When I was five, weekends were spent at the Carolina Lakes community pool. Countless hours were spent investigating what creatures had found their way into the filters, getting yelled at by lifeguards for tampering with said filters, learning to do back tucks off the diving boards, getting yelled at by the lifeguards for doing back tucks off the diving boards, wearing really embarrasing swimsuits (I'm talking color blocking in purple, orange, pink and yellow with cutout peekaboo holes for my belly button, you guys. Horror.), and trying to be cool like my older brothers. I never did figure out what those terrifying creatures with two claws and tiny round bodies that swam around in the deep end were.

My brother, at 16, would typically let me sit on his lap and "steer" the car on the way to the pool, until I nearly ran us into a ditch (My kids will never do this. But it was the 90s, and it was fun. I support his decision.). Anyway, the point of all of this rambling is that the pool rocked. It was very rarely a place where I was unhappy. In fact, the only bad memory I have from the pool has turned out to be a valuable lesson for me.

It was summer, and I was swimming around, inspecting filters, doing backflips, and flaunting my terrible color-blocked one-piece/bikini hybrid. I approached a group of girls and asked if I could play with them. Not only did they say no, they began taunting me, laughing if they would ever hang out with me. (In retrospect, I couldn't really blame them for laughing at my bathing suit. I know I'm harping, but that thing was awful.) Nothing like that had ever happened to me. I was inconsolable. But then...I was angry. I decided to get revenge.

I stormed out the gate and into the wooded playground area beyond the pool. I had a plan. Soon, I located what I had been looking for: a tiny cactus- small enough to fit in my hand like a baseball. Somewhere in my five year old mind, the best course of action was obviously to uproot this baby cactus with my bare hands and throw it at the offending group of girls. Yeah, that would show them.

So I wrenched the cactus out of the ground and began walking purposefully back to the pool. I hadn't made it far when I noticed blood streaming down my arm. I dropped the cactus, and realized my hand had become a pincushion- covered in tiny, nearly invisible yet incredibly painful spikes. I ran back to the pool area, and my mother drove me home. She spent the next five hours using a magnifying glass and tweezers, plucking every last spike from my tender little palm (Do you remember this, Mom?) while I sobbed that I hated those girls, that I would never forgive them and how could they do that to me? Somehow it was their fault that I had gotten hurt, never mind that I had intended to hurl a baby cactus at their sneering little faces.

The point of this absolutely ridiculous story jumped out at me while I was telling it to Sam this evening: whenever you carry hatred in your heart, it is always you that ends up being hurt by it. Hate, revenge, jealousy...all of these emotions do so much more to harm you than they do the objects of your negative feelings. And in a very literal way, this story from my childhood is a great illustration of that.

Case in point: I dated my First Love for a little under two years. We grew up together, we taught each other so much, and we were desperately in love. Eventually I left him for That Boy (see earlier posts) and our paths diverged. When the First Love started college, we tried to rekindle the relationship, but it didn't work out. Immediately afterward, he began dating a girl that I have absolutely loathed since I was 15. I was devastated- come on, I yelled at him over the phone, she sucks! You didn't want me, but you wanted her?!

I stopped talking to him.

I defriended him on Facebook.

I cut him out of my life completely.

There, that'll show him, I thought. I let my anger fester for two years. And you know what? He didn't give a damn. He went on happily living his life, dating that girl, never giving me a second thought. Rumor is they will be getting engaged soon. And because I harbored so much animosity towards him for so long, I was never able to properly move on. My hatred for him was ruining my life, not his. It was only this summer, when I finally let go of That Boy, that I also let go of my ill will towards the First Love. Who was I to resent him for being happy? All of those negative emotions were hurting me, making me miserable everytime I thought of him. So, I let it go. And it felt so good.

My point is this: I have been absolutely horrified reading the news lately- it seems to be filled with people hating each other. Everyone hates the gays, and the Muslims, and the Jews, and on and on and on. People don't realize that their own hatred turns them into monsters. Hate begets hate, but love begets love. I know, I know- I sound preach-y, and I'm sorry. But this simple concept has really changed the way that I interact with people, and it has made me so much happier. Today, decide to let go of the those festering grudges you hold. Given the choice to hold onto the cactus in your hand, bleeding you dry, or to let it go and let the healing begin, what would you choose? It's simple.

Embrace love.


Those terrifying little pool monsters are called Dytiscus beetles. Somehow, their "claws" don't look nearly as life-threatening now that I'm a grown woman. Imagine that.

2 "bhebek"s:

Emily Carol said...

I love that you remind me how much I need to write. You're of my favorite people.

Anonymous said...

Its amazing what you can learn by looking back at things that happen in your life that seem meaningless while they happen. You are a very good writer, by the way. Hope all is going well in Egypt.

-First Love