Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bully Syndrome

*This post isn’t about writing per say. It is however about a writer, her take on life, and the bully syndrome.

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


A friend (Christina Lee) asked me, “If I had the chance to go back and change one thing in my life, would I and what would it be?”

My first instinct was to say nothing; I would change nothing as we are the sum of our experiences. It’s the same answer I’ve always given. You need to understand, I like who I am right now, at this time in my life. However, when I sat down and contemplated the question over and removed my immediate response, the answer changed.

I grew up with a hearing disability and a mother who insisted by any means possible I would be treated normal and participate in a public school environment – versus a deaf school. Some of you may be cheering in the background and saying, ‘yes – way to go and good for her’. What you don’t see is the hours I’m taken out of class for speech therapy during school hours (alienating me). What you don’t see is the ruthless bullies that flick my hearing aide making it squeal painfully in my ear. No one sees the bullies…ever. The kids who sneer and say, “What?” as if it’s a joke; I learned early on not to give that response when I couldn’t hear ‘what’ someone said.

Excluded, invisible, a joke, freak, afraid of something I couldn’t change (me), ritualistic days of torture…

Following my mother’s example all I ever wanted to be was normal, just like everyone else. So naturally I strived not to stand out in the crowd and become any more noticeable than necessary. The thing is: I wasn’t ‘normal’. I had a disability. There isn’t anything wrong with being different, unique, or having an atypical viewpoint in which you look at life. Today, I realize those kids were insecure, confused human beings afraid of diversity or anything which didn’t fit their boxed perception of life. Cowards whose reaction to fear is brutality.

Diverse means you don’t fit a certain idea of normalcy. The bully mentality doesn’t know how to react to you, because ‘you’ are outside of the box – a four squared boring space, they grew up in – you’re different. In short they’re stumped in a very narrow minded space, a space you’re existence challenges.

My bullies and all the naysayers that claimed I would never be anything, made me who I am today…and I wish I could have shared this lesson with those kids who committed suicide. Eventually, you get a thicker skin and new eyes to witness how pathetic these people truly are. Space is existential, consisting of time and place. Every one of us shares their space with strangers at any given moment. No one should be required to beg, plead, or change to fit in someone’s space, click, or group dynamics. No one has the power to demand that of you, nor should they.

These days I still come across the bullies all grown up - One of those narrow minded individuals who can’t comprehend how a deaf woman can speak eloquently, or carry on a conversation with them because she reads lips. I worked away my childhood to fit into their world. Today, I’m so damn comfortable in my skin and thrilled I don’t ‘have’ to share my space with these diminutive individuals.

So what would I change about myself? I’d learn to become comfortable in my skin sooner and learn to let the bullies co-exist, lumped in a separate world (narrow like their mindset). A world I would grow out of and learn to expand my wings. I wish I knew then, to be proud of me, in all my unique differences.

What advice would I give the bullied me: Don’t let anyone clip your wings; the heights you will soar are beyond anything you ever imagined.

Picture from here

Monday, October 18, 2010

Basement Santa


My body is tilted off balance with the laundry basket propped on my hip one handed, while I struggle to slide the bolt lock to the basement door back with the other. I hesitate before opening the door as a shiver played my spine like a xylophone. A sign of bad karma, bad luck? Open the door already wimp.

Without a doubt, basements hold their own element of suspense; they’re damp, cold, concrete enclaves’ playing guest appearances in almost ever horror movie ever made. Creepy basements don’t bother me. However, a dirt encrusted, soot smudged, unblinking mannequin, in a bad version of a 60’s Santa suit scares the crap out of me. We’ve all encountered ‘that’ Santa at one point or another in our lives and balled our eyes out, convinced there was no freaking way Santa was anything like the mall version. The problem - ‘my’ version of evil Santa is lurking in the basement.

My laundry had no sympathy for my fear, growing into a mountainous heap more threatening than Santa. The laundry and the smell won, hands down. Ascending the stairs into the bowels of basement hell, cold air wafts up to greet me. My eyes fall on Santa in high-water red overalls, missing his boots. I do believe he was missing a few toes as well. His beard a rat’s nest gray, fingers posed into claws. Why anyone ever thought this spectacle could entice someone into a music store during the holidays is beyond me. On closer inspection, I realize the paint on one of Santa’s eyes has been scraped off and I can’t help but shudder.

I hugged the contour of the stairs, trying desperately not to brush up against Basement Santa and rush to put in a load of laundry and be done with it. When I turned around, there he sat in all his demented glory, bent forward into the passage between the wall and the stairs. Had he moved?

I refused to run back up the stairs, squaring my shoulders and forcing myself to walk stiffly by. Santa’s hand lifted up off his lap. I ran like the wind up the stairs and slammed the door shut, leaning against the door with all my weight and breathing heavy. Thump, thump, the door bounced against my back from the weight of something on the other side. Holy crap on a cracker (trust me, my profanity would turn virgins into heathens – this is the polite version).

Imagine every horror movie cliché you’ve ever watched. Now remember screaming at the screen, “Don’t open that door…don’t go outside…look out…” - you get the idea. Now start screaming at me. So what do I do? Make like a cliché and grab a pan and open the door. My cat Socrates flies out of the dark snarling and screeching like a banshee. I slam the door shut behind her, slide the bolt home, and avoid the basement until Santa’s evicted.

Was Socrates the guilty culprit? Probably. In any case, I hate mannequins.

The moral of this story? I’m deep in the midst of revisions and I’m finding more words are getting evicted in the same fashion as Santa than not. Does it scare me? I’d say it’s on an even keel with Basement Santa. On that analogy alone, cleaning out the basement (first draft) of my manuscript is bound to have the same profound effect. Useless words and structure bog down a storyline. Just like Santa wouldn’t be half as scary if he actually had a twinkle in his eye and rosy cheeks, my words will flow into lyrical prose.

I’m much happier writing the horror on the page in front of me than living it. Anyone remember Silent Night, Deadly Night? (Winks) Don’t let your fears keep you from finding out what’s on the other side of the door.

*On a side note: Basement Santa is a more appropiate story for Halloween than the holidays. I’m really not a Santa prude. Where did he end up? On someone else’s porch.