Big Troubles and a Fence – Reprised

Getting bullied feels like you’re alone in the middle of a cavernous field surrounded by an electric fence charged by your fear, the callousness of bullies and the apathy of bystanders. I remember this from when I was nine years old. I’ll always remember because no one forgets their encounters with bullies, ever.

playground 1For whatever reason, in grade four I caught the eye of our school bully. His name was Shane and although we were in the same grade, he was almost a head taller than me. I suppose it’s not surprising that a bully might have sought me out; I was one of the smallest in our class. I’m sure he felt confident of my vulnerability.

Shane would look for opportunities to push me around and because he was so much bigger than me, it didn’t take much of a push from him to knock me down. He would generally follow that up with slapping me and threatening worse after school. There weren’t many options for me after school, it was either run like hell for home, try to hide behind people as they were walking, or just take the beating while trying to fend off too much damage. Teachers weren’t much involved outside of class in those days and my parents were otherwise occupied with the drama of their own lives.

One Saturday I was heading over to a friend’s a few blocks from home. I had a temporary shortcut because a house between my street and hers had been torn down and I could cut through the now open yard. The only impediment was a fence in the back that I could climb over at the alley.

I started to walk across the yard, but suddenly a shadow caught my eye. Shane stepped out from behind some building debris that I’d just walked by. His face was sheer glee at having me cornered and alone. My mind took in the entire scenario in about eleven seconds. I knew exactly what was in store.

My heart dropped as I watched him slowly stepping toward me with the promise of pure menace. Within those eleven seconds, I figured my only options to get away were to run back past him or run for the fence. As my panic escalated with his every step toward me, it felt like I couldn’t move my feet anyway. I knew I’d reached the point of no return.

He got closer and as he raised his hand, instinct took over. I closed my eyes and I ran toward him. Hard. His head being higher than mine was providence; it turned out it was the perfect height for my hands to reach his face, which I blindly pummeled with my fists. Hard and fast.

I heard a cry. I opened my eyes and saw that Shane had stepped back from me. He was holding his nose and just staring at me. Then he took his hands down and looked at them. They were covered in blood. He couldn’t see it, but so was his face as the bleeding from his nose dripped steadily down his chin. We stared at each other equally stunned.

Then he brought his hands back up to his nose and started crying. I took this as my cue to head for the fence. At the same time I started to move, so did he, but the opposite way.

My body was unbeaten that day, but the adrenaline continued to beat in my heart.  I didn’t bother running to the fence, but I’m pretty sure I scaled it like a parkour athlete.  I was safe and I would remain safe.  Shane never bothered to come near me again.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that was a life changing event.  It wasn’t just that I was able to defend myself, no matter the miracle was unplanned. It was because it was the first time I was consciously aware that I did something I had no idea I could.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the last time I would encounter bullies in my life, but sometimes, when I do come up on the short end of the stick in those meetings, I remember that sweet, sweet time I kicked ass. Like a boss.

RL

Yes, I am That Confident – Up Yours!

It was 3 years ago that I posted the Facebook rant that launched my blogging career. Sometimes when you feel a little lost and like you need to meet you again, the re-set button can be as easy as looking into your own life archives. I’m fortunate mine was as easy a start as back to this beginning…

“Well you can’t fix stupid either and you proved that”!!  

Actually, although my blogging life has been an incredibly uplifting experience overall,  it blows me away a little that I’ve been insulted through it too from time to time. …But I digress…

That particular insult was lobbed at me in a Facebook note.  It was from someone who’d had only few superficial conversations with me and no involvement in the situation at hand at the time. Not that really knowing me, nor having full knowledge of the details then changes the bottom line.

I admit I was somewhat shocked at that charged-up energy that came at me. There are all kinds of ways to respond, but at the time I was more engrossed in the event that precipitated the results of her research.

I re-read the post later and those words actually ended up making me smile. They reminded me of a personal motto I used to say: “I hope I’m the dumbest one in the room”.  In return I usually got a look like I’d just confirmed that for them.

Peace

What I really meant was that regardless of whatever endeavor I was involved in, I wanted whomever else I was working with to be wiser, more knowledgeable, and more creative than me.  I was sure that would get me an opportunity to learn something, probably something great and hopefully a lot of it.  Yup, not quite that insult’s target, but I know myself well enough to be confident in what I may or may not be.

That event had interesting timing. Some friends and I had been having conversations about self-esteem and the often misinterpreted difference between assertiveness & confidence or self-centeredness & aggression. There are many examples of how these characteristics are practised, but in our chats we narrowed the illustration down to standing up for oneself.

