Bullies, Be Gone

I like documentaries, usually. I enjoy learning new things. I even watched a heartbreaking documentary that some of you might be familiar with about how elephants are treated in the circus. An elephant named Tyke had escaped and ran through the streets, desperate to get away from abuse before he was shot – I can’t even remember how many times. It profoundly affected me, and still does, so I try to stay away from the really difficult ones.

One day last week, though, I watched what I thought was a documentary about bullying. It actually was a movie. I’m not certain of the name now (don’tcha hate getting older?), but I think it was something like “Just a Girl.” Actually it was about two girls in two different states who had been bullied, both in school with verbal comments, cornering, shoves in the hallway and – something I never had to deal with – cyberbullying.

The first high school girl ended up committing suicide because it was all too much to handle for her. She had gone to a party and had too much to drink. She blacked out, and a male student took advantage of the blackout, posting all over social media that he had had sex with her, how hot she was, and how she “put out.” That morning, the morning after the party, she had frantically texted her friends, telling them she couldn’t remember the previous evening, and needed to know what happened.

This young girl had a wonderful reputation, ruined by one unfortunate evening. Some would say it was her fault because she was drinking. In fact, that opinion goes back years, just like “She was asking for it. Look how she dressed.”

Because of all the attention, the student couldn’t even make herself go  back to school. The last text she left to a friend said, “My reputation is ruined. My life is over.”  Then she killed herself.

Bullying doesn’t just happen in high schools. It happens in grade school, middle school, college, and on into supposedly “fully mature” adults. The thing about bullying that those who have never been bullied don’t know is that it sticks with you for life. Those words, once they’re out there, can never be taken back. Even apologizing, trying to make amends, doesn’t usually work. Sure, bullied people might appear perfectly fine on the outside. Someone who was told she had fat thighs in high school might be a colleague you work with. She doesn’t mention it aloud, but thinks of herself as ugly and alwayso tries to dress so that her thighs are less noticeable.

I’m known in my family for being sensitive, sometimes too much so. In fact, sensitivity involves many factors, and is now viewed to be as personality trait, even socio-biological. It’s evidenced in both animals and humans. For instance, my newest addition to our house, a rescue dog named Pookie, has what many of us have – selective memory. Although I pick him up and hold him for many reasons – to cuddle, to give him kisses, to carry him across to the backyard when the snow is too deep for him to walk in. But I also pick him up when I have to go somewhere, therefore putting him in his crate – for his safety as well as keeping him from destroying the house. Now, why do you think he often backs away from me when I go to pick him up? One would think he’d remember all the good reasons, the cuddling and so forth. But – just like you and me – he remembers going into the crate, which is still a highly stressful situation for him.

We’ve all been bullied at one time or another. Some of us manage to let it go. Others – us “overly” sensitive types – have memories like elephants. I have always suffered from severe anxiety, and developed a nervous habit of licking my lips in high school. One of my friends at the time said, “Why do you lick your lips like that all the time?” Here I was, thinking no one noticed me. I couldn’t say it was because I was anxious, so instead I said nothing, but still remember that comment. Another time, in college, a roommate said to me, “Open your eyes!” which was really innocuous and probably due to drinking too much the night before. But ever since then, when I see my eyes in the mirror, they look too small, the color is indefinable to me, and my lids seem droopy. Whether that’s true or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is how I interpreted what was said to me at my sensitivity level.

This is getting long. My apologies. And I’m sorry for any misspelled words or grammar errors; I didn’t take the time to proofread. It’s just that there are so many other ways to bully now, and others join in with “likes” or “comments” on social media, not to mention texting.

Try to remember to think before you speak. Once it’s been said, it can’t be unsaid. There are no do-overs.

Peace,

Chris

How Are You Taking Care of Yourself?

Happy New Year, one and all. I hope you are doing well so far as we approach the half-way mark of January. Did you make any resolutions/promises to yourself? How’s it going? Were they realistic, or did you shoot for the moon? Have you kept them? If not, don’t lose heart. You might need to lower your expectations. For many of us, the word “lower” is negative, and sounds an awful lot like “loser.”

Is that how you feel? Well, I haven’t managed to keep my promises to myself, totally, yet. Sometimes I might hit one or two. But I figured out today that – yes – I was shooting for the moon, hoping to at least reach the stars.

