This here is a long post. All about growing up and what defines our very selves.

3 03 2020

Sometimes I wonder how deep the seeds of our youth are planted in our very cells. Moments that are embedded within our bodies, our hearts, our very souls. The tendrils rise up, hidden, or maybe seen, to blossom or rot, depending on the very action that planted them.

I was added to a Facebook page last week. One where everyone who had grown up together in Sparwood could share memories of our mutual youths. I read a few posts over a couple of days: of parties, and gatherings and places, and for the most part, couldn’t for the very life of me identify with many people reminiscing. I don’t recall many of the people nor many of the Norman Rockwell moments they were all sharing. I mean, I remember a lot of stuff about the small coal-mining town I lived in from 1974 to 1989, but I am not sure how much is skewed with emotion or blocked by my own self-preservation defenses.

I was private messaging a couple friends and I said that I wanted to say something on that page that it wasn’t a fucking walk in the garden and my one friend messaged me back with two words. “Do it”. And that was all that I needed.

Verbatim:

This is an interesting page. I’ve read a lot of the fond memories that evoke a utopian sense of a Norman Rockwell upbringing in the Elk Valley. But for many, it wasn’t such a blissful existence. I, among many others, were bullied and picked on for being “different”. I personally had girls picking fights with me, spreading rumors about me and generally making my life not that pleasant throughout high school. I recall being called an ugly f*cking mutt. I also had one particular English teacher make overt sexual comments about me that would get him fired nowadays. I had good friends, thank goodness, that saw me through the hard times. But it was NOT all rainbows and daisies folks. If you didn’t fit the cookie cutter Sparwood persona, you were an automatic outcast, and let me tell you, that was tough to navigate. I’m truly happy that so many have wonderful memories of this town, and I do have many good times I recall as well, but let’s not paint it with a sweeping rose-coloured mindset. By no means do I intend to offset this page’s intentions… I only want to remind everyone of the truth and if I receive any harassment that is more a reflection on that person than myself. I also want to add that I too was not innocent. I played my own part in contributing to the bullying mentality and I want to extend my heart and honest apologies to all I hurt when we were kids.

I was a little nervous about hitting that send button, because, well, you never know what fall-out will land on your lap. I’ve been on Twitter long enough to know this well. I went to bed and read for a bit, and I couldn’t help myself. I checked the post and was blown away at the comments I found. Most of them were positive, supportive and echoed my very own experiences. I felt relieved, and vindicated that YES, I wasn’t crazy. That my experiences growing up were beyond shitty and SO MANY others had the same experiences.

And then, I got another private message from someone. She told me that the way I treated her was part of the reason why she had a terrible time in school.

Oh my god. I sat, reading that, stunned but not shocked. Yes, I did. I treated her, among others so terribly. I immediately responded, apologizing and acknowledging my own addition to the recipe of this toxic childhood we were all in. Yet, oddly enough, I often felt ostracized and excluded by her and my other friends at times. Do they remember this? How their own actions affected others?

I saw another comment on my post from someone else who adamantly insisted that the “bullying mentality” of Sparwood was extremely toxic, much more so than other towns. I read comments about racism and bigotry. I read comments from people who bullied as well.

I started to allow myself the process of digesting it. I believe I had buried so much in my own mind and body that I have never allowed myself to truly acknowledge the damage that was caused. Even my own friends treated me with disdain at times, this had the result of making me feel like I was less than nothing, no one important. I laid in bed allowing the emotion of all of this that it was bringing up to wash over me.

With my 48 year old eyes and wisdom, I allowed myself to delve into my own tortured past.

I was bullied relentlessly. I spent weekends alone, just me and my music to offset the angst I felt. Poems of suicide flung from my fingers in some sort of desperate reach for validation. Friends ignored me, while they went to parties I was never going to be invited to. I had eggs thrown at my head. I was called a slut, a whore, a pig. It was whispered that I was fucking the hockey team, even though I had never had sex. Books were knocked out of my arms while I walked to class, with whispers of threats that made my blood run cold. My stomach flared from my nerves. I could barely deal with facing that gauntlet some days. I faced my worst fear at the end of grade 11 when a group of girls who were gunning for me circled around me at a town-sponsored event. It ended in a fist-fight. I recall, vaguely, when the instigator threw a punch, and in a fog, the sound of my fist hitting her cheek.

And yet, I also bullied relentlessly. In some sort of desperate way to ingratiate myself to others, I treated people exactly how I hated to be treated. Hearing the approval through laughter from my friends when I would say something to some other kid never made me realize the irony of my actions. I only felt glad I was “part of the gang”. I employed everything I could to not be that targeted kid. I know now what I didn’t know then. It really was a world rampant with clichés. A dog-eat-dog world, kill or be killed. Bully or be bullied.

