I know, I know, this is shocking! Okay, maybe not. I don't think I'm surprising anyone here when I ask: Can you relate??? Please don't leave me hanging! Chances are good that by now you have an image of someone in your head. Someone who annoys you. Someone who belittles you. Someone you are jealous of. Someone who brags all the time. Someone who won't stop complaining. Someone who corrects you constantly. Someone who, for one reason or another (cause, let's face it, the list could go on and on and on) gets under your skin and you just can't "get over" whatever grievances they bring into your life.
My husband and I call these particular individuals "toxic people". The worst are the ones who just say something (that you know has absolutely no justifiable reason or validation behind it) and for some extraordinarily frustrating reason I find myself wide awake at night envisioning the stupid scenario over and over again, coming up with bigger and more boisterous comebacks in return that I would never actually ever act out in real life. I lose sleep over it. I worry about it. And I always end up with the same, "ughy" feeling in my guts that brings me to my knees in confession and praying that either my level of compassion and patience would change, or that that person would change (talk about OUT of my control, right?)
Recently, a very dear friend of mine called me out on this. I was in a safe place, freely venting to this confidant about a particular annoying person I didn't even know very well. I made a rather snappy remark and judgment, and this friend stopped me in my tracks. "Emily, what if this person is trying as hard as you are?"
That was all my friend had to say to get me to stop (and turn red) and think about how I was really reacting. What was I doing? Who was I? And...maybe above all...have I been this person to someone else? I'm sure that I have been! Yikes! Yuck! Has there ever (ever ever ever) been something I've said to someone that has had them up at night plotting their boisterous comebacks at me?!
This thought was sort of disgusting and embarrassing all at once. For, certainly, I have been the one to misstep and cause pain and bring grievances and annoyances to someone. I'm human. I'm annoying. I'm going to rub someone the wrong way, absolutely. And, justified or not, the one thing I can do to redeem past wrongs of that sort is to try and try and try again to give someone in my future the grace I wish my past would grant me.
The other night, I was making homemade apple pie. Not just homemade, but I mean homemade. Like, peeling apples, making the crust from actual flour, and full-on zesting lemons and oranges for added flavor, kind of homemade. That is some serious, hard-core-pioneer-womaning happening, right? (Can you tell I am proud?)
In the midst of coring, peeling, and slicing the 20 or so (yeah, that took a long time) apples for the pie, a few lessons trickled into my brain. I had picked out a variety of apples for the pie. Four different apples, in fact, were going to make up the yumminess of said pie, and each one felt different when I cut into it. Some had slightly bigger seeds, some were rougher on the outside, some were smooth and juicier.
Hmm, I thought, some apples are easier to peel than others.
A very simple thought, for a rather simple task. Then, I thought about all the apples/people I encounter in my life, and just how very true that felt. Gosh, there are just some people that I cannot peel. Some people that I just cannot understand. Some people who, no matter if you are the sharpest knife in the drawer, will not give way to letting you see their insides. And sometimes it will remain that way, impossible to breach beyond the peel and see why someone is the way they are.
I remembered back to this fall when we took our girls to the apple orchard. We took a silly hay ride and got a tour of the orchard, hearing its history along with every apple fact you never wished you ever learned. Nonetheless, I recalled something I learned that day: They never throw rotten apples away.
What!? It's true. They take the rotten apples and turn them into cider. Better yet, the rotten apples make the best cider. And, I can attest to that, I had some of that rotten-apple-cider and it was downright delicious! Who knew!? I was amazed.
We all have rotten apples in our lives, I thought, as I peeled yet another fruit making its demise into my pie. Could it be possible that there's to be delicious cider in my future if I just give them a chance? That was the truth: Even rotten apples have a purpose in our lives.
You will often hear the expression that "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade" but that one is pretty easy to swallow, if you ask me. Lemons are useful as is. Lemons are tart, but tolerable. And, if you add enough sugar to anything, it's palatable.
Apples are different. They start off sweet. They are appealing and wildly popular. But, when rotten, they are garbage. And, that's not necessarily the apple's fault! Maybe it's seen some hard days, or been in the sun too long. Maybe some kid kicked it to the curb or only took one bite before it got discarded. But, it just might make the best cider in the world. And, cider requires no added sugar at all. It's just right the way it is. All it needed was a little time, a squeeze, and someone willing to wait.
It might not be easy as pie, but this was a lesson I needed to hear. I'm not perfect. I'm not surrounded by perfect people. I'm trying just like all of us are trying and I'm certain to be that rotten apple in someone else's barrel. Here's to making some delicious cider together, my friends!
It might just take some time for this lesson to work its way to my core. (Like you didn't see that pun coming?)