The Texas lake that we frequent has risen 13 feet with the recent rains. That means a lot of additional debris floating in the water—logs, branches, dirt, and ants. Wait, what? When I saw this bobbing in the water by the marina last weekend, I didn’t think much about it. But my husband said it was a colony of fire ants.
Upon closer examination (not too close), indeed the six inch in diameter ark was moving. Yikes! Much larger ones show up in Houston and elsewhere, particularly after hurricanes. I hope and pray these temporary homes don’t come near me because once they hit something dry, they climb aboard and can be pretty unruly and mean, biting any flesh they happen to find.
These little creatures encase their queen, eggs, and larvae in wax, then literally link limbs together surrounding their precious package, and create a buoyant outpost. The ants on the bottom rotate to the top periodically so they don’t drown. Google ‘floating red ants’ and read all about them…if you dare.
Fire ants are definitely not friendly or cuddly, but I will tell you what they are—determined. That’s the first thing I thought about, once getting over my horror of these sailing nests.
Is this blog all about the determination of insects? Not really, but it did start me reflecting about human determination.
I want to share a couple paragraphs from my novel - Room For Another. To give a little context, Theresa is 17 years old in 1953 and worked at J.J. Newberry, a five and dime store that sold a wide variety of inexpensive household and personal goods—think of the modern day dollar store or Big Lots.
Theresa dutifully mopped the kitchen while her father sat in the family room perusing the newspaper. As the floor dried, she debated if she should ask him for a little extra money. She had been working at Newberry’s as many hours as possible and saving as much as she could. Perhaps with her stepmother gone, he might be more receptive to her request for a few dollars.
Theresa walked in and sat down across from him. “Good morning, Daddy.”
He continued his reading. “Morning.”
“I’m going to a hayride next weekend. Could you help me with money for a pair of Levis to wear?”
“Is it with those church people?” he said, looking up.
Theresa nodded, knowing he didn’t approve of the congregation that had befriended his daughter, providing her a surrogate family.
“No. Your mother said you have too many clothes in your closet now. If you want jeans, it will be out of your own money.”
Immediately, Theresa stood, pursuing her lips. Why had she even bothered to ask?
“You know, Theresa,” Harold said. “You’ll never amount to anything more than a dime store girl.”
She wanted to scream in protest, yell at her father that he was wrong. Yet she simply disappeared into the kitchen saying nothing further. Pacing to dissipate her anger, she vowed to prove to him that she could succeed. He would take those words back.
We’ve all received at least one or two comments like this in our lifetimes—maybe many more. They may come from loved ones, strangers, teachers, a boss, whoever. Perhaps they’re intended to hurt, cripple, or occasionally motivate us into action. But what we do with a claim like this is our choice.
Have you been the recipient of such a highly charged statement? How did you react?
For me, two statements fit this description, both delivered to me during my college years. The first one totally shocked me, yet I knew it was valid. I jumped into making changes right away. The other comment took me 36 years before deciding to prove that person wrong.
Aside from the expected instant rage or deep anguish, I see 3 responses to weighty statements such as young Theresa heard, “You’ll never amount to more than a dime store girl.”
We know it isn't true and let the words go. Yet, if we still remember them, doesn't that mean the statement continues to hold significance in some way? More likely, we attempt to ignore it.
We elect to believe the claim. Even if inaccurate, our life is slightly or drastically different as we fulfill what we believe. Perhaps there actually is a kernel (or a whole corn cob) of truth to the comment, but we decide to take no action. If the remark is given privately, we might not feel obligated to do anything at all.
We choose to prove the accuser wrong through our actions. We internalize. The person making the statement may or may not still be in our life by the time we demonstrate them wrong, but we know when it happens. And it can be sweet.
Haters will always exist. People who are bitter and critical. Those that try to pull you off course, put you down, and revel when they succeed. Harsh, but frankly, an unfortunate reality.
When people tell us who we are or what we can or cannot do, either privately or publicly, what we do with that proclamation matters. These kinds of remarks can be life-changing in good or bad ways. We have control to dismiss the words, let them sit and fester, or allow the statement to embolden us to push forward.
Not doing anything about a remark is our individual preference and right. However, it may be interesting to ponder a little on these things, especially if we still remember long ago claims word for word, clear as day.
Whether somebody makes a brutally impactful charge about us thirty minutes ago or thirty years ago, it doesn’t matter. We are still able to pick a different option for what to do with those words.
Circling back to our fire ants. People may freak out, but ants will not stop. I can shout hateful things all day long at those insects, but I’ve never seen one of them sitting there doing nothing unless it was dying. They will not give up; they just keep going—surviving, thriving, and living.
Survive, thrive, and live, my friends.