Thursday, March 19, 2015

Forgiving The Bullies of St. Callistus - #1000Speak




When I first started this blog last May, I recounted some humorous childhood anecdotes in a series of posts. The stories are funny to me now, but as a small child, they were anything but laughable. The reality is, I suffered a lot of misery in grade school and junior high. At the time, it hurt me deeply and it made me cry. I say “it” when I should say “they”.

They hurt me deeply. They made me cry. It wasn’t a “thing” that made me suffer. It was other children, specifically other little girls.

For years, I used to say I got picked on or made fun of in school. I didn’t have another name for it. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that I was in fact bullied all those years ago.

In comparison to the horrendous acts of bullying that take place nowadays, my experiences were nothing. But when you are the little girl going through the torment day after day, it feels monumental, no matter how insignificant in comparison to others.

Throughout my life, I’ve thought about my bullies more than I’m sure they’ve thought about me. I remember each and every one of their names…Chris, Loan, Laura, Nicole, Tina, Tricia, and Maria.

When I joined Facebook, I looked up every single one of them. I carefully studied the pictures of the ones I found. I tried to imagine what their lives are like now. Are they happy? Are they living a fulfilling life? Has life been good to them? But my curiosity goes beyond their personal well-being. Because what I really have wanted to know is:

Do they know the long-lasting, emotional wounds they inflicted on me? What kind of sick joy did they derive from being cruel to me? Are they aware of the humiliation and shame they made me feel? Do they have any idea the torture their taunting caused me? Do they know that I dreaded school because of them? Do they know how many times they made me cry? Do they even know that they were bullies? Do they regret their actions? Did they grow up to be mean-spirited women or adult bullies? Are their children bullies too? Or has karma come looking for them and now their children are victims? Do they remember my name and face like I so vividly remember theirs?

**********

2nd Grade, 1977-1978

One day, Chris pointed out that I had buck teeth. I didn’t know what “buck” meant, but by the tone in her voice and the look on her face, I knew it wasn’t good. I sensed she meant it as something I should be embarrassed of. That was the beginning of the bullying that transpired over the course of the next seven years.

My mom loved this photo of me. She thought it was
charming and funny because I looked like I was
having a serious, grown-up conversation.



















Throughout those years, whatever those girls could ridicule me for, they did. My teeth, my braces, my shoes, my socks, the food I ate, my lunch pail, the car my mom drove, the instrument I played, my unshaven legs, the sound of my laugh, my hairstyle, my naïveté for still believing in Santa as a 4th grader, my bra straps when I started wearing one in 5th grade, the clothes I wore on “Free Dress” days, my mom’s age, my mom’s weight, my mom’s hair, my lack of athleticism, my sheltered lifestyle for not being allowed to attend birthday parties or field trips, and the list goes on.

I hated them. All of them. They angered and upset me, and they made me feel so much rage. Their words stung. Their laughter hurt. Their underlying message to me was loud and clear:

“You don’t fit in. You don’t belong. You are inferior. You aren’t worthy of acceptance. You aren’t good enough. You are different. And being different is bad. We reject you.”

7th Grade Yearbook signed by Nicole



















Over the past weeks, as I contemplated and made notes on what I was going to write about for this 1000Speak post, I had a big revelation. I made a connection between my experiences of being bullied to my feelings and emotions during my infertility and the subsequent adoptions of my children.

I realized that suffering through infertility sent me all of those same messages I received from my bullies. When you are unable to get pregnant and the rest of the world is, it makes you feel all of those things – unworthy, inferior, different, not good enough, etc. On top of that, being an adoptive mother is “different” and it’s something I struggled with a lot in the beginning of my parenting journey. I didn’t want to be different. I didn’t want my son to look different than me. I didn’t want to be a walking poster-child for adoption. I wanted to blend into the crowd and not draw any attention to our family. What I can see now is that although these feelings about infertility and adoptive parenting are quite common among many women, mine may have been magnified due to my childhood bullying experiences.

