journaling then and now – nit picking

A glimpse into the workings of my brain.  

A few days ago I was on the hunt for a travel size pillbox at Target. This was strictly a search and rescue mission, get in and get out as quickly as possible.  Strategically walking down the center of each aisle, eyes rapidly darting from left to right I quickly eliminated aisles 39-41.  Rounding the corner I glanced to my left, my brain briefly registered the section of product dedicated to lice eradication, and quite by accident a loud “yuck” escaped my lips.

What followed “yuck” I liken to a roller coaster ride shrouded in darkness, until a series of gargantuan sized words exploded and then vanished one at a time the moment my brain registered them.  Somehow the word “lice” triggered the ride, that I am pleased to report was brief.  The next word “nit” exploded in bright white letters, and simultaneously unlocked the memory of the Great Lice Infestation of 1993.  Each morning for months, a team of parents would line the sidewalks to meticulously search the sweaty heads of K-4 students for hatched or unhatched lice babies, aka “nits”.  I barely had time to smile, when the lice ride came to a screeching, rather abrupt halt arriving at the desired destination, the gargantuan word nit-picking”.

Merriam Webster’s definition of Nit-picking

  • minute and usually unjustified criticism
  • looking for small unimportant errors or faults, especially in order to criticize unnecessarily.

Nit-picking was an often-used phrase in my childhood home, because fault-finding and belittling were my stepfather’s passion.  If, a Ph.D. could be awarded for excellence in this field, he would have graduated first in his class.  Think finding a nettle in a haystack.  Think never good enough.  Think constant criticism.  Think incessant ridicule.  Think negative, always negative.

He would mercilessly ridicule and attack the validity of any and everything you liked, loved, preferred, desired, created, experienced, or accomplished.  His goal was to tarnish and ruin the thing you valued.  Over and over again for hours at a time, he would rehearse and accentuate a single minute flaw, all the while demanding an explanation for your ridiculous beliefs.  As he cruelly diminished and destroyed that which was significant to you, he was keenly aware of the pain he was inflicting.  It was the practice of inflicting pain that caused him to feel powerful and superior.  Relenting was never an option until his desired, demeaning goal was accomplished.  Finally, after hours of feebly attempting to defend yourself, exhaustion became your foe, and confusion enveloped your mind.  At this point you (willingly yet unwillingly) apologized, proclaimed your extreme wrongness and affirmed his supreme rightness.  Then, as if a light switch was flipped, he would grin the victor’s grin, cease his torment, and leave you alone.   

Enduring repeated episodes of nit-picking year after year eventually produced an ever-present state of confusion and overall doubt that became fertile ground for future deep-rooted feelings of insecurity and insignificance.  This was debilitating and crippling to a child, especially when you slowly began to believe his lies.  After all you were supposed to be able to trust and believe your parents.  Why would the ones who loved you the most tell you lies or deliberately choose to hurt you? 

Nit-picking – it should be reserved for destroying lice, not people.


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