“’Big sister, I love you but you’ve always held a mean grudge ….’”Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley
Recently, we bought a bug zapper that looks like a tennis racket! Ahh, the joy we get when we hear a bug sizzle – especially the wasps that like to live on our patio. In order to kill a wasp, you have to bounce him a few times. Each time, we get to hear that sizzle. I never realized my husband and I had a touch of sadism in us!
My daughter-in-law told me of an altercation she had with one of their friends. The man had been a jerk and she let him know it. He got defensive and added a few poisonous stings of his own. Sound familiar?
The man’s wife defended him. My son defended my daughter-in-law. That’s how it should be. We defend our spouses in public … and in private we help them see both sides (or we just tell them they’re plain wrong).
Now they are avoiding each other, which puts my son in a bind and the other couples they hang out with in the middle. My daughter-in-law feels guilty. These are all young couples with young kids. They are all in law enforcement, many of them co-workers. They need each other. So, in uncharacteristic fashion, I gave some advice. I NEVER give advice to my grown kids unless they ask. I hated it when my father-in-law did that. No matter how well meaning they are, an in-law giving advice feels like criticism.
When she told him he was a jerk, he did what any creature would do – he defended himself. Just like those wasps do when we enter their territory. She stung him … he stung back. In retrospect they likely both see where they could have done something differently to have a better resolution. But, as we all do, we hold on to that pride. We keep that bug zapper in the ready position.
The problem is not resolved and the friendship may not survive. A lose-lose. The situation that caused the fall-out seems like a big deal today but in six months, a year, it will seem like nothing. Bigger issues will come and this one will fade to the background.
What if they just went ahead and let it fade to the background now. Do they have to apologize to move on? Or can just moving on be an apology in and of itself?
Maybe they can just take the stingers out of their hearts, put down the bug zapper and enjoy a beer.
That advice sounds so pretty … so right … but is it?
Some animals barely do any damage with their sting. On the other hand, some animals sting and leave behind a stinger of poison. Words are the same. I wanted to tell my son and his wife that they decide what is a simple sting and what becomes poison. They can decide not to let words bother them. But, I don’t think that’s true. Just like I don’t get to choose what type of wound an insect causes, I don’t really get to decide what words will hurt or for how long. The sting comes too fast. The stinger appears before we get the chance to decide its penetration level. A hornet hurts for a long time. An ant is soon forgotten.
I thought of all the people I’ve lost because I refuse to put down the bug zapper. I do know that I sit here alone because I refuse to take my own advice. Over the next few days, I’m going to make a list of those people I wish I had back. I’m going to find a way to apologize. I may never have the relationships back, but at least I’ll put the bug zapper away.
But wait --- hold on --- bug zappers exist for one reason --- they protect us. Maybe, just maybe, I shouldn’t make any apologies. Maybe, just maybe, it’s okay to lose people in our lives – I don’t want wasps on my deck and I don’t want waspy-friends either.
Have you ever been stung by a wasp? A hornet? A yellow jacket? Those things hurt like hell – and they hurt for a long time. When I was about 8, I stepped into a yellow jackets nest (who knew they nest in the ground?). After I quit screaming and running, my father picked 18 yellow jacket corpses from my body. A lesson not forgotten.
I avoid yellow jackets. I pay attention when I walk across a yard. I keep my bug zapper close at hand. Nothing you can say or do will make yellow jackets my friend. I will never see those bees positively. They can go pollinate somewhere else.
I’ve told my daughter-in-law, essentially, to forgive and forget. Is that healthy? Is it even possible? Is it desirable?
Only she can decide. Only she knows how badly the stings hurt. Only she knows the value of the relationship. Only she can protect herself.
I’m still going to make the list of people who live behind my bug zapper. I’m going to consider the sting, the poison. I’m going to consider my culpability. I’m going to make an honest assessment of the situation.
This time, though, I’m going to decide exactly what kind of insect they are. Maybe their barbs were small and inconsequential. Maybe their barbs burrowed deep and still hurt. Maybe I want some of them to continue to dance on my zapper. Maybe I want to have a beer. I get to decide what bugs live in my space.
I know, too, that people hold a bug zapper against my stinger. That’s okay. I deserve it and my words may have left too big a scar.
Note: my husband informs me that yellow jackets are not bees and he’s not sure if they pollinate – but, reader, you get the point, right?
I love Sweet Dreams by Kristen Ashley
See you in 2018 ~This is my last post for 2017! What a year. Thanks to all the support and encouragement. I'll be back in January and hope to make several enhancements to this blog so that it's useful to many. Have a great holiday.
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