**********

Chris, Loan, Laura, Nicole, Tina, Tricia, and Maria – This is the little girl you ridiculed, shamed, laughed at, harassed, chased, tormented, taunted, intimidated, demeaned, belittled, and called names. This is the little girl you ganged up on and made others turn against.

3rd Grade, 5th Grade, 7th Grade
 
She may have had bad teeth, a boring hairstyle, and an older mom. She may have had weird sandwiches and a different culture than yours. She may have had ugly shoes and a funny laugh. But you know what else she had?

She had feelings.

The great and wise Maya Angelou once said: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And that is exactly what I know to be 100% true about my bullies. I don’t remember the specifics of what they said to me or what they did, but I remember how they made me feel.

**********

September 2012 -Miraval Resort - Tucson, AZ

My best friend Maggie and I went to Miraval Resort for a weekend (a prize we received while at the Oprah Show in April 2011, thank you very much.). Maggie encouraged me to sign up with her for a workshop titled “It’s Not About The Horse” given by Wyatt Webb, a psychotherapist. This is the class description:

“Join Wyatt as you participate in what could be the most important journey you’ve ever chosen. It is in fact a journey that will take you inside yourself. The horse provides assistance as an energetic mirror so that you may identify patterns of learned behavior that either enhance or detract from the quality of life that you experience from one moment to the next. We generally discover that two culprits stand between merely surviving life versus experiencing the “joy of living.” You were not born with these two deterrents known as fear and self-doubt. They are learned and can be unlearned. No thought pattern in your head is a life sentence...Acclaimed equine facilitator Wyatt Webb will guide your participation in this group and you will leave truly knowing it is not about the horse…it’s about you.”

I have to admit that I wasn’t especially excited about taking the workshop, but I went along with it in the spirit of doing things I wouldn’t normally do – like take a class I wasn’t really interested in.

Wyatt explained that we would each be taking turns coming up to the horse to clean out one of its horseshoes using a metal instrument that resembled a flat screwdriver. In order to achieve this, first we’d have to get the horse to lift and bend his leg up by squeezing its knee. He demonstrated for us. He made it seem easy enough.

One girl volunteered to be the first. When she walked into the arena and squeezed the horse’s knee, nothing happened. The horse wasn’t lifting his leg. She tried again. Still nothing. The girl’s friend offered her a suggestion – something like “Try squeezing tighter!” Then I chimed in with something like “Squeeze higher up! Do it higher up!”

Wyatt stopped the girl and he turned to look at me. Oh oh! I felt like I was in trouble.

Wyatt asked me…”Do you know this girl? Is she your friend?”

I nervously answered “No.”

He then asked “So why did you blurt out advice? What do you care how she does?”

I shrugged and said “Because I know how she feels. I don’t want her to feel bad.” And I began to cry.

Wyatt had me come into the arena and stand next to him. He put his arm around me and asked “When were you rejected in life?”

Through my tears, I said “When I was bullied in school.”

To be honest, I don’t remember much more. I know Wyatt said a lot of beautiful, brilliant things to me and hopefully Maggie has a better memory of his lovely words. I was too overcome with emotion and shock to remember everything he said.

I couldn’t believe that for my entire life, my reason for reaching out and helping others, my reason for having compassion and empathy, my reason for being able to put myself in others’ shoes was related to the bullying I had endured as a kid (among a lot of other reasons, I’m sure). More than anything, I couldn't believe that the wounds of their words had been so deep that they had had a life-long effect on me.

What I do remember is that when Wyatt was done speaking, he told me “Jackie, I want you to march on like you’re in a parade!  Go over to that horse and clean out his shoe.” And I did. I marched over. I squeezed his knee. He lifted his leg for me. I cleaned out the shoe and I felt so damn proud and great!

At Miraval with Wyatt Webb and Maggie
 **********

I’ve said before that after going to Miraval, my life changed. I came back from there a different person. That trip is what sparked this new life-path I’ve been on for the past two and a half years. What I know now because of Wyatt and through reading books like The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz is that the bullying was never about me.