As I’ve mentioned before, I finally came to the realization after, literally years of bitching about my alcoholic sister or father or what have you– Sob, sob. Poor me–the truth of the matter is codependency has to be all about me, or I will never change.

Dictionary.com has this to say about two (or more) sick people:

adjective

1.

Of or relating to a relationship in which one person is physically or psychologically addicted, as to alcohol or gambling, and the other person is psychologically dependent on the first in an unhealthy way.
To my understanding, that means not only is the alcoholic sick, but my bonding/relationship/behavior toward that person also makes me ill. It also means, even when the alcoholic gets better it doesn’t necessarily mean I will too.  Whether or not I change and grow is entirely a separate thing.

I have to take care of myself first, in all things. Which brings me to the title of my post: How are you taking care of yourself? I recently enrolled in a year-long (or more, depending on how much progress I’ve made) course of DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy).

According to Marsha Linehan  “dialectical” means a synthesis or integration of opposites. The primary dialectic within DBT is between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change. For example, DBT therapists accept clients as they are while also acknowledging that they need to change in order to reach their goals.

There are many phases of DBT, which is why it is a year-long course. The core of the whole thing is mindfulness;  learning to connect the extremes of emotion mind and logic mind into a center called wise mind, a mid-point which takes all those thoughts and emotions into consideration when making a decision.
There are also acronyms in DBT which help us to remember what we need to do, especially under stress. The acronym to make sure we are taking care of ourselves is PLEASE, and it stands for this:
  • Treat Physical Illness
  • Balanced Eating
  • Avoid Mood-Altering Drugs
  • Balanced Sleep
  • Exercise
So, risking repetition, I’ll ask one more time: How are you taking care of yourself (not anyone else)?
For any loyal readers who are still out there, I’ll be posting three days a week from now on: Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. 😀
Peace out,
Chris

A is for Acceptance

Acceptance is a difficult concept to deal with, even if we’re not talking about alcoholism. None of us wants to be unacceptable, or excluded from a group, whether we’re small children, adolescents, or older adults. The synonyms for acceptance are many, among them approval and recognition.

I know a young woman who is gay. She has found a woman she loves, is very happy, and engaged to be married. Most people she knows are very happy for her happiness, but not all are as accepting. Some are even judgmental, saying she and her partner would always be welcome in their home, but they would never attend her wedding. This makes no sense to me, and seems more than a little hypocritical. If you accept the fact that someone is gay, you recognize it, you approve of the lifestyle she/he has chosen.

With my sister, it’s different, but somewhat the same. She’s been sober for a while now, and attended several family gatherings as a sober alcoholic. I don’t drink often, mostly at major holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, my mom laughs at me, because I will see a drink recipe shown on The Chew or something, get all excited about it, buy all the ingredients, bring them home, and then the liquor sits in our cupboards, because I’ve immediately lost interest. :P)

Back to my sister. I never used to drink around her. I thought it was a sign of solidarity if I joined her in not drinking. Recently, I’ve realized it was actually codependency, and I was not allowing her a sense of self-esteem, and achievement all her own. She’s very capable, and strong in her own right. But I’m sure she feels that exclusion, that non-acceptance among non-alcoholics, even though she’s accepted by her recovering alcoholic friends. I still laugh when I remember going with her to an open talk AA meeting at Sacred Heart in downtown Detroit. I was so nervous I wouldn’t even smoke, even though I badly wanted a cigarette. One of her friends finally leaned over to me and said, “So, do you have any vices?”

“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation — some fact of my life — unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 417)

What Could Be Scarier Than a Great White Shark??

epiphanybatman Happy ninth day of Twelvetide. I wish you health and prosperity this day, and a modicum of sanity as we go and be with various family and friends that we may have a genuine love it or leave it sort of ambivalence toward. Living with ambivalence is not for sissies.

Let’s assume for a bit that you don’t live in or anywhere near Flint, Michigan, and as far as you know it’s safer than it’s ever been (since that great white shark in the 70s) to dip your toe back in the water. I give you three simple words.

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

If your heart beats a little quicker than usual at seeing those three words, or you feel your shirt getting damp and wonder to yourself, “Did it just get hot in here?” … I am here to tell you that you are never alone. Don’t get up and check your thermostat. Don’t worry you might have a heart attack if you even allow the thought of those three words to linger in your mind.

