sticks and stones

The way that a lot of topics are talked about has changed dramatically since I was a child. Children are warned about the same potential threats but what constitutes a threat is not necessarily the same. Don’t talk to strangers and definitely don’t get in their cars is a pretty standard one. If you were aware of people breaking the law, you should report it to the police or a responsible, trustworthy adult. If you knew that someone was being bullied or was a bully, you should tell a teacher. If someone was being abused at home, you should talk to a teacher who could help to get the situation changed.

What’s bullying? What’s abuse? A bully is someone who is constantly hurting another person (hitting, kicking, biting, etc) for no good reason, they explained to us. What is abuse? It is when a parent or other relative is repetitively violent with a child, who has done nothing to deserve it. Or it could be sexual abuse, when an adult is inappropriately sexual with a child. Basically, bullying and abuse were the same thing, just from different people. Bullying is violence from your peers, abuse is violence from adults or other care-givers.

That’s what I understood when I was a child, anyway.

That people could do just as much damage to you with words alone was not something I was warned about the way I was warned about other dangers to my wellbeing. If you did happen to complain that other kids repeatedly teased you, or were mean to you.. they got told not to do it and you got taught a mantra: sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.

Or: don’t be so sensitive. Just be glad that they aren’t beating you up. This is what people do. This is what kids do. You need to not take it so personally. They only do it because they can see that it upsets you. 

It’s confusing to be told that. Someone you have approached for help is confirming what you know – that the person crafting words designed to make your heart feel tight and your throat and eyes to prickleburn with tears is doing it precisely because they know it upsets you – but you are the one that needs to harden up. Not them that needs to learn some compassion. All they’re doing is attacking everything vulnerable about your sense of self, your sense of you.. but it could be worse. They could be giving you black eyes.

Sometimes I wished for black eyes. Because I knew that physical wounds healed. There was medicine that could take away pains in your body. Yet nobody ever acknowledged the pain in my soul as being anything more than a minor inconvenience. It’s difficult to understand how you can feel so bad inside, so worthless, so filled with dread about your next encounter with the people who make you feel that way – who have been acknowledged as specifically targeting you because you get upset… and yet have adults tell you that this is the normal way that kids behave. You’re the one who is unbalancing the status quo by not just letting it slide over you like water off a duck’s back. So, to summarise: it is normal for other kids to be mean and it is abnormal for you to get upset about it. 

Victim-blaming, A+++.

Most of my experience with what I now understand to be bullies happened in primary school. I do remember sometimes telling my mum about it, but I don’t think I ever really shared enough for her to understand how bad it was. I think that one of the prime reasons for this was because it started after I innocently shared with someone that in my family, it was me and my mum and my mum’s wife. At 7 or 8 years of age, I had not yet encountered and did not really understand homophobia and I certainly didn’t understand that Queensland in the late 80s and early 90s was not always the most welcoming place for an LGBT family. Obviously, it is unlikely that other kids were aware of the political difficulties of the time, but I think it likely that it was an  unusual enough thing to have another child claiming that a family could have two adults of the same sex that at least some of them shared this with their parents, who in turn shared their homophobic values with their children. And once they had that to criticise me about, and discovered that I was an emotionally sensitive child who was prime fodder for bullying.. well, they let their imaginations loose.

One girl came up with a little jingle. Jade, the alien from outer space. It had a tune that the kids would sing-song it in. This one was particularly confusing to me. It was clear by the way it was said/sung that it was to be understood that being an alien was not a good thing. But having been exposed to such fictional universes like the one depicted in Star Trek, I definitely did not view aliens and outer space as bad things. I was also pretty fucking bad at sport, which made me a target for ridicule and derision too. To the point where many times, my genuine best effort at team sports still resulted in the people who were unlucky enough to be stuck with me on their team angrily accused me of intentionally sabotaging our chances at winning. 