I try to have compassion for the bullies. I now wonder what kind of home life they had. Were they bullied at home by their own parents? Were they mistreated, ridiculed, and shamed at home? Because if there is anything I have learned in the last two years is that we are are all more alike than different. We each have a story.


Whatever their reasons are for saying and doing what they did to me; whatever their stories were; I’m letting it all go.

Chris, Loan, Laura, Nicole, Tina, Tricia, and Maria, I forgive you. I also thank you. Because being a victim of bullying taught me courage, compassion, human connection, and the value of letting others be seen and heard. The past is over and that little girl from St. Callistus turned out to be a pretty amazing woman, not in spite of the bullying, but because of it.

Keep being brave, friends.
Jackie



These are the links to the original posts that contain some of my humorous, bittersweet bullying stories.
Coming To America (Part 1)...Tioga Times
Coming To America (Part 2)...Child Accordionist For Hire 
Coming To America (Part 3)...Customs R Not Us
Coming To America (Part 4)...The Other Holly Hobbie
To Dei Or Not To Dei 

On the 20th of each month, the 1000 Speak for Compassion movement is publishing blog posts on important worldwide topics. This month we are speaking out on bullying. I am so honored to be a part of this group of bloggers from all over the globe, flooding the internet once a month with kindness, compassion, wisdom, inspiration, insight, hope, and love. Please share and spread the word using the hashtag #1000Speak. 

If you're interested - this was the first 1000 Speak post I did last month. Let Your Self-Compassion Shine

38 comments:

  1. Mmm...I'll share a chocolate chip cookie with you! This is a beautiful post of recognition and healing. It lives up to Brene Brown's quote! You truly did build up from bullies. Thank you for sharing your story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just baked some this morning as a matter of fact! :) Thanks so much for your kind, sweet words. It feels good to see how far I've come and that the bullies helped, not hindered my personal growth.

      Delete
  2. It's not easy but yes at some point in time it can be done...I think it's important to go through the process of being angry at those tormentors and maybe if they haven't hurt you enough, you can even forgive them..It's difficult not impossible I guess?

    #1000Speak: When They Bullied The New Girl....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. According to Iyanla Vanzant NOTHING is impossible to forgive. She claims you can forgive everyone for everything. It's a matter of not giving your wounds power any longer and of making your ego take a back seat. It makes sense to forgive, because truly - what are we gaining by holding on to our past hurts? Nothing. Resentment, anger, pain, and bitterness don't serve us in any way. You're right - it's not impossible. It CAN be done if there is a desire to do the hard work of letting go of the past. Thanks so much for your comments, Nabanita.

      Delete
  3. What struck me most (despite what your bullies wanted you to believe) is what a beautiful little girl you were....gorgeous hair, twinkly eyes, and a prettiness nicely enhanced by a cute factor.. One has to wonder if your tormentors were a little envious!

    I'm not surprised your mum loved that image of you.. it's smile enducing.. *I smiled* :)

    I'm so glad you were able to build from the bullying. Thank you for sharing your story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Kimmie, your compliments and kindness made me well up with tears. :') Thank you so much! Truly. My mom used to tell me two things when I'd share with her what the bullies said. 1) "They're just jealous of you." 2) "Tell them to go to hell." LOL! And I did. I always fought back. I didn't cower down from my bullies. But in retrospect, I think that just made it worse. They loved seeing me get angry. I gave them power and let them push all my buttons. Live and learn, right? ;)

      Delete
  4. Jackie I am struggling to find words. I have all Teh Feelz welling up within me and I just want to rush and give you a massive hug. I so, SO understand this. All of it. I hate that I understand it and I hate that you went through it and I hate that people still DO.

    I hope beyond anything that #1000Speak will encourage GOOD to proliferate, and for parents to be caught up in the wonder of raising children who are kind and compassionate to one another.