You are absolutely fine. After all, they’re just words, right? Still, if you’re like me, the past 365 days of your life flashed through your mind’s eye on New Year’s Eve. Also, if you are hopefully like me, you’ll find some peaks and valleys in the past year along with maybe one terrific thing you did for yourself or someone else (or both). There will be those times we wish we could take back something we might have done or said. But no, Virginia, there are no takesie-backsies, regardless of how much you wish there were. And it’s useless to go back and wish we stuck with our diets, exercised more, quit smoking, read better literature, or whatever else happens to pass through your mind. That time’s gone; say bye-bye and face today with unflinchingly optimistic hearts. I have a few guidelines, as we go through this next year:

Be yourself: I don’t think I can stress this one enough. Always, always be your best self in any situation you find yourself. For me, if I have a bad time at a party or gathering, the largest reason I can trace it back to is that in some way I wasn’t being genuine to myself. When we work too achingly hard at pretending to be other than who we really are, when we strive to always be prettier, smarter, more interesting…than everyone else at the party, it falls flat. After all, we wouldn’t be invited in the first place if we weren’t so beloved by being exactly who we were meant to be. So, whatever happens, take a breath, square your shoulders, and open the door. You are wanted.

Be kind: I didn’t think this up, but it’s a great question to keep asking ourselves this year. That is, “What is the kindest thing I can do/say?”

Be forgiving: Forgive quickly and often, beginning with ourselves. Try not to be too quick to judge, because–well, we know what that feels like. Try, though surely we won’t often always be successful, to give the benefit of the doubt, to those you cherish, as well as yourself.

Be goal-oriented: This is essentially quite different from resolutions. Goals are infinitely good to have, for without them, we despair and languish. If your only goal is to make it through the day unscathed, and when you collapse into bed that night, having counted all fingers and toes and found none missing, then that’s a good day’s work.

Most of all, don’t live back there. You can’t get there from anywhere in the rational world that isn’t met with opaque glasses, never seen quite clearly. And for all the goodness in the world, don’t spend too much time in the future. You might start finding yourself too old for this or that, that it’s inevitably too late. I’m of the opinion it’s never too late. Not for marriage, not for love, for education, etc. It’s not even too late to have children, regardless of age–one can always adopt, or be a stupendous aunt or uncle.

I sincerely hope you have had nothing but happiness this past Christmas, and that Santa Claus was good to you. You deserve it. Moving forward, let’s join hands and step into 2017, with our eyes on trying hard to be better in every way. Here’s to you, plus a cartoon to make you laugh: bear-snowman

 

Happy Holidailies!!

christmas-tree-griswoldSo, hi! Here’s the thing; I feel like I should be apologizing, since I haven’t blogged, or written at all, since my dramatic farewell post on April 8th of this year.  What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn’t blog, even though I tried prompts to help me write, I tried freewriting, I even signed up for National Novel Writing Month, but I couldn’t get myself to write a thing. Ah, well, it’s a hard time of year for me. Sixteen years ago this moth my dad died. This year, instead of getting easier, you know, to let go, it’s weird. I think I can sense him, like, around me, and sometimes I hear whispers that I’m sure are him. It doesn’t scare me or anything, it’s just a little freakish.

Enough of that, though! If you are not familiar with Holidailies and December, it’s the month where each blogger who signs up endeavors to write one post each day of the month. Radical, right? 🙂 I’m encouraging you right now, if you want to join this crazy holiday fun, I don’t think it’s too late! But, even if you don’t want to commit, it’s great to read others’ posts.

I’m trying something new for this month. I ordered a writing game from Bas Bleu, an entertaining web store, and it’s called Writer’s Prompt Sticks: Memoirs–Life Stories. I bought for NaNo, actually, because I thought it might assist me with my temporary (?) block. I was meant to be writing a memoir, just a slice of my life, not much really. But it seems I’m super at reading books about writing, and talking with others, and listening to podcasts about writing, just not so hot at the writing itself.

Anyway, each stick has two prompts on it, and I’m meant to pick one and write for eight minutes. I already know I’m shortening the time for the sake of this challenge, because when I do write, I write like Taz, and I don’t want you to end up with 8k words you just skim or close the page on.

Here we go. Setting up my timer now. The two blog prompts to choose from are:

1) Write about a time when you had a spiritual awakening.

2) Write about a time when you were in a religious or spiritual situation and you felt nothing or it felt ludicrous. 

