Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bullies Are Talking Turds

My youngest DD has been having a tough time, and it's resulted in some ongoing stomach issues due to stress.  She has a life-long auto-immune disease that is controlled through her diet and excludes a major food group, so that makes her different from her peers.  She's sensitive enough physically that she cannot eat out - anywhere- safely, which is a tough nut for a teen girl.  So many social events revolve around fast food and/or coffee-like drinks, and when it comes to those mighty bastions of American grubbery, she's -quite simply- shit out of luck.  She sometimes ends up feeling unique (a dirty word for girls between the ages of about 11 and 17ish, if they're lucky.)

DD is a tough, scrappy, take-no-crapola kind of young lady.  She was abused in much the same way that I was, though thankfully to a lesser extent, by members of the Crazymaker Clan, which is something that I didn't know until years after NC.  We've worked through a lot of it, and we still work through it every day.  I've been super proud of her for being so willing to tackle the abuse and the residual effects head-on, and she's made great progress, not least of which is that she is absolutely willing to defend herself.

Part of her significant progress has been that she is a relative rarity for a 15 year old girl: she knows exactly who she is and exactly what that means and she is steadfast in her determination to remain herself regardless of external pressures.  This is an absolute joy to me as a mother, that she is so fiercely aware and independent.  It's amazing to see your children develop their own character.  I'm constantly amazed by the depth that both the DD's possess, and I'm fascinated by their choices, their physical and emotional autonomy.  If they weren't my daughters, I'd meet them as strangers and want to know more about them.  They're just that cool.  Unfortunately, high school is a whole mess of crabs in a pot of boiling water, and that mob of crabs doesn't like to let any of the more independent ones escape unscathed.

And... youngest DD started high school last fall.  Oy.  I'm sorry if you're one of them, I mean no offense, but I can't imagine what kind of experience anyone could have in high school that would make them reminisce fondly for those 'glory days.'  I've yet to meet any well-adjusted and balanced adult who actually enjoyed the hell that is high school.  High school sucks ass, especially when you're a bottom of the barrel first year freshman swimming in a sea of more seasoned than you sharks.

She's had some trouble adjusting and it's begun to manifest physically in her stomach aches, so we trooped off to the family doctor today to get it checked out.  I'm a master of controlling my control-ables, so though I had a suspicion that the tummy problems were stress-induced and that stress was largely related to the not-so-happyfuntimes experience of high school, I needed to check off the list of physical concerns in order to exclude them.  So, that done, we got down to brass tacks and had a frank conversation about the causes and results of the issues.

Poor kids: a recovered ACoN and alkie for a mom means that we always get it down to a conversation about the causes and results at some point.  Sometimes I'm sure they'd like it if I just blew a problem off or yelled about it and grounded them for a week.  Alas, that's not how I'm built.

It was a good convo, though, especially after DD got real and started talking about some of the bullying that she's been subject to and how it's weighing on her.

It's funny, we hear talk about bullying all the time.  It's a bad word in our society.  Bullying is bad.  Bullying will not be tolerated.  We have a zero tolerance for bullying.  But what I've noticed is that it's a very narrow scope of definition that we're willing to accept when we talk about bullying.

We have no problem pointing to the oversized 10 year old boy who's pulling cute little Janie's blonde ponytail on the playground and saying, "Yes!  He's a BULLY!"  And then we send him to the principal's office to pay for that.  Maybe sign him up for a sensitivity course or have him wash some walls.

We watch The Breakfast Club and just can't believe that anyone didn't stand up and say "Stop it!" when those butt-cheeks met the duct tape.  "He's a bully!" we say.

We read about Queen Bees and everyone immediately knows who the bullies are, and we want to point at them and scream, "Bully!"  Maybe do a little capital letter B embroidering on somebody's new Hollister shirt.

We want to point out that No means No and that our private places are private and that strangers are dangerous and that yelling "fire!" will get you faster action than screaming "rape!" and we want so desperately to believe that these coloring-book safety tips will protect our children from the world.

But their peers?  How does one protect a child from the asshole sitting next to her in Math who makes snide comments to the rest of the teens in the class about her breast size?  He didn't touch her, after all, he didn't call her a racial epithet and he wasn't even directly speaking to her .  What's punishable there?

How does one protect a child from the little twit who makes it a point to invite an entire established circle of friends to a party but excludes her?  And then talks about said shindig at length and within intentional earshot?  It's not as if a police report can be filed for Willful Exclusion from a Private Social Function with Aggravated Flaunting.

