“As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction.” ~Irish Proverb
Needle and sharp tweezers sterilized.
Brown Bottle ready to pour.
Magnifying glass nearby.
Good lighting available.
Ointment at hand.
So begins surgery when I decide to operate on myself. Splinters. I dread it getting to this point because I have anxiety-filled memories of sitting on the side of the bed with my parents, usually my father, performing this same operation. It was never fun. Have you ever had to hold your child while trying to remove a splinter? It really might be more painful for the surgeon than the patient. As an adult, I’ve learned that splinters not only are gathered by grabbing the wrong piece of wood — life’s banister sometimes has splinters, and I, too, hope they never point in the wrong direction.
I wasn’t sure when it happened, but I looked down and saw a black speck beneath the skin of my hand and knew it was a splinter. I tried to immediately remove it, but it was too deeply embedded. The spot was very tender, but painful digging was not high on my list of favorite activities. I would just have to wait. After much time and a bit of gentle, and not so gentle, prodding, that splinter it is finally out. It was really tiny, but it sure did cause a lot of discomfort.
Splinters can take a while to come to the surface so we can easily remove them, but sometimes it seems we simply put off dealing with the splinter simply because we fear the pain. Maybe there is a splinter in my life, or in yours. You know, the kind of thing that makes life unpleasant but not unpleasant enough to fix in a timely manner.
To me, sliding down life’s banister really means traveling through life will provide several opportunities for me to be uncomfortable. Maybe it’s that budget you’ve been saying you’ll work on, the boxes you promise yourself you’ll go through one day, or the weeds that need to be pulled. These are the splinters in our lives that might take a little digging to remove them, but once handled our lives would be so much more pleasant. I don’t like having to call customer service to dispute a charge, but once I’ve made the call and saved my credit rating (sitting on the phone sometimes for an hour), I feel so much better to have it behind me and wonder why I put it off so long. That is exactly the way I feel now that the splinter is out of my hand.
Splinters, like problems, can be annoying but they can also be really dangerous if allowed to fester. If you get a splinter from a rose bush in your hand, it might have a fungus that can make you physically ill. Some splinters in life are that way, too. Recognizing when a splinter is more serious is important and often, as in the case of domestic violence, can save a life. If your worst splinter is that you don’t tell your spouse that it drives you crazy when they leave the toothpaste cap a mess, you might easily remove the splinter by purchasing a second tube of toothpaste for yourself. If your worst splinter is not addressing the unkind way someone treats you, you might need a little assistance in bringing it to the surface before removal. Removing splinters doesn’t have to be dramatic. Choose the most reasonable removal method for your situation.
In removing a splinter from your skin, the first piece of advice is ALWAYS to wash/clean your hands and the affected area. Secondly, sterilize whatever instruments you are going to use (tweezers and needle). Third, you have to decide if you need the help of a solution like hydrogen peroxide to help coax the splinter to the surface. After you assess the splinter and decide on a plan of action, you have to work patiently to remove the foreign piece.
Translating that advice to the splinters on life’s banister, I know that getting my own side of things clean first is important. The old saying about removing the log in my own eye before worrying about the speck in yours is really wise counsel. Second, we need to make sure we have the necessary tools for the removal process. A garbage can for too many papers or some caring words to mend a fence might be just the ticket. And finally, we need to decide if we need more assistance with the splinter removal – there are great books, podcasts, and professionals who are great with “splinter removal.”
Finally, removing a splinter from our lives doesn’t necessarily mean removing people from our lives. Instead, it means removing issues that divide us. Usually, removing splinters means that we can get back to enjoying our lives with employers, coworkers, friends, and family. As we slide down the banisters, may we never forget to see which way the splinters are pointing.