Now, of course, I understand that not all kids were fortunate enough to be raised to appreciate diversity – whether it was in the from of aliens or gay people. And I also understand that it doesn’t even matter if what the bullies say to you is true. It didn’t matter that I clearly was not an alien and that the vague, terrible “gay menace” was not actually me either. What mattered was that they knew they would hurt me by picking on any of these topics. And they did it anyway. Then, because I got upset and cried, I was also a big sooky baby. And that just gave them something else to add to the list of things that would push my sensitive buttons.

I think that schools and stuff now are much better about teaching kids about the different forms that bullying can take. It’s no longer just about physical violence. I am not convinced that their better understanding of the presentation of bullying has carried over into better ways to prevent it from happening and handling it when it does. It seems like a lot of kids still feel like they are powerless and not a lot is done to punish the ones doing the bullying. I hear stuff sometimes about how bullies need to receive care themselves, that it’s because if a lack of something they need that they behave like this. I don’t really believe that. It might be true occasionally, but by and large there is no way that you can tell me that kids do not understand that what they do is hurtful. And when they are doing it and they know that, then they should be punished. Turning them into victims that need help means that their victims are being neglected and made to feel guilty for the lack of compassion they have for the very people that are making them miserable. 

sticks and stones

the nature of

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about .. the nature of .. things.

(Some people don’t like dots in writing but I put dots where I pause in my thoughts, because I think it helps to show that I am considering what words are best to express the ideas I want to express, and also that the words I eventually settle on may be the ‘best’ ones but they’re not necessarily precisely representative of what I want to say. Just FYI.)

About .. how I am separate from any conditions that I have, or that my body has. But the weaknesses of my body are such that they sometimes directly influence the expression of my self. These thoughts are a strange combination of scientific and existential. There’s a quote I’ve seen on pinterest, and it’s usually attributed to C.S. Lewis but according to wikiquote this is incorrect.

“You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body, temporarily.”
Walter M. Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz

I do think that basically, I am a happy person. I am an optimist. I may not always act like I am those things, but that’s because of mismatched chemicals in my brain which are preventing me from remembering that, from living that, in this physical existence. Me, the soul, is a blissful being who believes that the greatest happiness and potential for realising our inner power comes from loving and accepting and being loved and accepted. The me that is here and now in this lifetime still believes those things but is held back from truly living this and touching this power because of the limitations of the vessel required to participate in this physical existence. Perhaps it is that I am not yet evolved enough to be stronger than those limitations, to be able to believe despite the doubt inherent in the body. I have a memory of a scene from an episode of TOS popping into my head. The crew are under attack from a source that they know is not real, an illusion being planted in their brains. And they can understand that intellectually but are unable to face the situation with absolutely no doubt that it cannot harm them because of the nature of their humanity. Spock, being only half-human and having the rigid mental control characteristic of Vulcans, can face the situation with no doubt and by mind-melding with the others allows them to share his absolute conviction. (Googling informs me that the episode is Spectre of the Gun.)

So how is that relevant to me, and this caravan of thought? A couple of things come from it.. The suggestion that if only I had better mental control I could make myself immune to the ‘demons’ that plague me. Or that reality is only what you believe it to be and can only affect you as much as you allow it to? The first idea is one I rank up there with the whole snap out if it type mindset, or even worse the just take some vitamins group. I’m not saying I think vitamins are useless, it is obviously documented that certain deficiences can cause similar depressive symptoms. But that’s not everyone. Not every person on this planet who struggles with depression has a vitamin deficiency. And with snapping out of it, the point is that you can’t do that: no matter how much you tell yourself about the things you have to be happy about, no matter how you try to focus on those, no matter how logically you look at your life to see that there is no reason for you to be feeling this way… you still do. I know I have a fantastic husband, and the kind of connection with him that lots of people only dream about finding. I know we have three brilliant and awesome (if occasionally frustrating and annoying) children. I know that we have a roof over our heads, clothes and food and many things that are not really necesseties. But for all that those things give me joy — I still also have pain in my heart and my brain at the same time; doubt that I am not deserving of these things, doubt that I am doing enough to make my family’s lives’ as good as I possibly can, despair that I won’t ever be able to give enough, doubt that I am good enough for them, fear that one day my fears and doubts will push my family away because they don’t understand why I feel those things. Guilt, because I wish they could understand but knowing that true understanding can only come from experiencing and experiencing what I do is not something I ever want them to have to do.

