June 21, 2021. Festering and wallowing.
We don’t know words the way we think we know words.
A news story on my morning feed trumpeted the “hefty fine” a moronic, fireworks-spewing joyrider faced: one thousand dollars. The fine is many things – ridiculous, a joke, insufficient – but hefty it’s not. I’m left with the image of Dr. Evil and low financial demands in my head.
I like a soft open. Starting cold without a segue feels abrupt. And “fester” isn’t the kind of word you want to drop on someone unannounced. Definitions that include the phrase “suppurating sore” should be approached gently.
Hot tip: don’t Google suppurating sore. Don’t Google fester, either, if you plan to look at pictures.
I’m familiar with festering sores. It’s the smell that gets me the most. It always seems vaguely fungal. I think it’s the rot. Festering sores come with the self-mutilation tic I don’t enjoy but persist with, despite the infections and scars. One can see why it’s a behaviour I find hard to let go of. [i]
Festering, however, is more than septic, suppurating wounds. [ii] You could use it to describe the nasty leftovers you brought home from the restaurant last Wednesday. You meant to eat them, but you forgot to pack them in your lunch, and then the box got shoved to the back of the fridge, and now you think it might be moving on its own. However, while rotten food can be said to be festering, you’d sound pretentious if you went that way.
“My God, that leftover pizza is a festering mess” sounds extreme.
Anger can fester. Grief can fester. Rage definitely likes to hang around and grow mushrooms. Joy, not so much. When a word references pus, we tend to affiliate it with negative emotions. “My happiness was festering yesterday” is not a phrase we encounter.
Sores fester when they’re left untreated. Ditto the thoughts and emotions that we bury in the hope that denial is the same as dealing. It’s not. Buried emotions rot for the same reasons buried food rots: without light and air, healing can’t happen. We wallow instead, well past the dealing date, risking contamination and rot. A single, festering strawberry will wreck the whole pint.
It’s not that wallowing is verboten. On the contrary, it feels good to settle in and feel the feels. Whether you’re sad or stricken, raging or wrathful: it matters not. We need to let our emotions run their course. The dealing path is through: it’s avoiding that gets us in trouble.
We shouldn’t bury our feelings. We’re not making kimchi. We’d probably do less repressing if we could smell the metaphoric rot. The mud pit, while comforting, isn’t home. You have an elsewhere to be. Wallowing is as bad as denial if it carries on for too long.
Life is for living. Denial-wallowing and festering sores, physical or non, are contrary to that mission statement.
And besides, the treatment for rot is a bitch. Prevention is the easier choice, though oddly, it rarely feels that way.
What are you letting fester? What are you going to do about that?
[i] Insert eye roll here.
[ii] To suppurate – to undergo the formation of pus. I’m not kidding: avoid searching the images.