They just get right down to it, huh? I think I’ll combine the two because the first prompt won’t take me very long. 1) I was raised Roman Catholic and I went to church every Sunday as a kid, you know, it meant something to me when I made my confirmation at 13, my brother Jimmy being Godfather. But I was very naive, and gullible (are they the same?), expecting the Church to be everything to me, to make up for every single thing I ever felt I was lacking. Feelings are fickle things, not to be trusted most of the time, because they can change on a dime and are severely disloyal. One minute they pretend to be your best friend, and the next thing you know you’re hiding your heads under the cover because you’re too scared to let yourself think, let alone feel.

Then in the summer before I turned 19, this was 1980, an exceptionally good year–except for this one thing. I had just finished my freshman year at college and was home before my sophomore year, hanging out with my best friend, Cathy Bruske. We were in a park near home, and we started talking to some guys on motorcycles. We felt that daring rush only familiar to late teens: anything could and would happen, and we were open to it all. The guys were sweet, and semi-cute, so we ended up following them back to one’s place.

The exact details of what all happened, I don’t really remember. I know I was drinking a could beers with them and Cathy, and somebody had pot, I might have smoked. I can’t really figure out why something so traumatic is such a blur to me, but there you have it–and maybe it’s a blessing, meant to protect my psyche from something I don’t wish to revisit.

One of the guys invited me into his bedroom. I don’t want to go into what all happened because I don’t know who may or may not be reading this. I guess I was sexually assaulted. I guess it’s iffy, a few counselors tell me it wasn’t an assault, at least not sexual, because there wasn’t any actual intercourse. You know what I say to that, to them, the naysayers? BULLSHIT. Maybe you hadda be there, but this is one time I trusted my feelings.

santas-coming

Somehow in that haze I got split up from Cathy, and I don’t know how in the hell I found my way back to our home in Detroit. Just lucky, I guess. I don’t know how, I felt torn apart and lost, and ended up at our parish church. This is the church I had grown up in, went to all those masses in, recited the Apostle’s Creed. I don’t know if they still do, but back then the priests lived right next to the church, in a rectory. It must have been the wee hours of the morning and I can’t imagine what my parents were thinking, but instead of going home, I went to church, parked, and walked up to the rectory door. I knocked, and rang the door bell, and banged with my fist and yelled, but no one came. I’m sure, if you’re with me as my wiser self, you can think of many reasons why that door wasn’t answered–logical, helpful reasons. But all I could feel at the time was that my church and God had turned their backs on me, that I was ruined. I didn’t cry, and still haven’t shed a tear about what happened all those years ago. It took me a long time to tell anyone, because of shame, and–well, the believability factor. There you have it. My answer to prompt #2.

That’s about all I have to say for today. Oh, that and I’m one of The Deplorables. Except I’m educated, I’m not racist nor xenophobic, and I’m certainly not a misogynist. But you can decide now whether or not that’ll keep you from reading any of my posts.

Peace out, friends…..stay thirsty. 😉 clark-griswold

Should I Stay, Or Should I Go?

bigmacI almost closed/deleted/whatever my blog yesterday, which I’ve kept since (I think) May of 2007. Anyway, it’s a pretty long time. It’s just getting to be like FaceBook to me, which is why I mostly stay away from FB these days. FB is all about the houses to me. The big ones, the prettiest ones, the ones with adorable kids on swing sets in the backyards, handsome couples walking hand-in-hand down the neighborhood for all to see. Most of the rest of us stand there and admire, whistle, and applaud. Oh, and we can’t forget the likes. The more likes you get, it means more people like hearing about your pretty house, husband, wife, kids, pets . . . and not simply friends but total strangers. Someone you have never ever met in your entire life likes your dog, Fido. :/ What, and now there are love buttons, in case one can’t like the person enough. Am I the only living soul who finds this a little surreal? No, you needn’t argue with me about the difference between liking the poster and liking what the poster posts.

Anyway, blogging is getting to be like that, like FB. It’s been that way for a while for me. I just don’t “like” myself waiting and worrying over . . . likes. If you know me at all, I don’t need to explain that sentence to you, and if you don’t know me, there’s not enough time to educate you.  I suppose I could keep writing, for myself (it’s the only time I write anymore), while disabling the likes and comments. That way I might wonder who would’ve liked it, but I don’t have to torture myself over why no one liked it.

Nobody realizes the power they wield. I know I don’t have any power. I’m nobody. But not you, nope, not to me. Okay, there’s a lot more rolling around in this old head, you know, but I’m going to stop now. See you. okay