Today, my friend posted a link on Facebook to an article about a 15 year old boy who tried to commit suicide because of bullies at his school; he is still alive, but not expected to live because of his self inflicted injuries. I wanted to let my friend know that I saw her post and had read the article, that I was feeling sad about this and wishing I could do something; but clicking the "like" button seems inappropriate, so I started thinking of what an appropriate comment would be. The more I thought about it, the more complicated and circular my thoughts became, and I decided to write about it in an attempt to find a way through the maze.
My first thoughts were along the path laid out by my friend when she posted about the article, "Heartbreaking story out of my hometown. I wish so much that we could focus on how we're alike and not different." I was thinking about ways that we can teach ourselves, each other, our children, to focus on how we are alike when it occurred to me that perhaps bullying doesn't always stem from differences, but sometimes from seeing something of ourselves in someone else. Something that we don't like about ourselves or something that scares us. In this culture of ours, so obviously flawed, do we need to learn to look within more effectively when we notice that someone else is aggravating us? Do we need to teach kids to love themselves, even the scary parts of themselves, so that they can accept and be kind to others?
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us
Not everyone who is irritated by the mirror turns to bullying, although, sadly, increasingly, we see this response in our teens. And sometimes, even more tragically, someone's irritation and angst turns to rage and instead of bullying they pick up a gun and start shooting. How do I respond to those that aggravate me? Do I lash out at them like the bullies in this story? Sometimes. Do I do something to hurt myself like the teen that turned to suicide? Often. Do I try to see the likeness that is triggering the response? Increasingly more often. Am I able to love that part of myself? Rarely. Do they continue to aggravate me? Of course, because I have not positively resolved how I feel about myself. As a 44 year old evolving, emotionally aware person, I am still learning these things. It is hard work slowing down to examine our feelings and learning new ways to express them. How do we teach these skills to children, to teens, or to young adults if we don't have them ourselves?
On the other hand, what about difference, true differences causes us to bully? Is there something else, other than seeing ourselves that causes us to lash out? Fear? Fear of what? The fact that someone's skin is different than ours, or they are smarter, or have different interests or religion, or have a disability has been the cause of bullying for hundreds of years. This is so common, it can't be ignored. I like to think that I don't treat people badly because of these types of differences. Am I better than people that are part of a hate group? Or just blind to my own prejudices and unkind actions? I think I only treat people badly because of their actions or attitudes (I'm not saying this is a good thing) but maybe I need to watch out to see if I'm excluding those who are different, just because they are different.
On the topic of exclusion, a specific concept has come to my attention through several avenues over the last few years. The concept is that ignoring someone is the worst thing you can do to them. I know it is true for me. Nothing makes me feel worse that when someone looks right through me. It really hurts and can stick with me for days. Yet, I do it all the time. I hate confrontation so much that sometimes I ignore someone to avoid confrontation. Sometimes I ignore someone because I really don't know how to deal with them. So, basically, to make myself comfortable, I wound someone else. Is it worse to be bullied or to be made invisible? Probably neither. They are both painful and can lead to reactive behaviors when the victim tries to find balance, lashing out at the perpetrator or others, innocents, in their lives. Who doubts that the teen bullies in La Grande learned this behavior by being bullied themselves or hurt in some other way? But this story isn't just about the bullies; it is about a sweet boy who turned to suicide when he was mistreated. What leads a person to self injure or to give up? If we get everyone to stop bullying, lashing out, treating those who are different and uncomfortably the same with love and kindness, will suicide decrease? Or is suicide just another side of the same coin? Is it that we are unhappy because we don't love ourselves and we choose to either bully or to punish ourselves? So, this is circular, but I feel that the key is learning to love ourselves. Obviously, I'm not coming to this conclusion logically, or through years of study on behavior and psychology. But I feel it. And if it is true, then fixing this problem in our society begins with me, with each of us loving ourselves first and then those with whom we interact, and eventually that love will radiate out into our communities, our schools, our cities...the world. If you've read this rambling, thank you. I'd really like to hear your thoughts in the comments here, via Facebook message, or e-mail message. I'm off to try to love myself. Here goes...