    My end of school book had notes in it like "You put up with a lot of shit", and seeing the notes kids gave you, really, really shook me because I had forgotten that. The note in pink, especially, because I discovered later in college that one of the girls who WOULD sometimes speak to me in school had told everyone else that she did it because she pitied me, and that she told them that because she was scared the other kids would pick on her too, if she admitted that she didn't mind me.

    I went from one circle of backs which snugged up together, to another. I was ridiculed, humiliated, set up for a laughing stock, jeered at, called names - I was the gawky, socially awkward, totally isolated, incredibly easy victim for the others to sharpen their claws on. And why wouldn't they? It made them safe.

    I have such hurt remaining, but I don't wish them ill. I don't want their children bullied to teach them how it feels and how badly it can impact them. I don't want them to come to their senses and seek me out for an apology. I don't want them to remember me, or IF they look back, to do anything other than decide that their actions were cruel and shouldn't be repeated. I hope they at least think that.

    So if that's forgiveness, then Zoe, Ellie, Emma, Jo, Michael, Rosalind, Tom, and too many more to even name...I forgive you. I don't want to hang onto the anger, and I don't think I do. But the sadness will take longer to deal with. It's part of me, and part of what drives me to try to make the world better and safer for others. So at least it can be redeemed.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lizzi, I wish I could hug you right back. I'm so sorry you can relate but I'm also glad you can see that you aren't alone.

    I feel the same as you. I don't want pity or apologies from my bullies. I don't wish their children any pain or harm either. My only prayer is that they have realized their wrongdoings and have changed their ways. I actually don't really blame my bullies for picking on me either. I was an easy target and had a lot of things working against me (that I am able to look at and re-tell with humor now). But just as you said, the sadness does remain - more so for the little-girl-me. Thankfully, I really was a happy little girl. I was giggly and fun-loving despite my grade school and junior high experiences. I didn't let them dim my light completely.

    I suspect that the hurt that remains in us though is caused by our own thoughts. That's why self-compassion is so important. We need to quiet that inner, nasty, mean voice that we bully ourselves with and replace it with self-loving talk.

    Just know that we are better people for having been through the torment of our bullies. They gave us a gift and they don't even know it. Now we just need to convince ourselves that their malice served us in a positive manner. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Harder than it seems, that.

      Ack. I feel such rancour when I think of little-girl-me. I need to deal with that.

      Delete
    2. I just had an a-ha moment. The bullies...they gave us the gift of this conversation and connection. :) Hugs to you dear Lizzi and an extra big one for little-girl-you.

      Delete
  6. I am so glad you had that transformative experience! I have been to Miraval, too, and it is amazing and I am happy for you that it helped heal you. Thank you for sharing your journey (which was very familiar to me as well :-)).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there! Wow. I haven't met anyone else who's been to Miraval. I hope to return someday - though it probably won't be on Oprah's dime. Lol. And I'm sorry you're familiar with bullying. It amazes me that I've read so many posts today about bloggers who were bullied too.

      Delete
  7. "When you are unable to get pregnant and the rest of the world is, it makes you feel all of those things – unworthy, inferior, different, not good enough, etc."

    I can't being to express how much this post moved me. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability, resilience and lessons:

    "The past is over and that little girl from St. Callistus turned out to be a pretty amazing woman, not in spite the bullying, but because of it."

    Blessings to you for your heart, Courage and love of others and Self.

    Under the same sky,
    Dani

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *tears* Thank you from the depths of my soul. Sending you love always, Dani.

      Delete
  8. Your post at once brought back some horrible memories of times I was maliciously bullied and times I was so relieved to FINALLY be in the popular crowd that I was the one picking on someone else and being mean. I cried. I will not lie, I am sitting here crying, and I wonder, do they ever find me on FB and look at my photos? Do they feel glad that my life isn't sunshine and roses? Have they forgiven me? I've long ago forgiven those who bullied me - but this just makes me think so much and regret a lot too.

