The further we get from high school, the more surprising it is to see that bullying never goes away. They may not ever change, but every time you experience this you have the choice to change your response. You have the choice to look at their stagnation and find in it the motivation to bloom.
Recently a bully lashed out at myself and my community. After the initial shock, I found myself feeling gratitude for the things she showed me.
Thank you for a surprisingly beautiful day, and forcing me to grow in ways I couldn't do on my own. We can do a lot of the work for growth by ourselves. We can journal, meditate, dive into our shadows when they pop up, sit in the muck instead of running from it, and examine our wounds with compassion. But after all of that intellectual and spiritual processing we still need real world application. It is one thing to say "this is who I like to think I am," and another thing entirely to say "I did it. I have rewritten my story." Thank you for ripping those wounds open and holding up the mirror to my shadows.
I will be the first to admit that I live in a rather beautiful little bubble most of the time. My soul-sister and I have worked tirelessly for the past few years to build a loving community where women and their families come together to support and care for one another. I am blessed with safe spaces where I can share my trials, successes, and silly stories safely. I have an absolutely incredible partner who has brought me more love and healing than I ever believed possible, and friends who know and accept every inch of my soul. This bubble is incredible, but it cannot protect any of us from the ugliness of the world.
In the past two years I have also lost loved ones - including a grandmother who helped raise me, and a daughter I was only able to carry for a few weeks. I also went through a divorce, and several intense betrayals. Life spares no one, no matter how sparkly their highlight reel may appear.
You didn't see that, though. You disliked me from the get-go. You saw me leaving my marriage and felt the sting of your own loss somehow reflected in me. I felt for you. I welcomed you back into the sacred space I had created, even after your harsh words, hoping you would find what you needed. We allowed you to stay, not concerned that you did not contribute or share - simply allowing you the options of a safe community whenever you may decide to join it.
Months later, seemingly out of the blue, you lashed out at me in a very abrupt and confusing way. I repeatedly tried to respond with love and kindness, and then blocked you. You found my business email and continued to insult me, name call, and even slut shame me for my divorce.
I won't lie, I sobbed after. You see, one of my easiest triggers is feeling misunderstood. You gave me the gift of finally realizing that the way you see me might be through such a distorted lense that it truly does not say anything about me. Your responses to me (one of which was an email that simply said "freak") clearly showed emotion driven reactiveness, and I wanted to avoid that. It is something I have also struggled with, and I hate the guilt that often follows it. You gave me the chance to practice taking a deep breath and a step back, while choosing love. My boyfriend has been reminding me for months that someone choosing to spit on a gift I give them does not devalue or reflect negatively on the gift itself. A gift is no less beautiful just because the recipient can't see or acknowledge it. I responded to you with as much kindness as I could muster, and you returned with hate. For the first time I was able to hold back from explaining myself, or begging you to see me, and I accepted you for where you are. I can see your hurt, but I am not going to carry it. Thank you for showing my growth in these areas, and testing my mettle.
The quote below came to mind
This always struck me as an incomplete sentiment. It is our own responsibility to handle ourselves and our actions, of course. We also need to realize that none of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes we may be unaware of. Just because someone is delivering a message in a crude way does not mean there is no validity to it. You gave me the gift of reassurance. I got to see myself through the eyes of my sisters. What you said struck me deeply. I try very hard to respond to as many people as I can when they share, and to be mindful of how often I share, and the tone of my contributions. I have a great fear of taking more than I give. You wanted me to feel shame for reaching out for help in my times of need, or sharing my struggle. This is something I have always done with a very clear intention of being open and honest so others would not feel so alone in their own difficulties.
I did not want to cry to my community about how someone was cruel to me. I did not want loving reassurances that what you said wasn't true. I knew that I would doubt these messages, and wonder if they were just trying to make me feel better. Instead I owned that perhaps I was not showing up in the world the way I intended. I apologized to anyone who may have shared your feelings, and invited anyone to reach out to me and let me know if there were ways they needed me to lead in a different way. The loving lionesses I call my tribe roared in response. There was a cascade of comments and private messages that has continued for the past two days. Many of these brought tears to my eyes and deeply humbled me. If I had asked for comfort, these kind words would not have healed me so deeply. Instead, now, I feel fortified against the next attack. Whether it is the voice in my head that leads me to self doubt, or another bruised heart lashing out at the world to avoid themselves, I feel more prepared. I can hear you. I can examine myself with open eyes and reassess when necessary. I do not have to believe every insult hurled at me.
You gave me the gift of seeing my community through new eyes. When you attacked our group I took a moment to pause and check the tone. I couldn't help but smile seeing so much positivity, laughter, and honesty. Of course there were posts asking for positive energy, love, support, or strength. How rare is it, in this world, to have those things on tap, at any given moment? There were vents that brought me joy, because I knew how much lighter you can feel after getting words out of your heart and onto a page (or screen). There were sweet responses, fiery advice, and even a cheeky joke or two.
You gave the gift of perspective. It would be easy to worry that maybe sharing didn't do what I had hoped. Maybe I actually didn't help anyone to feel less alone. But then the responses came in. Some of the strongest women I've ever met let me know that I helped them in some way by getting up the courage to put my words out into the world. They shared their own struggles with me, and suddenly I was less alone. They let me know, with kind honesty, how they had perceived me at first, and how being raw and honest (and, lets face it, a hot mess at times) helped to bring us closer and reminded them how we all struggle, and that's okay.
You gave me a gift as a mother, as well. It broke my heart to look at my sweet babies and realize that some day someone like you would touch their lives as well. I will admit my compassion begun to turn to disgust as I thought on this. Instead of feeding that monster I chose to direct that energy towards a loving goal. I begun talking to my daughter as we prepared breakfast together. I spoke in very vague terms, that she could relate to without carrying any of my discomfort, and asked her for her thoughts. I wanted to know what she would do. It turns out she is decades ahead of where I was at her age. She saw that there is no point engaging, and said she would respond with kindness or not at all. I asked how she would feel in a situation like this, and she smiled over her oatmeal "What's that thing you said about the peaches?" My heart burst with pride. My girl? She gets it. She is going to be just fine.
You have also shown me where I still have work to do. I have always struggled hitting the post button on blogs, facebook groups, and often in private messages when I need support. Your voice will likely rear up for me on occasion. I will choose to listen to my tribe instead.
As much as I would love to say I feel nothing but compassion for you, I still have plenty of room for growth there as well. I do not believe we are here to transcend the human experience. We are here to be human, in all of its mucky, messy, perfectly flawed ways. But we are not here to carry the negativity and pain someone else tries to pawn off on us. I remember being in elementary school, and misusing the word pity in place of empathy. My mother explained to me how this could be insulting, because to give pity means you believe the person is pitiful. Empathy is a true understanding of where they are. I do not feel anger towards you, but I do not feel empathy either. Right now pity is the best I can honestly muster. I am struggling to fully understand how anyone can so willingly try to place hurt into the world. I cannot wrap my head around feeling justified in causing another pain. I struggle to understand how your wires could be so badly crossed that kindness enrages you. And so I thank you for this mirror, as well. I hope in time I can move from confused pity to genuine empathy.
Love, light, and still a little what the ****,