It’s not always that terrible. Most days, because of the medicine I take and the counselling I have recieved, it’s a background noise that you are so used to that you forget it’s there. It’s the buzzing insects and chirping birds and rustling leaves making the soft noises they always make and they are just part of the landscape. It’s never perfect quiet but you learn to ignore them enough to go about your day. But every now and then, a cockatoo will fly into my garden and the screech he makes is an explosion of pain inside my heart and soul that feels too big for my body to contain and makes me feel that if only I could create some openings in my body, some of the pain would escape and I would feel so much better. I haven’t done that but sometimes when the peace is disturbed it is so hard to hold onto the rational part of my mind that knows it wouldn’t work.

It’s very hard to admit that I think about things like that sometimes. I don’t want to seem like (and I realise the irony of this statement) a real crazy person and I don’t want to seem like an emo who wants to do this because all the other cool (uncool?) kids are doing it too. We often joke about being crazy but truly I don’t think I am crazy, because that to me implies a loss of the awareness of reality. I do think that I have tendencies towards exaggeration and paranoia in what my mind tells me people think of me and feel about me but I try to remind myself that I am probably wrong because I don’t think those sorts of negative things about people so why would anyone else do it about me? The place where this comes undone though is when I get reminders that many of my thought patterns do seem to be different than the ‘average’ person — sometimes on big things.. live and let live, make love not war.. and sometimes on random things like writing on roads that always seems to me to be written backwards (they recently painted DOWN SLOW all around the driveway of the complex that we live in) but obviously if everyone thought it was backwards they wouldn’t do it that way.

Then there is the concept of my mind being in control of my reality and if I wanted it enough I could re-form my reality so that this problem did not exist for me. This is a difficult one.. it’s all kinds of philosophical and quantum physics-al and some of the research and theories there sort of make my head hurt. On some levels I do think that we are in control of the reality we exist in but I’m not sure that it’s controllable on the level of.. the person in the physical body. If I can change my reality then I can change other people’s reality, since there are so many overlaps, and that would just create a mess and paradoxical states where different people were trying to create non-compatible situations and it would all end up very… chaotic. I think it’s probably more on the level of… the me that exists beyond the physical body, my higher self if you like.. has collaborated with the same parts of the people who have lives overlapping my own, and we have ended up with this reality and time and place and circumstance that allows each of us to learn and experience what we need to learn in order to grow into something more. Saying that, however, suggests that I chose to be like this and then that just sounds.. well.. masochistic. Or else it implies that ‘all suffering has a greater purpose’ which is not something that I agree with either. But I think maybe some suffering has a greater purpose.. and if the learning does not come from the suffering itself, then perhaps the suffering is necessary to shape you into a person who will be receptive to lessons coming from somewhere else or necessary to strengthen you into a person who can do something important to help others with their lessons.

Maybe it is hard to live with this, to deal with this, to watch the sky and worry about when a cockatoo will flutter in and disturb the peace with it’s screeching.. because I don’t know what the purpose of it is. I don’t know what I am learning or what I am meant to learn. I don’t know with absolute certainty that there is a purpose and a lesson and that I can survive. I don’t have a Vulcan to give me that peace of mind but even if I did I don’t know if it would help. Knowing obliterates the need for faith, and knowing you can survive something means that you don’t have to feel the pain as deeply since you are assured that you will come out the other side anyway. Feeling the pain and struggling to keep the hope that you will survive, struggling to remind yourself that you are not the pain and the blackness, that is the hard part. Keep struggling, keep fighting, keep trying.. trying to remember the true me.

the nature of