Series: Keepin’ it Real
Do you ever feel bitter? I did, and I hated it because I knew I should be AUTHENTICALLY GRATEFUL every day in every way.
I’m human, though, and the “jolly” side of the human condition often relies on premises that might be sorely lacking—premises such as fairness, fairy-tale endings, or having enough wealth, health, love, acceptance, or a thousand other things that make us feel good and, yes, not bitter.
We know, ad nauseam, the old adages thrown at us like discarded pizza boxes when others are feeling sooo good about their own lives, their own selves, their families, businesses, or whatever, and you, Mr. or Ms Down in the Mouth, feel like poo-poo. Not just any poo-poo, but angry, seething poo-poo.
If it isn’t enough that you already feel “rained upon,” it’s adding insult to injury when you hear:
Everything always works out…
… barring death, disfigurement, and loss, right?
You just need to stop feeling sorry for yourself…
… and that magically erases all my pent-up fury and angst?
You can control your own destiny…
… sure, if only I had enough money to pay the bills, or if I hadn’t received that terrifying medical report.
If you work and believe hard enough, you WILL always achieve your dreams…
… oh thank you! So, I really can go to pilot school even though I’m legally blind?
Pull yourself together—after all, cheaters never prosper…
… they don’t? Then what’s that crud going on in Washington D.C., North Korea, Russia, China, et al?
People are generally good…
… that was proven false back in nursery school when fellow toddlers pulled hair and threw toys at heads for no apparent reason.
Where’s my magic powder?
Happy endings, ideals, and results DO exist, but sometimes they don’t. What shall we do when we run out of magic powder—aka positivity—to keep our spirits from sagging and our hearts from putrefying with bitterness?
Why do we feel bitter in the first place?
If we agree with the psychos, er… I mean, the psychoanalysts, bitterness stems from anger and disappointment. Which one comes first?
My personal opinion is disappointment becomes anger because of a life situation, a person(s), or an incident, which starts the proverbial ball rolling. When it (the situation, etc.) is constantly fueled by a sense of injustice that—for whatever reason—screams this isn’t fixable! or, it’s going to last so long, I’ll die in the throes of it! How wrong! it creates a sense of unfairness that bounces around in our psyches until it finally lands on an emotional chord that vibrates with self-pity.
Self-pity morphs into inner SCREAMS that get repeated a thousand times a day inside our heads, sounding something like this:
How *@$%!% unfair!
I don’t deserve this!
I hate it (or her or him or them)!
I can’t change this!
Why do I always get the short end?
Nobody understands how I feel!
How dare life (or God or *name the person*) treat me like this?
The Tyranny of Bitterness
And so it goes, hour after hour, day after day, until the bitterness becomes a dark cloud that surrounds you, wears you, yes… even controls you. It’s a tyrant, a prison, a fixture.
Do you have to accept it?
But, you can.
You can hang onto bitterness for a lifetime.
It becomes a matter of whether you are sick and tired of feeling horrible, or if you desperately crave freedom again. No one can tell you HOW to change, or IF you truly want to change your perspective. It’s totally personal, and it belongs to no one but you.
Bitterness, when it hit me, was stamping out my happiness. I couldn’t feel joy for all that darkness and resentment in my heart. I was creating my own hell on earth, and it didn’t feel good. AND, get this, this was recent, not years ago.
My release from resentment aka bitterness, was so simple, it was almost scary. To me, it felt a lot like climbing out of a hole.
How I crawled out of the hole may not work for you, but what if it does? You never know, right?
What’s the term? Everything is relative. Turns out, for me, that’s true. My journey to end bitterness started and ended with comparing my life situation to that of others, and guess whom, at the end of the day, I thought had the best overall life? Me.
I compared myself (mentally, physically, and emotionally) to tons of other people, then evaluated my own strengths and weaknesses. Guess what I realized?
Mentally: My brain has never been sharper. I have written seven novels in the last decade, and I’m in the middle of writing novel number eight. Not too shabby, so why was I doubting myself?