We partially surmised that self-centredness starts with feeling some sense of entitlement or an innate belief that one can do no wrong. The world better be good to me first or the world is gonna hear about it:

“Don’t confuse my personality and my attitude because my personality is ME and my attitude depends on YOU”.

Awww snap! Or – Aw snap!, snap!, snap!- if they are particularly perturbed. This is more of a passive/aggressive or aggressive/aggressive defensiveness beyond my Psych 101 capabilities, or more to the point, my patience levels. Whatever happened to personal responsibility/self control?

On the other hand, real confidence says I will be good to you and if you are unkind in return, I can walk away with my self-respect fully intact without having to bring you down a peg to accomplish that. I would add that that also exhibits dignity, not an unworthy effort and something I wish I could have attached myself to much earlier in life.

Confidence asks how does whatever this is really matter to my life or me? Most of the time, whatever it is doesn’t make a bit of difference to anything.

Confidence also includes the element of humbleness. It says sometimes I may be wrong, but that does not diminish that I am a good and decent person and I will fix what I can fix about it.  By the way, the fixing action begins with offering genuine apologies, followed by genuine efforts to not repeat the offenses. Amazes me to this day, how hard this concept is for some to grasp.

Self-centredness mistakes the element of humbleness in confidence as weakness. That mistake is the weakness that truly exposes lack of self-esteem.

A little follow up: some time after sending that note, my ‘insulter’s’ defense was that she thought something negative was said about her. I did my best to reassure, but no matter, once her reaction was on the world-wide-web for all to see, the never-intended reason became fact for her anyway.  One less Facebook friend.

Too bad she didn’t take the minute to ask me about my intentions before she posted that over-the-top response.

So yes, it was interesting that that whole scenario played out right in the middle of those chats about confidence.  I guess you could say that a couple of us learned more than we were expecting at the time.

There’s far more to the depth of these issues than I can, or care to, note here, but if you were to ask me what would I say in return to that hotly lobbed insult now?  In short: up your self- esteem!

Yours truly,
Hopefully the Dumbest One in the Room

RL

Because I Can…

people heart redSometimes, maybe a lot of times, we need to remember, or at least ponder, what this whole experience of life is supposed to be about.  We hear it all the time; it’s about love. It’s about helping one another.  It’s about lifting each other up when we’ve been pushed down by experiences too heavy to carry on our own.

Living this mindset to any great degree didn’t happen overnight for me nor did it come easy. My middle name is Macadamia, (look it up). It took a number of jarring incidents to make me stop and assess where I was heading and how. We call those incidents philosophical bricks.

Philosophical, schmilosophical – the solid OUCH of those bricks served to open my abilities to care beyond my immediate family needs and the occasional charity event. One clunker that demanded attention is a chronic health condition. When I’ve had to deal with acute phases of it or any other life crises, (I’m really good at getting those), I’ve had the honor of being taught time and time again how living up to life is actually demonstrated. As it turned out, it’s really not as hard as I once might have resentfully imagined.

Those who know me would likely say I’m a strong person.  I know I am.  If you haven’t been defeated by life’s bricks and kicks, you likely are, but there have been times when I’d been so far down, I’d have sworn I was at the end and I was good with that. Relieved even.

I wish I could say I pulled myself out of those periods of desolation by the straps of self-determination, but the truth is, the ball to real self-help really couldn’t have started rolling if I hadn’t first been shown the path via the hearts of my near and dear.

They weren’t the surgeons or psychologists or ministers.  They were the friends who came to me to talk, listen, and hold my hand while I cried. They shared their wisdom and their resources to nurse and support the basics of life.

At the worst of times, they managed to break through despair that was blocking my will to fight any more. They showed me how to breathe once again through those debilitating trials. They worked with great and gentle care to help me feel seen and heard.

Those acts of simple and generous kindnesses were teaching me how to be a better human being, even as I felt incapable of even existing. In the most exquisite and genuine ways, I learned how to act when life grabs a tight hold and demands immediate action for survival.

Compassion changes so many levels of pain. It infuses you with honest empathy. It changed me in ways that I hope never gets unchanged. They showed me how to get up and say, yes I can.

Yes, I can get through this day, pain, event. Yes, I can take time to tell someone I’m thinking of them. Yes, I can listen, yes I can cook a (barely edible) casserole for someone who can’t.  Yes, I can give a few dollars, even if it feels like I can’t afford to, yes I can help.  I can do all the things done for me and more. Yes, I can.

