I was bullied as a kid. It wasn't nice and it wasn't kind and it didn't make me a tougher, stronger, thicker-skinned man. It actually made me want to hurt myself, it made me feel unwanted, unworthy and powerless. I was told "that's what other boys do, it's in their nature". I was told to buck up and grow a thicker skin and stick up for myself... I'm a man, this is what men are supposed to do... be strong.
I had loving people in my life, some of my family, older friends and adults that I reached out to and did receive support in the way of words of wisdom, kind hugs, welcoming and thoughtful conversation and this got me through some of the worst times in my life, times where I really and truly wanted to hurt myself and maybe even release myself from all of this trauma and just disappear or die. Growing up in a rural environment, backed by a religious Catholic upbringing, both school and church, there wasn't a lot of resources out there for many people at the time to deal with and work with kids like me. There were psychologists and therapists, but even their questioning words seemed to make me feel like I was the responsible one. I was a boy, turning man, and I needed to follow certain rights of manhood and toughen-up, stick up for myself. But beginning to figure out that I was different, I was more than just "sensitive". I was gay and didn't have any role-models to follow or look up to or help guide me in the understanding that what I was feeling was normal, was okay and was to be celebrated.
The pain of those memories still resides inside me and I have moments where I return to those feelings as if they were happening now in my life today. They are not the same situations, but have a similar energy about them. It's not just bullying about my life as a gay man, I've come a long way to honour and love that part of me, they show up in moments at work, in peer groups, even in the gay community itself towards itself. The word "bullying" extends much farther than name-calling, yelling, belittling. It reaches further out in to the way in which those in power railroad those with lesser (seemed) power into doing what they want. Ways in which inducing fear and insecurity are tools to control and manipulate. And the ways in which "lack" and "societal-imbalance" are the barrels that I feel backed against and over. Bosses and leaders using the word "fired" or "let-go" if you don't fit in to the work culture. Governments and big-businesses creating filters and containers that individuals need to fit into if they are to succeed and flourish in an seeminly unbalanced market of survival and greed.
I don't mean to sound negative, as most of the posts I like to share are ones of uplifting and positive speaking. But this is something that I am reminded of when we celebrate the recent Pink Shirt Day, a day of anti-bullying and standing up for injustices in the world. I am reminded every day, through the layers of my feelings that are like a catalog of memories of my life so far... where I have come from and how I have either "fit-in" or really truly "belonged". I check my words and sometimes I burst out against the people that surround me in my life. Not meaning to be unkind or cruel or thoughtless... bubbles of memories surface and feel debilitating and can't find the right words to communicate intentionally and compassionately. Like a child protecting against a barrage of anger, I feel like reclusively retreating back into a cave of sadness, anger fear and many other feelings of unworthiness.
I stand. I rise again. I fall. I grit my teeth. I cry internal tears of sadness. I wipe them away with faith that today make me renewed. Today will open possibilities. Today is another day to try again. To move forward. One step at a time. One breath... inhale – exhale. And on again. I stand, I rise, I fall. I try to love more.