I used the word "festering" in a conversation. I told my friend that my emotions were high and that I was "festering" while waiting to make a decision. My friend said, "What? I thought that festering meant having pus in a sore." Well, that's true, but another meaning of the word is "to grow embittered or rankled."

There have been many times in my 72 years when I festered. Life is not easy. There have been many nights that turned sleepless because my mind won't rest. Worries, fears, and aggravations abound. When there is no clear-cut decision or no possible immediate solution, I tend to fester.

My husband knows my proclivity for festering. He can see when I become rankled. His comment is usually "Get those wagons out of a circle." That is supposed to make me remember that surrounding myself with barricades (or negative thoughts) doesn't leave much room to maneuver. The old settlers knew not to put their Conestoga wagons in too tight a circle. They needed to have an escape route - and a place for waste elimination.

Sometimes, festering is a good thing. If I let something stay inside my head for a while, I can usually think up a solution. Doing a knee-jerk immediate response can create more havoc. Someone once told me that making no decision is also a decision. Giving yourself the luxury of time can bring wisdom.

But, in the world of pus, leaving a sore dripping can be deadly. The object is to clean out the infection right away - the sooner, the better. Any doctor or nurse can tell you that. When my dentist said, "I can't do anything about the abscess until you take some antibiotics," I wanted to throttle him. Getting rid of the pain was my priority. His was to clean out the infection. A festering sore can really control your life.

A mental health professional would probably tell me to stop my brain from festering and move on with life. I'm sure that's good advice. Hard to do, though. There are some life experiences that are decades old and can still cause me to fester. I think that's because there has never been a good solution or closure from that experience.

I wish that the brain could be cleaned out now and then. Perhaps a good dusting would help. Removing negative memories should be as simple as that - a clean cloth, some Pledge, and just wipe them away. Then the festering would be less.

Actually, I have found that playing shuffleboard is a good distraction from my festering. When you play that game, you must pay close attention to every part of the interaction. Keeping your eye on the disc, planning your next move, figuring out angles of approach, and watching the score - all of these facets of the game require your mind to be attentive.

I can also block out my festering by immersing myself in a good novel. It's hard to fester when there's a serial killer at work.

But, it is virtually impossible for me to eliminate all my festering. Then again, perhaps I'm the kind of person who needs some pus in her life.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.