    On a lighter note- I'm originally from Tucson, Arizona. Awesome that you got to visit there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Starr, I'm so sorry. More than anything, you need to forgive yourself. That is the hardest person to forgive. We are always hardest on ourselves. (As I know you are aware based on your blog post I read yesterday.) I can't speak for your bullies, but I do hope they've let the past go. It doesn't serve us in any way to hold on to our old wounds.

      And I loved Tucson! Actually, I love Arizona period. A few years ago we did a Northern AZ vacation and went to Sedona, Flagstaff, Jerome, Prescott, Payson, and Camp Verde. Oh and Phoenix many years ago. :)

      Delete
  9. "The bullying was not about me." - what a revelation, something we all know deep down inside somewhere, but find so difficult to come to terms with I think. The workshop at Miraval sounds so interesting. Reading your realisation that the kindness you put forth and willing to help others is directly influenced by your past experiences made me think about my own drive, need even, to bring joy to other people. I went through some pretty dark times as a pre- and early teen while dealing with my mom's mental illness. Perhaps my relentless urges to be kind to people and make them smile stems from not wanting anyone to feel the way I did. Interesting! You may have just become my e-therapist ;)
    P.S. My fav cookies are oatmeal raisin and I think I am going to head over to the library on campus, grab a coffee and a couple of cookies, and work on my thesis!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm very sorry to hear that you had some darkness in your life. I'm quite familiar with experiencing dark times. I've had many. But I want you to know that what you just shared here, made my day! All I ever wanted with my writing is to make a difference or to make others think and maybe apply what they read here to their own lives. I hope you enjoyed that cookie and that you got some work done :)

      Delete
  10. Oh, Jackie, everything on this page is wonderful. Not the part where you or others have been hurt - certainly no that. But the parts where people are connecting, sharing their experiences, reaching out to one another, talking, laughing, crying, and healing. THAT is what 1000Speak is all about. I love every word here - your story, your realizations, and every conversation that follows. <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you thank you thank you SO SO VERY much Lisa. I love the ripple effect that 1000Speak has had. I'm so glad to be a part of it. Our writing is not only helping others but also helping ourselves heal.

      Delete
  11. And by the way...just saw your note to the Dear Reader...mine is chocolate chip, too. Slightly burnt on the bottom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. OMG! Me too! Slightly burnt is the best!! I prefer crispy over soft too. :)

      Delete
  12. I remember first scouring my bully's profile on Facebook about five years via another friend's account (because we, of course, would not be friends on Facebook) and having that moment of disappointment that she seemed normal, and happy, and married (WTF? Someone MARRIED that horrible person?) and not fat, and ..... all that petty angry stuff that I didn't realize was still there years later.

    It's very true those feelings stay with you years after the fact and certainly transfer to other situations where the little child in you wonders, good God, were they right about me?

    The bullied in me hugs the bully in you too. I also smiled at your use of Maya Angelou's quote as I ALMOST used that in my post too. I often think of that quote now when I deal with frustrating situations. I hope it stops me from saying things in the moment that will hurt others when - once out of the momentary frustration - I don't mean. Because I KNOW people don't forget how you make them feel.

    I loved this post. I also love that you had the opportunity for an event that led you to some closure. That sounds like a wonderful experience to have had.

    Sincerely - Louise

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Louise. I stalked my bullies pages and was only able to view whatever was available to the public. I'm definitely NOT friends with them on FB. I can forgive them but I'm not allowing them back into my life. Lol.

      Two of my bullies actually sent me Friend Requests! I was appalled and SO angry. How dare they?! That's what makes me think some of them may have no idea that they were bullies. One of those two even went so far as to send me a private message asking why I hadn't accepted her Friend Request yet. I have to confess it felt GOOD to not accept those requests and not reply to that message. It was my turn to reject them after so many years.