I think (hope) that schools for younger kids have a little bit more control and say.  It seems to be addressed more and more at younger ages.  (Even then, though, I have doubts about the way it's handled - I can't tell you how many times I've heard a parent/teacher/counselor of a child say, "Bullies are hurting inside and that's why they're acting this way toward you."  As if that matters?  I mean, seriously, who gives a fuck?  Serial killers are traumatized too, am I supposed to accept that they have a low self esteem and it's really not about me if I run into one of those?  Maybe ask them if they want to talk about it before they sharpen the knife?)

In high school, though, which is an overcrowded and understaffed sinking cruise ship with a bad case of e. coli and no radar signal if I've ever seen one, this type of verbal/emotional bullying is de rigeur and so low on the list of administrative priorities as to not exist.  Somebody's getting knocked up in the parking lot, breaking into a locker, smuggling in a joint.  Those are the things the alleged people in charge at the alleged institute of learning are allegedly dealing with.  That and attendance as it directly relates to funding.  So, no help there.  The attitude is generally, "Let us know when blood gets drawn."

It's all so familiar; all the triangulating, rank forming, gaslighting, passive-aggressiveness, crazymaking.  Every time I hear about this shite, I just can't help but compare it to the NFOO.  What is the NFOO really?  A gang of adolescent hoodlums.  A bunch of limp-dicked power grubbing bullies getting off on their little game of Who Can Be the Meanest.

So, DD and I talked about it.  And we came back around to what we always come back around to when dealing with idiots and assholes.  You Browncoats out there, this is for you, "Are we caring about this?"

I mean, seriously, let's just lay this out.  A bully is a POS.  A bully is someone not smart enough to find their own happiness.  A bully is a person who can't process well enough to connect with the world around them.  A bully is someone who's too stupid to know how to entertain themselves.  A bully is a person who's not likable enough to have people like them for anything other than the vicarious jerk-off high of making someone else look bad.  A bully is too ineffectual to do anything of value on their own, so they choose to tear down the accomplishments of others instead.

Basically, a bully has the attractiveness of turd on a sidewalk.

So, again, regarding what a bully has to say, "Are we caring about this?"  Honestly, caring is too strong a word.  Are we even listening to a word that comes out of a turd's mouth?   Even if it can talk, it's still just a turd.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

You know what I do when I see a turd on a sidewalk?  Nothing.  I don't touch it, I don't talk to it, I don't ask it how it feels or if it's lashing out at me because it's hurting inside, I don't wonder why it's a turd or who caused it to be a turd on the sidewalk.  I get away from it, glad I didn't step in it.  It's a turd.  It's beneath me.

So, we have a new phrase in the Casa de Vanci.  Bullies are talking turds.  DD tells me that she's going to be picturing a very large, very stinky (and hopefully soon to be left behind to lie for eternity on their sidewalk) talking turd if she has one of these encounters again.

Kind of takes away their power, now, doesn't it?

We laughed and laughed and talked for hours about how she can get herself re-centered and all of the good things/people/activities/love she has in her life, and she's going to be fine.  Eventually, once she's herself again, I might even have to have a little pity for the bullies, cause DD's a firecracker; her powder just got wet for a minute.  Eventually, somebody's going to lose a finger.

Nah, I'll never feel sorry for bullies.  I know who they grow up to be.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Being Present is a Form of Happiness

I go through phases of intense interest in and observation of the people around me.  These days, it's a deviation from normal action for me.  Typically, no matter the group I'm in, I am the de facto greeter, rememberer of names, conversation starter and overall general participater.  I wouldn't say that I seek the spotlight, and I'm not a compulsive joiner, but I've worked very hard for a long time to be able to enjoy whatever the present moment that I'm living in happens to be, and I'm interested in being a part of those moments.  In business meetings, as a result of that desire for sincerity and authenticity, when everyone else is Chest Puffing or doing the Big Boy and Girl Dance of Uber-Professional Talk, I'm often the only person asking questions of others like, "How's your family?  Your daughter must be in junior high school by now, right?  How's that going?"  In other words, I talk about life, and that always lightens the mood.

But lately I've been in a more subdued mood, probably because I'm still very physically tired and because it's February.  Gawd, I hate this month.  Gray, cold, holidays spent, taxes almost due, let's just hope that Spring gets here before June, February.  DH calls it my Speculative Mood; I have a tendency to isolate a feeling, thought, pattern of behavior and just track it, watch it, ponder it.  I learn a lot about people through this process.

I was recently at a meeting with a large group of coworkers, both those that I share office space with and several from other parts of my geographical region.  There is a young lady from another office who is, er, um, well, she's rather off-putting.  She's difficult to talk to.  She gives very little in conversation; her primary contributions seem to involve making sure that all listening understand that she's, of course, right and oh so very smart.  About everything.  It's not malicious, it's more of a low self-esteem projection that comes off as, okay, well, maybe more than a little bitchy.  A conversation with her can feel like a midnight stroll through a sanctimony-ridden land-mine field.