We may not remember what we did to others, but we do recall what others did to us. Those seeds I talked about? They grew, perhaps out of sight, as we became adults and went to school and married and had kids.

And then, at odd times, we noticed what those seeds became. For me, they grew into a deeply-rooted sense that I don’t belong, that I do not matter and that I am nothing. Echoes of this from the past reach into my here and now and still.. STILL they harbour a perception that I am not truly worthy. It begs the question, what have MY actions in the past created in those I targeted?

Days later, I saw another post from a girl who mentioned my previous post and admitted that she was that bully, one who channeled her anger onto others. Textbook really, a child who didn’t know any better. And her post elicited another private message from someone who applauded my bravery to say what I did, and that she wavered on saying something too, but that she suffered for years under the toxic rule of thumb that hovered over where we grew up.

I finally allowed myself to grieve. To grieve over my own shattered bits of self-worth, and others who may finally begin to process how damaging these acts truly are to our sweet souls. And to remember that our pasts define us, they create who we are today and we cannot and should not sweep that under the carpet of “kids will be kids”. Actions leave scars and sometimes, those scars show up decades later.





Story time

31 10 2015

Living with kids has taught me one very valuable life lesson:

Sometimes, it’s just best not know certain things….

My darling daughter was in the kitchen the other evening, when she started to laugh and then said “Mom, I have something to tell you, but maybe I shouldn’t…”

My mind went Mom-anoid (paranoid mom thoughts) right away…. Oh god, what happened?? Drugs? Boys? A fight in school?

I told her she had to tell me now, she couldn’t leave me hanging like that.

And so she told me a little story:

Once, back in the spring, she was hungry and decided to have a bowl of yogurt. Now, I love me some yogurt and buy that shit in the biggest tubs available. And she hates that briney liquid that seeps to the top of it, so as she was attempting to pour out the liquid into the sink when BLOOP, the whole container of yogurt went with it.

She panicked. OH NO, Mom is gonna RAGE she thought, and started scooping up the yogurt with her hands, back into the container. She hastily rinsed out the evidence, stirred the yogurt up with aaaalllllll the yummy delicious sink bacteria and tossed it back in the fridge….

I (who by the way am the biggest germaphobe I know) remained oblivious,  and devoured my beloved and now contaminated sink-yogurt over the next few days, completely unaware of said crime.

I sat there, listening to this, my mouth hanging open in complete awe and disgust while she laughed her butt off. What else could I do at that time but laugh as well….

In closing, I’d like to thank my mom who ingrained in me the need to clean  my sink out on a regular basis, or otherwise I might have died a slow tortuous food-poisoning death…..

 





Well, SOMEONE had to do it….

23 11 2013

Last night I took my daughter and two of her friends to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (which was a fantastic movie, btw). We arrived early since we knew everyone in Nelson might have the same idea. (It ended up being sold out and 80+ people being turned away at the door!)

So there we stood outside in the bitter cold, me the only adult within 50 feet, surrounded by many many kids aged 10-15. I kept quiet for the most part, listening to the chatter. Once it got closer to the time the doors were set to open though, the group of kids in front of me started to get a little rambunctious. One kid in particular was running around, jumping on the railing and acting like, well, like a little crazed monkey, drunk with excitement. I could see with my Mom eyes that the situation was threatening to escalate, to turn into all-out gong show of maniacal unchaperoned kids. Then the pushing started. I waited a minute or so to see if they could calm themselves down.

Nope. A few of the kids tried their best to yell “Stop PUSHING!” to no avail. The pushing and  grabbing continued, and I for one didn’t feel like being caught up in the melee.

So I held up my hand and said “Hey! Do I need to be the Mom here and tell you guys to stop pushing?”

LOL…..       L….O….L……

The mini riot stopped instantly, contrite children staring at me with saucer-sized eyes. My daughter and her two friends were MORTIFIED…. From the corner of my eye I saw them slink away and huddle together in some sort of deflection of embarrassment, to disconnect from me as much as humanly possible. Oy, I felt bad right away….. But the majority of the kids in the group, one of whom is a friend’s son, were instantly apologetic. It’s like as a mob they couldn’t stop themselves and needed a voice of parental reason to put an end to the madness. A few looked somewhat grateful. My daughter and her two friends, rosy-cheeked with embarrassment wouldn’t speak to me…. well, except to say “OH MY GOD…. I’m sooooo embarrassed….”

Finally, the doors opened, the mob poured in, and I… I, as a peace offering of sorts, sat far, far away from the girls.