      I always say that I'm grateful for everything bad I've been through in my life - mother loss, miscarriage, infertility, etc. because those experiences have brought me connections with people I wouldn't have otherwise met. I never imagined that one day I'd be making connections with people who were bullied. Yet another reason to appreciate my bullies. :)

      Delete
  13. I remember being that awkward kid in school, but the clique we had in my grade was fortunately not mean spirited. I am happy for you that you have been able to take the negativity of your experience and turn it into such a positive in your life. Great post! Loved reading it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! For me, the path to healing from the past has been to find the positive lessons that came from the negatives. And I'm so glad you didn't have to deal with any mean kids.

      Delete
  14. Loved your post. Made me cry again! I was bullied in high school and as my 10 year reunion approached, I thought of how I was going to give Becky a piece of my mind for all those years of being so mean and hurtful. Finally, that night at the reunion I was taken aback because Becky showed up with a bandage around her head. It turns out a horse had stomped on her while riding. Anyway, that night I had a aha moment. I had wasted so much time thinking about past hurts and future hurting and I realized that the universe has a way of taking care of things. Not that I wanted her injured. I was not even happy to hear she was injured. I felt bad that that had happened to her, but relieved that I didnt feel the need to follow through on saying my peace. Life had taken care of it. I, too, appreciate the empathy and compassion my experiences have fostered in me, and my new found fondness for horses, of course. They seem to know things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL!!! I now love horses too. ;)

      I'm glad to hear you had that a-ha moment. We waste so much time on negative energy. I've come to learn not to give those things so much power. I try to put my focus on goodness and positivity and it has really helped me live a happier, more peaceful life. It's not easy to re-train our brain after a lifetime of habitual negative focus, but it's possible and just takes practice and determination. Thanks so much for reading, loving, crying, and commenting. (Not that I'm glad you cried, but glad that it moved you.)

      Delete
  15. Beautiful post! It's amazing what can happen in our lives when someone validates us - maybe for the first time. I'm so happy for the turn your journey has taken and the love and light you have to share as a result!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Anita for stopping by. The past two years have been enlightening. I'm so happy to be on this new path of seeing the life lessons in all I have been through and being grateful for all of it.

      Delete
  16. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Tamara. I sincerely appreciate you reading and commenting. :)

      Delete
  17. Ah, yes, the years of being bullied... Wow, what a flashback... My red-headed, freckle-faced, chubby, early-to-develop girl-self so relates!

    I'm so happy that you have been able to take the good from the bad, and are using it to fuel your health and healing - bravo! I love your honesty and courage; thank you for being such a great roll model.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so very much Candace. Your words always make me feel good. Also, I'm so sorry to hear that you can relate. (But I'm happy to know we have yet another thing in common.)

      Delete
  18. You do good work, friend. Love you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww...thank you SO much my dear friend. Love you too. Oreos are my second favorite!

      Delete
  19. I never learn to give a good impression. Always I've been tense around crowds. I never know what to discuss, big ambition, little skill. I think differently.
    If I tried what I did in a different school I'd be the #1 most bullied student, but lucky lucky me, I got into a good school, they were nicer than average people. I'm grateful for most people in the school.
    When I first came into the school I sensed hostility, but then I realised something, I somehow specifically attracted the undesirables(no offence). Since then I knew to run, to run like crazy when confronted. It never works but it's my basic instincts. Running away is my coping mechanism, I knew to avoid certain areas. In class it's a different thing, no one dare do anything because we had caring and compasionate teachers. The worst experiance came in the halls, there no one supervised the hallway and I knew almost no one except from my class, so sometimes, they tried to pick on me. But it all seems so insignificant now, I know nothing of what they could do but it just seemt, seemed that they were hostile. Why, why did the 10% manage to approach me?
    If this seems immature, I know I am, it is insignificant, I just want to vent out.

    ReplyDelete

Hello Dear Reader:

If you comment, I will buy you a cookie. Not really. But we can both pretend I gave you one. To get you started...what's your favorite kind of cookie? Mine is chocolate chip. I especially crave them when I'm PMS'ing.