My ‘Yes, I Can’ mantra graduated to ‘Because I Can’.  For me ‘Yes, I can’ and ‘because I can’ means I am alive. I may be limited in talent or immediate resources, but I’m not limited in possibilities to demonstrate care.

It’s my sincere desire, maybe even an obligation, to live up to the promise, the truest meaning of life as so ably demonstrated by those loved ones I call heroes. ‘Yes, I can’ is more than a trite statement or a campaign slogan, it’s a way of life.

It’s not about becoming a saint or a world leader to do something that changes the world. You don’t even have to be a ‘good person’; if someone needs a hand, help them.  I’ll bet you’ll end up pretty happy too, and if not, then please be reasonable enough to settle for content. There are plenty of days in a life well-lived when that is more than enough.

RL

Originally Posted on

Yes, I am That Confident – Up Yours!

Oh Snap 2“Well you can’t fix stupid either and you proved that”!!  That intended insult was lobbed at me in a Facebook note about a year and a half ago.  It was from someone who had at most a few superficial conversations with me and certainly no chat about the issue that was at hand at that time. Not that really knowing me, nor that person having full knowledge of the details then changes the bottom line.

I admit I was somewhat shocked at that charged-up energy coming at me. There are all kinds of ways to respond, but at the time I was more engrossed in the issue that precipitated the results of her research and it didn’t really register.

I re-read the post later and when I came across those words again, I actually ended up smiling. They reminded me of a personal motto that I used to say to people: “I hope I’m the dumbest one in the room”.  In return I usually got a look like maybe they had just found her.  What I really meant was that regardless of whatever activity or endeavor I was involved in, I wanted whomever else I was working with to be that much wiser, knowledgeable, and creative than me.  I was sure that would get me the opportunity to learn something great, and hopefully a lot of it.  Yes, I do know what that shot’s intention was, but I know myself well enough to be confident in what I may or may not be.

That exchange had interesting timing. Some friends and I had been having conversations about self- esteem, particularly in girls, and the often misinterpreted difference between assertiveness & confidence and self-centeredness & aggression. There are many examples of how these characteristics are practised, but in these chats we narrowed the issue down to the ability to stand up for oneself. It’s this point we felt that usually illustrates most of the differences between those two approaches.

We partially surmised that self-centredness starts with feeling some sense of entitlement or an innate belief that one can do no wrong. The world better be good to me first or the world is gonna hear about it. “Don’t confuse my personality and my attitude because my personality is ME and my attitude depends on YOU”.  No one better cross me or else! Ohhh snap! Or – Oh snap!, snap!, snap!- if they are particularly perturbed. This is more of a passive/aggressive or aggressive/aggressive defensiveness beyond my Psych 101 capabilities, or more to the point, patience levels.

On the other hand, real confidence says I will be good to you and if you are unkind in return, I can walk away with my self-respect fully intact without having to bring you down a peg to accomplish that. I would add that that also exhibits dignity, not an unworthy effort and something I wish I could have attached myself to much earlier in life.

Confidence asks how does whatever this is really matter to my life or me? Most of the time, whatever it is doesn’t make a bit of difference to anything.

Confidence also includes the element of humbleness. It says sometimes I may be wrong, but that does not diminish that I am a good and decent person and I will fix what I can fix about it.  By the way, the fixing action includes offering genuine apologies.  I’ve also noticed that people who cannot apologize are masters at becoming the victim in all their stories.

Self-centredness mistakes the element of humbleness in confidence as weakness. That mistake is the weakness that truly exposes lack of self-esteem.

In the interest of full disclosure:  some time after sending the note, my ‘insulter’s’ defense was that she responded to something that she interpreted as being negatively said about her.  I did my best to reassure that this was far from the case, noting that the discussion in play wasn’t even about her.  No matter, once her reaction was on the table for all to see, the never-intended reason became fact for her forever.  One less Facebook friend.  Too bad she didn’t take the minute to ask me about my intentions before she posted that over the top response.

Yes, it was interesting that that whole scenario played out right in the middle of those chats about confidence.  I guess you could say that a couple of us learned more than we were expecting at the time.  There is far more to the depth of these issues and their needs than I can, or care to, note here, but if you were to ask me what would I say in return to that hotly lobbed insult now?  In short, up your self- esteem!

Yours truly,
Hopefully the Dumbest One in the Room

RL