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Sweet And Sour

What’s your favourite treat? Are you a sweets type of person? Or perhaps you lean more towards the salty or sour snacks?

I remember as a kid when we would all go to the local “7 Eleven” and you could fill a little brown paper bag full of penny candies. Remember when they were literally each like 5 cents?? Aaaannnnd hello welcome to I’m getting old.com. Aaaanywho, moving on.

Back then I loved the sour keys, fuzzy peaches, gummy bears, those gummy candies that were shaped like a pop bottle and vaguely tasted like coke? (as in the beverage…just so we’re clear 😉 ) As I’ve gotten older I grew out of my love for candy and now I actually hate it. It’s just so gross to me now. And as far as salty snacks are concerned, I have to be in the mood for things like popcorn or chips. I don’t naturally crave them.

Anybody who really knows me knows that I have a major sweet tooth. But only for certain kinds of sweets. I hate candy, and I’m also not a fan of pastries, donuts or anything deep fried or with tons of icing on it. (e.g; I like shortbread cookies but I like them plain, without icing.) Chocolate is my nemesis. Especially dark chocolate. Yummm! And ice cream. I love ice cream. However, I don’t buy tubs of ice cream to keep at home…I’ll eat it. I don’t remember the last time I bought ice cream at the grocery store. I actually don’t really have junk food in my house. If you ever have a craving for any kind of “junk food”, you won’t find any. (With the exception of Tostitos chips and salsa and/or hummus or once in a blue moon I’ll pick up an organic dark 85% chocolate bar from the health food aisle.) And when I’m at the movies, chocolate covered raisins are my preference.

The only other thing that keeps me coming back for more? Starbucks. Specifically, a Venti Vanilla Java Chip Frap. Once or twice a week…tops! It’s my baby. When my best friend got married in London a few years ago, all of us gals went to the local Starbucks for a treat after she had just gotten her hair and make up done and I had asked the Barista for something chocolatey and that doesn’t taste like coffee. (I don’t drink coffee either.) She suggested the vanilla java chip, I tried it and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Sweet might be something to describe things that I crave but it’s definitely not a way to describe this world we’re living in today. Salty or sour…or just plain mean is more like it. And if you’ve managed to live long enough and experienced enough heartache in any degree, if you’re not careful, this world has a way of molding you until you start to look and act just like it. I’ve known many people in my lifetime that I’ve watched as life beat all the joy, empathy and human decency out of them until all thats left is a shell full of bitterness, un-forgiveness and hopelessness. But when you hear some of their stories and what they’ve been through, you almost can’t blame them. Or at least you get a better understanding as to why they ended up the way that they did. Life, ironically enough, has a way of sucking the life right out of you.

I’ve been called a lot of things in my lifetime. Some of which I can’t repeat here. But the word ‘Sweet’ I don’t think would be one of them. I’d like to think I’m a fairly nice person, funny (heavy on the sarcasm), thoughtful, generous, considerate (especially when I see someone in need…it’s kind of a soft spot for me because of how I was raised). Have I become hardened over the years, I’d probably say yes. Not because I’m mean but merely as a survival/defence mechanism.

I wasn’t raised to be a spineless jellyfish. My grandmother (my dad’s mom) was a hard irishwoman who loved country music, loved her whiskey and cigarettes and had her fair share of hard knocks, and less than stellar men, in life. “Don’t ever let a man run ya,” she would tell me on a regular basis, index finger pointed right at me with a stern look on her face. Meaning, “don’t allow yourself to be anyone’s doormat. Don’t let them walk all over you. Stand up for yourself. Speak up. Walk away. Be independent so you don’t have to depend on anyone.”

I always knew that she loved me, even when it felt like she was scolding me or giving me harsh life advice. I knew it was because she didn’t want me to experience what she went through. She didn’t want me to end up another statistic. She wanted better for me. To be honest, even though she passed away quite awhile ago already, sometimes I feel like I let her down. That if she was still alive today that I’d have some serious explaining to do.

My father, because he was raised by such a strong spirited woman, was the same way. Anytime I would complain or was upset about something, his response would most often be, “Well, that’s life.” Even my own mother, who was raised by a loving but no nonsense German mother was never one to “over coddle” me. Be upset, cry it out, suck it up, stuff happens, move on. I learned from a very young age that life is tough so you better be tougher.

I think I’ve definitely taken their advice and ran with it…and then kept going. Being a single mom for 10 years will definitely toughen you up. Add on top of all of that, failed and broken relationships, disappointments, career not going how you thought, dreams not realized and your basic every day let downs all takes it’s toll. Then comes the wall building, the “never get your hopes up” mindset, expecting people to let you down or change into some horrible monster and before you know it your heart has created it’s own impenetrable cocoon that while it keeps the bad stuff out, it also has the potential to keep anything good from getting anywhere near it.

So, how do we keep sweet in a world that’s gone sour? Where’s the balance?

I’ve had to work very hard this past year at not becoming bitter and mean. When everything in me wanted to lash out and just get nasty (and there have been times where I’ve lost my chill pill…I am Irish after all 😉 ), I’ve learned that it’s not worth it. It’s become easier for me to just walk away or hang up the phone or just keep my distance if that’s what it takes to keep my peace. And then I look at people who have allowed themselves to become bitter and mean and I’m reminded of how much I don’t want to turn out like that. They’re always so ugly, regardless of what the outside actually looks like. Whatever you’re insides look like will eventually spill over to your outsides.

It’s also important to be reminded that while we might be hurt by others words or actions, and while we may never get an apology for the betrayal, the tears or any pain caused, they are the ones that are actually in prison. One that was created by their own hands, day after day, year after year. The choice in allowing bitterness, spite and unforgiveness to take root and fester until one day they wake up trapped and tangled up in their own mess. Most of the time unbeknownst to them.

So how do we keep sweet? We have a choice. Although we don’t have any say in how other people treat us, in what they do or say, we do have a choice in how we react (or don’t react as the case may be). Even though our desire to get even or to simply allow other people to make us as bitter as they are can be tempting, they are the ones who are at a disadvantage. They are the ones who are bound. But us? Especially those of us as Christians who have Jesus living on the inside of us, we have been set free.

We are free.

So be free.