Physically: No, my body certainly does not look like it did when I was a model AND before having babies AND raising 3+ kids (still raising one) AND taking care of an aged parent AND suffering through many deaths and loss and disappointments, but, amazingly, my health is extraordinary, and all tests prove it. No meds, no high blood pressure, no life-threatening diseases… just healthy!
Emotionally: I found that I care deeper, sympathize more, take more positive action when necessary or needed, engage and care more than I ever did in my so-called “hay days” when I was young, slim, vigorous, and basically all about ME. I’m emotionally wired way more outside myself now than I am internally wired to my own vapor of a life. Hey, that’s a good thing!
I took each item or circumstance that was throwing me into bitterness and logic-ed it out. I came out on the other side of this experiment… grateful. Exceedingly grateful.
That led to being thankful, which led to acceptance… and might I say, even to joy?
With all of that said, please know that I don’t want to oversimplify YOUR personal battle with bitterness. If comparing your life to that of others plus deep self-evaluation is not the secret formula for your escape from bitter bondage, try something else.
Counseling. Prayer. Volunteering. Change of Scenery. Forgiveness (from and/or to you). Meditation on what really matters in this short journey we call our lives.
Whatever you do, don’t live the rest of your life as someone wearing gloves underwater, letting ONE EMOTION cancel out the beauty of everything else, letting it stand between you and the maturity and freedom of ACCEPTANCE.
An example of NOT BEING BITTER
You’ve probably heard Helen Keller’s quote: “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
Early in the twentieth century, Helen Keller was born blind and deaf. Her life was horrible. Many thought her insane. It was a nightmare existence. Yet, she went on to become the first Deafblind graduate of Radcliffe College *now Harvard University*. She worked for the American Foundation for the Blind, advocating for the blind and deaf all the rest of her life. She was an outspoken champion and public speaker for those who could not help themselves and for those who wanted to help themselves but couldn’t.
What a woman! Everything was against her. Had she let bitterness over her circumstances hinder her life, none of her record achievements would have happened. If you’ve never seen the movie of Helen Keller, do yourself a favor and watch it by clicking here. I promise you cannot help but feel grateful afterward.
Final thought: Is life different on the other side of bitterness?
Most assuredly. More laughing, more enjoyment, and the beautiful freedom of controlling one’s own destiny by simply choosing to do so.
**I know you are busy, pressed for time, burdened with the chores of life, but always know that I love to hear from you.
Jodi Lea Stewart is a fiction author who believes in and writes about the triumph of the human spirit through overcoming adversity via grit, humor, and stubborn tenacity. Her lifetime friendship with all nationalities, cowpunchers, and the southern gentry allows Jodi to write comfortably about anything in the Southwest, the South, and far BEYOND.
JODI’S LATEST INTERNATIONALLY AWARDED HISTORICAL FICTION NOVEL ~
I write historical fiction centered around the early to mid-twentieth century. My latest novel, THE GOLD ROSE, involves the Japanese invasion of China and the ensuing civil war that ushered in modern-day communism. No matter what the circumstances, eras, conflicts, or main plots entail… my goal is always to create characters everyone relates to. I believe that’s the kind of connective reading in which the reader and writer actually share a point in time. 😊 Happy reading, y’all!
What’s next? THE BULLS OF BASHAN… COMING IN 2024/2025!
What happens when a young waitress working in a Texas border town diner is recruited to accompany a former Army major, a New York beauty, and a handsome rake of a guy who flies planes and rides bulls with equal ease on an undisclosed mission with no guarantee of safety but rife with adventure and a promise of wealth when completed? While the elusive HEAD of the operation scrambles to unmask the identity and purpose of someone following the mission team, the team penetrates the perilous Amazon rainforest, enters the world’s deepest canyon, and takes to the seas in a wild jaunt to take keys to the only one who can unlock the mystery of The Bulls of Bashan.