I posted my gratitude for days 6 and 7 on Facebook late at night. I'd like to track my gratitude here on my blog, so I'm adding them now. Day 6, late Saturday night, "Good day. Oh! Need to post gratitude. Today I am grateful to be a Tacoman. Seriously, I love this town." Context: Stadium Art & Wine Walk with Rick, Amy, Justin, and Matt. Day 7, late Sunday night, "Tonight I am grateful that the only time sensitive item on my calendar for tomorrow is meeting my friend Josh in the late evening." Context: feeling a bit blue, couldn't think of anything to post about Sunday, so I grasped at Monday. Did I bounce back on Monday? No. And I didn't even manage to leave the house to go see Josh. Lame. More on the blues in next post, which will most likely be titled, "Gratitude Restart."
My husband travels a lot for work; at least it feels like a lot to us. But right now we are enjoying 19 days with no business travel and I'm so pleased to have him close.
We are both exhausted from last night's Madonna experience, so I'm not going to spend much time writing; I'm ready to work on putting some miles on our couch, catching up on our shows while eating take out. Now, that's first class!
uncontrollable, eyes leaking, leaning on my knees,
This picture is not from today,
but when I think of laughter, I think of this photo.
Today I had many things for which to be grateful: waking up in an city where bombs do not explode; a car that is not only reliable but downright cushy (I used the heated seat today); 2 full minutes of perfect behavior by 23 kindergartners completely absorbed in the reading of a good book by a great teacher; tickets for Madonna's show tonight; my amazing husband; good friends - the list seems endless. But that laughter, it made my gratitude for all of these good things in my life absolutely shine.
Lisa believes in Angels. Lisa loves all things Disney. Lisa radiates Joy.
I am not like Lisa.
I will be more like Lisa.
No, I don't think I'll ever believe in angels or enjoy a trip to Disneyland.
I will radiate JOY.
I have been spending roughly 40 hours a year with Lisa for the last few years. She always greets me with a smile and a hug. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we do not. She is my massage therapist and, now, my friend. Over the years, I've seen Lisa grow and she's seen me grow, too. She's several steps ahead of me, always, but never judges my progress. She's seen me in some of my darkest moments - moments that I manage to hide from most people, but couldn't hide from her. She's heard about all of my best moments, because I can't wait to tell her things that others might see as bragging, but she thinks I deserve the abundance that is my life. Can you imagine?
My idea of posting gratitude daily on Facebook came from seeing Lisa's posts, which lately seem to be full of gratitude. I was suspicious that she was making a concerted effort to post her gratitude every day, but she had never mentioned it to me in person. When I saw other friends posting about 30 day projects they were beginning for October, I decided I wanted to have a 30 day project, too. I thought about what I want to accomplish in October, and it was, once again, still, to be happier - more content - less mopey - less moody - less ashamed - more confident... you know, I want to radiate joy. In several of the books about the preceding topics that I've read in my quest for personal peace, the idea of expressing gratitude daily was listed as one of the best ways to increase the "feel good" in life. I tried a few times, writing 5 items before bed each night in a special journal. Five items first thing in the morning, to get the day of to a good start - that one lasted 4 days - I have proof; I just pulled the a little blank book, dated October 14, 2009, from my nightstand drawer. (Funny thing, the third item on the first day reads, "massage appt. today.") The quote on the inside cover is "She is a gatherer: moonlight, found wishes, moments of gratitude." It's the sweetest little blank book. It's not the book's fault that I only used it four times. I want this time to be different. I want to follow through. I want to see if this works! So, today, during my massage, I asked Lisa about her posts and she told me that she committed to 90 days of expressing gratitude and that she feels amazing, that I definitely should try it. Since she started the project, multiple people have told her that her positivity is astounding. Then, she told me that she's seen me change so much already, that I've used the physical issues I've faced to learn and grow. Then, she transferred some energy from the angels to me.
Her encouragement means so much; today, I am grateful for Lisa (and her angels). Thank you, Lisa.
"Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary." —Margaret Cousins