I can remember was on Valentine's day when I was maybe nine years old - and this popped into my head today for some unearthly reason.  There was a boy in our class that was very unkempt - always dirty, wore dirty clothes and I distinctly remember his dirty ears ( isn't it strange what you remember - so always keep your ears clean or I may remember it :)  And at nine years old, it was common knowledge that all boys had cooties and if you had dirty ears, you had double cooties.  We all handed out valentines at school that day and I'll never know why but this kid gave me a valentine card and gave no-one else in the class one. On the bus everyone was teasing me about it and I was mortified although I was pretty much mortified about teasing in general.  To show my disdain, I tore up his valentine up and made a show of throwing it out the window.  But I was totally unprepared for the look of hurt I saw in his eyes and how shabby, rotten I felt inside when I saw how I made him feel.  And did I apologize - I'm ashamed to say, no I didn't.  And has that look haunted me ever since?  Yes, and it's probably kept my actions in check a number of time.  I think this event in my life has helped shape how I've treated people ever since.

Do you have any such events in your life?  Come on, 'fess up - I can't be the only one.  Biting words that were meant to sting, a little gossip that was not meant to hurt anyone, bits of paper tossed out a bus window.  But the good news is, we learn along the way and we ask forgiveness of the people we hurt - and if we're lucky, we're forgiven.   It doesn't heal all the wounds, but it gives us a new beginning - and a fresh start - like folding that shirt up and putting it back in the bag.


  1. Beautifully said, After visiting my blog I had to check yours out. Love it. I too am a CHRISTIAN and proud of it. I will be back and be a follower.

  2. Oh my goodness, of course I do. I think everyone does, but I'm glad to say they are fewer and farther between as I grow older and try to keep being kinder. Not as few or as far between as I would like, but I'm still trying.

    Poor little boy, but I hope he went on to a lovely life with much acceptance and affection in it. I'm sure if he remembers that, he'd forgive you. Empathy takes a while to learn and we all go through it.

    I'm trying to think of good one to share, and boy howdy, do I ever have one. I grew up with my grandmother and father. Now, as it happens, my grandmother was an alcoholic, a pretty bad one in that she was drunk almost all the time. She could be cruel and she was very unhappy. I guess she was often unkind to me but she missed my grandfather, who had died years before. They'd been truly happy and she just turned to drink afterward. When I was about nine, I came home from school and my grandmother was several sheets to the wind. She told me:

    "Today is my wedding anniversary."

    Now she wasn't nice to me most of the time. She resented having to take care of me and let me know it a lot.

    I was honestly baffled and said, "What does it matter? Your husband's dead."

    In thinking back over my life, it was probably one of the cruelest I've ever said to anyone and the thought of it horrifies me to this day. I mean just HORRIFIES me. No, she wasn't kind to me...but life had not been kind to her, and I didn't realize at the time how cutting and terrible a thing I had just said. I didn't realize until I was older, and she was gone, in fact.

    But like you, I saw that look of hurt in her eye and realized what I'd done.

    Sometimes you have to forgive yourself, too. Forgive yourself with a promise to try and do better and better.

    I didn't get to apologize to my grandmother but I try to almost everyday by being mindful to speak kindly to others. That way I'll eventually earn my own forgiveness :-)

    Sounds like you're very mindful of that too.

  3. Oh, by the way, I'm actually not a believer (I'm also not a nonbeliever...I'm an agnostic) but I am glad that you have such faith and that it gives you solace, comfort and peace.

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  5. Thanks Sue - I'm pretty new at this but I love following other peoples blogs. I tend to follow those that are somewhat like mine, but I also enjoy reading ones that are very different. It's like reading a good book! Land of Shimp - I have followed you for quite a while - you are a wonderful writer. Funny thing is, until today, I was reading it wrong and thought it was Land of Shrimp - thinking maybe you lived on the coast somewhere, ha ha. Your grandmother story would remind my daughter of her father's mother. Grandma was her babysitter while we worked - she was not not a drinker, but she was not a pleasant person either. Needless to say, she doesn't have fond memories of the times she stayed with her. Thanks for sharing that. Loretta, I think I was a lot like you growing up. We were poor, but we lived in a rural farming community where everyone was poor. But, like you, we were clean. Being poor or dirty is not a child's fault and it's sad that hurtful things are said to children and I was guilty for hurting his feelings. Sad to say, his parental upbringing shaped what he was to become. He remained dirty and unkempt and pushed a grocery cart around collecting cans and things back in the old community from what I later heard.

  6. I deleated my comment...someone told me they thought I was trying to make "someone" feel bad. That wasen't what I meant at all. Sorry if anyone took it that way.

  7. Oh my, Loretta! I certainly didn't take it that way. It was just your expression of how you felt during an insecure time in your life. Any child can be poor by economy's standards, but with the love of family and friends, we are all rich beyond measure.

  8. Your Mother was very wise. I will always remember her telling me that life is as sweet at 60 as it is at 16..and you know what, she was exactly right.


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