Sometimes, though, people will stomp you just for spite. They take a wretched pleasure in disrupting the lives of others, with the intention of making those around them as miserable as possible. Whether it's something small like whipping in front of you to get the last parking space, or something more serious like sabotaging your job performance, they seize every opportunity to inflict as much damage as they possibly can. Once again, deep, calming breaths are an effective cure for the petty infractions, but it's harder to recover from the big ones. More often than we might care to admit, we take out our hurt on the next person we meet, who then lashes out at the next person they meet, etc. One hateful act leads to another, and before long, just as Miss Davis so accurately predicted, the rotten behavior of one bad apple has spoiled a whole barrel.
Get rid of that bitter taste
A real rotten apple will leave a bad taste in your mouth even after you spit it out, right? The thing is, once you spit it out, you don't take another bite - you toss that sucker and find another apple. The fresh sweetness of the second one dispels the moldy aftertaste of the first, reminding you of how good apples are supposed to be. The same principle applies to the human versions of bad apples. Unless you're an earthbound saint, it's almost impossible to escape these encounters completely unscathed. Afterwards, you're left with a sour attitude that's hard to dispel, and it's what you do next that will affect not only your life, but the lives of those around you.
Negativity proliferates like a cancer, laying waste to happiness. When someone has wronged you, whether it be family, friend or total stranger, don't continue to chew on that bitterness - spit it out. Recognize that you've run across a bad apple and go look for a good one. Seek out someone or something that will remind you of how good life is supposed to be. And it is supposed to be good, you know - our creator didn't put us here to be miserable. To be sure, we all have moments that would make Pollyanna cuss, but those trials are meant to teach us something, not define our existence.
Now y'all know I can't write a column without mentioning one or more of my critters, and this one isn't any different. It was one of my dogs, Tuck, that inspired these musings. I was running late for work one day (my friends call it "running on Tammy time"), and Tuck just wasn't in any big hurry to get where I needed him to be. He gave me that look that dogs will give you, that "Oh are you talking to me?" look. Then he sloooowly got up, streeeeetched luxuriously, and began to amble toward me. This whole process only took about two minutes, but it seemed like forever, so I yelled at him to come on and hurry up. He gave me that look again, then resumed his leisurely pace.
When he finally went through the doggie door, I swatted him on his rear end out of sheer frustration. He yelped in surprise and hustled on through. As I fastened the latch, I heard him snarl at Belle and Jack, who were already inside.
I opened the door and my mouth, fully intent on scolding him for growling at the other dogs. Looking at his sweet old face, though, it hit me - I was the one who was the problem.
My unwarranted irritation had not only affected him, but those around him. I was the bad apple in the barrel, so it was up to me to make amends. The harsh words died on my lips, and instead I apologized to him and scratched him behind his ears. It wasn't his fault I was late, and he'd been having a perfectly fine day before I ruined it.
When that last good nerve gets stomped, and you're in danger of becoming the bad apple, take some deep breaths. Then take responsibility and make amends as quickly as possible.
Once a real apple has gone bad, it can't regenerate, but fortunately we can. Our time is much better spent being sweet, shiny and fresh. Life's too short to go around being rotten.