Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Made it Through the Rain


Slice of Life Challenge
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What do you do when you have something to say and you fear the response? That's when I write in my notebook...but this deserves an audience bigger than me. So crafting today's post is a delicate act of arranging words in just the right way. 

The topic is bullies...not the playground bullies that stand over you and threaten to punch you for your lunch money...the adult bullies. The ones who tear down and gossip and do their damage while there's a smile on their face. Maybe bully is the wrong word for this. I've struggled to find the right word for years. It's a person who says things to constantly put me down...even if it's "all in good fun". It's the gossip and judgement about people who are supposed to be friends. It's the excluding and whispering. I hate the term "mean girl", but maybe that's it. It's hurtful behavior that's constant and can't be escaped because of circumstances. 

Have you encountered that? I thought that this a part of childhood and once I survived middle school, I'd be free...I was naive and wrong.

As a child and a teenager, I protected myself from bullies by trying to be invisible. I did anything I could to avoid the bullies or I made sure I wasn't the one they noticed. I did that by pretending to like the cool things and to be like them and not like me. 

No one likes to be made fun of...as a child, I was a target because of my weight and how I cried easily. Also, I never liked to do the same things as the crowd. Many were drinking in middle school (it felt like everyone) and that seemed weird to me. My parents...oh I was blessed with the best parents in the world. They helped me so much! They supported me and loved me through the mean words and being excluded.

"Michelle, you're building mus'cles!" my dad would proclaim. (He mispronounce it like Popeye to make me laugh.) My mom...she'd make sure I'd have something to do, even if it was just going to the movies with them. (I loved spending time with my family, so it was never a bad thing.) As an adult and knowing my mom like I do, I can't imagine how hard this was for her. Seeing her daughter hurt and sad...she's so protective of those she loves. I felt all of her love and those lessons I learned in seventh and eighth grade certainly have served me well. 

I realized that I started to live my life to avoid the bullies. I didn't want to be called out and teased, so if someone was coming in my car for a ride, I used to change the radio station to the "cool station" and turn off my Barry Manilow. I'd see movies I didn't want to see because everyone else wanted to see them without ever voicing my preference. I'd go and see my movie alone. I let the bullies take over. I let them win. And all the time I thought I won because I didn't have to hear their teasing...what I didn't realize is the voice in my head was them, not me...ALL the time.

Here's the grace of growing older, I do what I want to do and I embrace it. I love showtunes, musicals, Barry Manilow, The Sound of Music! I prefer going to bed early and waking up early. I love to read and read and read. I love to write. I'm loud! I laugh loudly and live loudly too! I get excited over little things like pens and shoes and kinetic sand. I'm passionate about teaching and I work hard at being the best teacher I can be. I'm a rule follower. I eat junk food without apology. 

The past few years I've felt liberated! I'm me! Being myself is a risk and I've not only loved it, there are people who love me for me!! Because I'm me!!

The bullies still exist. They try and shame me when I'm loud. They roll their eyes when I talk about a book I love. They put down my passion with a sneer. They ask, "Why are you eating that?" with a look that says, you shouldn't eat that. It used to make me mad, so mad. The gossip. The negativity. The judgement. 

I'm not mad anymore. I'm sad for them. My life is filled with joy and people who love me. I have found people who get my choices and help me be a better person without judgement...without snarky sneers...without negativity. I wish the bullies could find the same joy in their lives that I've found in mine. My message to the bullies is: don't waste your time on me. I'm good. You won't change me with your negativity. I won't laugh at it. I won't participate in it. I'd rather listen to some Barry Manilow. 

16 comments:

  1. Sounds like you have learned some really important truths about self acceptance. Thank heaven for a loving family. It seems like there are one or two of these bullies in every group, and I always struggle to know how (or whether) to respond. Thanks for this important thinking.

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  2. Thank you for sharing your journey, Michelle, your spirit comes through so beautifully - strong, wise, and joyful. And thanks for sharing Barry Manilow's classic - love that song!

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  3. Michelle
    Powerful reminder of the world we live in, and the world we create for ourselves.
    Take care
    Kevin

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  4. I have no doubt that that was a hard post to write. I so remember exactly what you are saying. They bullying as a kid. I was overweight too and I remember the taunts and teasing. It was horrible. I remember saying things I would do in order to fit in (rarely did I have the courage to actually do anything "bad"). And now it's not teasing, it's the little comments people say, for whatever reason - jealousy, looking down at my decisions - that can make you feel bad. Good for you for making decisions in your life and taking control. Keep on keeping on :)

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  5. Great, sensitive post. It's fabulous that you have reached a point of acceptance with yourself ... there is no need to impress those who are just looking to knock you down. It's nice that you found your "people" and the confidence to live the way you want to live.

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  6. I've read two lovely and amazing posts now (one of them yours) about this topic. It's inspired me to consider sharing as well. (Still uncovering and processing how to do that.) Parents are such a blessing. You seem very much at Peace with who you are, a blessing as well. Through the rain, I'm joyful for you.

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  7. I love your statement about loving yourself, that's where it all starts. Thank you for sharing your story, it happens to too many of us.

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  8. Thank you for your brave words and reflection today. It is something most of us can relate to. I have found comfort in faith and believing what God says (really taking His promises to heart). Growing older really helps, too. All those "bully" things speak more about the person saying them than the person spoken about. People are entitled to their opinions but as an adult I choose not to let them dictate who I am designed to be.

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  9. Michelle, life is often cruel but as Barry Manilow's song reminds us you made it through the rain. Telling our stories is so important because they have a message for all. Bullying is hurtful and after moving through the troubling teenage years no one needs adult bullies. I remember the story you unfolded during our Teachers As Poets sessions. It was poignant, real, and allowed us to grapple with deep feelings that were deftly exposed by the teacher poets like yourself. Thank you.

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  10. Thanks so much for sharing such a personal story. I am always amazed at the meanness of people. I try to find the good but so many others are filled with negativity. So glad you have risen above those bullies/little people.

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  11. My mom always told me to feel sorry for people like that as they weren't happy themselves. Perhaps the secret is in becoming okay with ourselves, making our voice the strongest voice we hear. It seems for most of my life, I've tried to surround myself with people whose voice makes me feel like I'm in a better place. I love this post, Michelle. I loved its honesty. I loved its clarity. I loved its message. My favorite lines: "a delicate act of arranging words in just the right way" and "loved me through the mean words and being excluded."

    Cathy

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  12. Thank you for having the courage to share such an insightful post! I think "kimwritekim" said it best when she said the actions/words of the bullies speak more about them as a person than those they are speaking against. I so need to remember that! Thanks for inspiring me to stay strong!

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  13. Michelle, I miss you!! Love love love this slice. I'm a bit tired of adult bullies and I think that IS a good term for them. Thanks for your perspective…

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  14. So genuine. So strong. So fun. You are wonderfully made!

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  15. Your strong spirit shines through this post. In my mind I see the early bullies fading away (like in movies when characters just fade away with the change in lighting), the more recent ones just being pulled up or down, but definitely out of the picture. This leaves you standing strong in the middle of the action. Your experiences and your faith have given you a strong foundation to stand strong! Thank you for writing a post that resonates with so many of us.

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  16. I admire your strength, spirit, and perseverance you needed to eventually gain the confidence to always be yourself unapologetically and not let other people dictate and validate your interests. I admit it is sometimes hard to stand alone, but when you step back and admire how far you have come the feeling is like no other. Very well written!

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