Having survived a lifetime in the B-I-N-G-O spinning ball of twisted conversation and pretentious aggrandizing that was my NFOO, I just shake it off.  She's not central to my continued existence - not my boss, in other words - and I have only the most tenuous of ties to her, so I just let her be right when I find myself in conversation with her, which I noticed at this last outing was quite often.  She chose at several different venues to seek out a seat next to me.  When she gets all Sister Mary Francis on the soapbox, I just listen until I'm bored and then I make a joke.  Most of the serious wanna-be professor types don't particularly care for my blase take on life in general, and tend to gravitate away from me rather quickly.  To which I say, Coolsville Daddio, you go on over there and extol the virtues of contract negotiations and quality assurance systems and I'll be over here enjoying my tea and taking mental bets against myself about which of the coworkers is going to try to hit on the waitress.  But this girl still seeks me out, after four years of contact in which I've maintained my same attitude, which when concerning business often can be summed up with a shoulder shrug and a, "Well-what-are-you-gonna-do-that's-life." or "Well-they-keep-paying-me-so-I-keep-showing-up."  That one really stumps the suits and the ladder climbers.

So, later on, I had a conversation with one of my coworkers whom I actually consider a good friend and she, too, had noticed the way that Ms. Difficult follows me around.  "I just don't understand why she likes me so much," I said.  "I'm not particularly nice to her, but she seems to really want to be around me, I don't get it."  This caused my friend to laugh, which threw me for a loop.  "What's so funny?" I asked.

To which she replied, "Vanci, everybody likes you.  You're the only one that everybody likes.  You're like everybody's best friend.  You're the only one who cares about everybody else.  You're the only real person in the room!"  Huh.

So let me get this straight.  Everybody else is acting?  I'm the only one capable of or willing to be real, to be present?  How sad!  All I can think is that there is so much, so much of value, going on in every moment - I feel like I learn something from every single interaction that I have with individuals or the world at large.  How can anyone not be interested in that?

I think that it's a gift to be able to live in the moment, to be present.  I know that I have a lot more fun at those meetings than anyone else does.  Apparently that's because I'm the only one really there!

I spent so much of my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood afraid, just terrified of what horror was lurking around the next corner.  I was always planning, and drawing up alternate plans, and making contingency plans.  Hypervigilance is a fear based, trauma induced defense mechanism, and that's where I lived for so long, just trying to keep everything under wraps, the hatches battened down, the details routinely organized, everything and everyone under control.

I don't have to do that anymore, and there's such freedom for me in just being able to - forgive the overused phrase - stop and smell the roses.  I'm so grateful that I can just be present in my life these days.

So, a Vanci-ku for you, in honor of the joy of living in the moment:

Fears of the future
Rob you of today's moments
Why steal from yourself?


Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Only Way Out is Through the Center

"Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding." On Pain - Kahlil Gibran

It's been just over six years since what I think of as Vanci's Last Stand.  You can read about that here, if you'd like.  I've been thinking that I should do a post to commemorate the passage of another year of NC, but the reality is that the only tangible difference in my feelings about the NFOO now as compared to a year ago is that I have a far greater level of indifference to their existence than I've ever had before.  In regard to my real (and quite wonderful) every day life, I've written about it all year long, and can only say that my overall feeling about the last year is that I am one lucky and grateful lady.

Much of my peace is attributable to the fact that I've got one more year of distance from the Crazymaker Clan under my belt, and that is a good thing, no, it's a great thing.  Maybe even in the All Time Top Five List of Best Things.  There's really not much to say beyond that.

But I've been thinking back to those crazy and painful times of six years ago, and I've been trying to ask and answer of myself some of the questions that I hear newly distanced, LC'd and NC'd peeps asking about how to make it through those rough and tumble, earth shaking, business end of the barrel times.  I've been trying to do what I do best, which is basically to boil a complex issue down into a simplified reduction, examine the facts that hold true and then develop a formula.  It's my process, and one that's served me well, both when I lived every day in survival mode and when I was starting to heal and now that I'm...well, I think the only way to describe where I am now is to say that I am content.

I spend very little time these days thinking about the members of the Clan, if I spend any at all.  I carry my scars and they are certainly reminders of all the negative feelings and horrible memories and terrors that I've survived, sure.  But they are also reminders of the fact that I broke those chains and won't be passing the bad juju down the line.  I live every day in the midst of so many reminders of the good, calm, loving, helpful, graceful, classy, joyful relationships and people and life that I have now, and if I charted a graph that showed my happiness in relation to the length of time I have NC, well, I'm sure that the trend would look like a dot-com stock's value in the early nineties.  Up, up and away.

