Over the last couple years, I’ve developed an unfortunate empathy for every female villain in literature. Bitterness has left me embattled and saying things I wish I hadn’t. Bitterness has stolen my spark and my joy. It’s left me a shell of who I used to be. This may sound dramatic, but I assure you, the changes I’ve experienced have been distressing and profound. Much like the cold, distant, and cruel women I had hoped to never be like, I sat on a throne surrounded by a thick hedge of thorns and spewed venom on anyone I thought had wronged me.

I kept waking up expecting to have grown horns overnight or have an overwhelming desire to make a coat from puppies.

I kept blaming my circumstances, but the truth is that much of the turmoil was because I allowed bitterness to take root in my heart. It clouded my judgement and created distrust in nearly every relationship I had. It not only isolated me from others, but it insulated me from others. It didn’t just pull me away, it created a barrier.

It didn’t help that when you’re going through a divorce people give you so much fodder without even thinking about it. They don’t realize that there is a wildfire burning inside of you and every time they lay on more ways that things weren’t fair or they witnessed you be hurt, they crash the helicopter that’s trying to put out the flames.

Bitterness grew inside me like a cancer, corrupting everything it touched. I was always ready to be angry, to feel scorned, to find a reason to hate instead of love. It was like I kept having to turn around and say, “And one more thing!”

It was like the worst playlist ever. Just reminding me over and over again how I’d been hurt. It told me that no one could love me. It told me that people couldn’t be trusted. It made me believe I was a victim and I wrestled to play the part of the villain so that I could have some control. Everything it said to me I agreed with and each time I believed it I lost more of myself to the lie that I would never be okay again and that this is just what life is like.

I tried to change my attitude by myself. I told myself to just stop believing those thoughts. But it was reflexive. I couldn’t stop. I tried to tell myself to just stop being angry. But that just made me more angry. I tried focusing on the positive, but I always circled back to the negative. I tried ignoring it, but it always snuck back in and I would catch myself saying and doing things that I hated.

Then, I went to a forage growers’ event for work.

The main topic was noxious weeds. These are not your average weed. They get into your crops, they’re invasive, and they are hard to kill. Some are even resistant to powerful herbicides.

Sound like anything I’ve mentioned?

One thing about noxious weeds is that some are actually ornamental plants. So your neighbor can be growing these weeds on purpose because they happen to like it and there isn’t anything you can do about it.

This is a huge issue for the growers in my area. I asked one of the people giving a talk what to do about neighbors growing noxious weeds.

Can you build a wall?
No, the seeds blow over it.

Can you put up fine netting?
No, not only is that impractical and expensive, but it does nothing.

Can you spray a wide area around your field?
Yes, but that also just encourages the weeds to become resistant to the herbicides and makes them harder to control.

So….what can you do?
You can grow a thick, healthy crop right up to your property line.

That’s it?
Yup. The weeds will mix in, so there may be some of your forage that isn’t useful to sell, but it will keep the weeds down in the rest of the field. Most farmers can’t get a good cut at the very edges of their field anyway. The crop on the edges acts as a buffer for the rest of the field.

Bitterness is a noxious weed. It’s easy to look at our neighbor’s field and say, “I have these weeds because of them! Look at how poorly they’re tending to their land!”

It’s easy to cast blame over the fence.

It’s also easy to hyper focus on getting rid of the weeds and beat ourselves up when they keep coming back. Granted, it’s important to take preventative measures but the truth is that if we tend to the good things, the stuff we want to keep, that stuff will eventually make the weeds a non issue. It also has to be good crop that we cultivate and don’t expect to get anything out of.

It’s being kind without expecting any kindness back.
It’s doing the hard work of forgiveness.
It’s choosing to walk away instead of keep trying to prove how we were wronged.

I had to look at my life and reclaim my field. I had to till the soil and look at the junk underneath. I had to check my attitude. I had to stop looking over the fence.

Decide what you want to plant and grow those things. Grow the good things right up to your fence line and let your neighbor worry about themselves.

It’s hard work and requires diligence. I am by no means a master at it. But I can tell you that since I’ve wrapped my mind around how to combat the bitterness inside me, I’ve noticed better yields of the good things. It’s easier to laugh. It’s easier to try to be around people. I think about the bullshit less and it doesn’t eat me up as badly when it comes up. I’m less angry.

I feel like the good inside me has a fighting chance against a darkness that I thought would swallow me up.

This journey has given me a new found compassion for difficult people, for people who seem to be growing noxious weeds on purpose. They have been wounded and tricked into believing the lies that bitterness tells us.

It’s not my job to fix their field, but I can pray that the health of my land and crops bears witness to the hope that can be found in fighting back the weeds to make room for something better.

I’m not ruling out buying a black cape though. Villian or not those things are fabulous.

bitterness, pain, Trauma