I remember, though, what it felt like in Early No Contact.  It felt so awful, so wrong to be separated from my 'family.'  I was so tortured, so guilty for creating that heretofore unknown silence, for breaking something that I knew was wrong but that I'd been taught my whole life to accept as right.  I would have done almost anything to make things better, different, even the way that they used to be.  If you've read this blog at all, you'll know that every single person in my family of origin was abusive toward me in some degree.  The things that I've written about here - which are the tip of the iceberg, dearies, just a smidge of the reality of the abuse that I was dealt by the fuckers - are so horrific that they could be the plot-lines of a serial killer-hunting drama on television.  They're the types of things that people see or read about and think, "Surely this can't really happen in the real world."  Horror, pure and simple.

But in Early NC, I was still loathe to see it for what it was, to see them for the monsters that they really are.  I still held out hope that I could somehow, some way, if I was good enough or smart enough or worked hard enough or expressed myself more clearly or drew different boundaries or drank less or changed the way that I reacted or asked different questions, that I could find a way to repair my relationship with the Clan.  I didn't want to even contemplate NC forever in the early days; it would have been too much for my fragile world to take.  I felt like I would just shatter like a woman made of glass.  Thin glass.  Every.  Single.  Day.

I think of that now and I'd like to deny it.  I'd like to say that woke up one day and I was strong, that I was instantly okay, that I always knew what to do or how to act or react, but the truth is that it was a process of "the breaking of the shell of my understanding."  There's truth in the idea that a thing, once known, cannot be unknown.  As soon as I allowed myself to SEE the truth behind the false perceptions of the NFOO, I couldn't UNSEE that truth.  I didn't really want to accept it, but I couldn't unlearn it, I couldn't unknow and I couldn't avoid finding a way to deal with it.  Living every day with the pain of this process of knowing wasn't an option, so I had to find a way to move forward.

So I had to go through it.

Some days I put my head down and I charged through it angry.  I think of bulls in a run when I think of those days: incited to a near murderous anger and then unleashed in a narrow corridor to chase down a crowd of tormentors.  Some days I was like that, and those were the good days.

Most days I was lost, sad, unfocused and seriously fucking depressed.  In retrospect, it's all fine and good to say that I don't miss them in my life, and it's true beyond true that these days it's a ludicrous concept to me to even think about missing them.  I miss them these days about as much as I'd miss a hot poker to the eye.  But then, Early NC, I missed them like crazy. They had been my constants, you see?  No matter how fucked up they were, no matter how abusive they were, no matter how much of my life, my family of choice, my very soul I'd had to sacrifice to the altar of the Crazymaker Clan, they had been MY CLAN.  And then they weren't anymore, and that was a loss.

Loss is loss, and all loss leaves a void.  It hurt to cut off contact with them, it hurt like hell.

But, there's a reason that we recovering alkies talk about working a program and staying sober One Day at a Time and it's this: we understand that the only way to get the time to stack up is to do one of them at a time, moment to moment.  And that's what got me through the loss; doing just one more day upon one more day.

Eventually, I promise, the days got easier to do.  And that's when I decided to look into it further, to go beyond just accepting it and to start to try to figure out what the hell it really was, what it had really been in the first place and how it had changed.

Once I started to dig into core issues, I began to see a clearer picture of what, exactly, it was that I had lost.  The space and time that I created by just staying away and putting one day on top of another wasn't my plan, no, but it was instrumental in getting me clear enough from the leashes and muzzles of the NFOO to help me to see them (and to see me,) in the cold, clear light of reality.

That's when it started to get better.  That's when the FOG began to lift for me.  That's when I began to allow my defenses - so carefully constructed to block out a lifetime of abuse - to work for me instead of against me.  That's when I began to look at myself and really see who I was, to understand that I was broken because they'd broken me, but also that I was not beyond repair.

And that's when I began to understand that the loss that I felt, the grief that I was living with every day, was about my mourning the loss of something that never really existed in the first place.  And that's when I started to get better.

I've been NC long enough now to have experienced several distinct validations of the correctness of my choices to get away from the NFOO and to stay away.  I broke the shell of my understanding long enough ago that the pain that I felt initially and residually is largely non-existent now.  Bleeding wounds became scabs and then turned into scars, which serve to remind me that I survived and that I don't want to go back, so I won't.

I had to break that shell and go through the pain of it in order to form a new understanding, one that is without manipulation or lies.

So I guess that I will let this stand as my celebration of six years: the trend in my happiness and that of my family of choice has never, not once, faltered from us getting better the farther and the longer we stay away from the Crazymakers.

So breaking that shell and going through that pain has only ever been worth it.