Friday, July 31, 2015

M. E. M. #2 (Mom's Eternal Memories)

#Bullying #Ifeelanotherstorycomingon


"It's the people who always dish it out, that can never take it."

The memory of my mother's voice uttering those words is fresh in my mind. And now other words are boiling in my mind and I have to let them out.

But first, a disclaimer. The words I am about to write are directly related to the following: national events, world events, Facebook status updates, Tweets, and daily conversations. This status update is not directed at any one person. If, at any time you feel this about you, I suggest you seek professional help. Perhaps you have a guilty conscience. However, I will be giving credit to those who directly inspired me to write this entry.

Sad isn't it that I have to begin an entry with a disclaimer? The way things are today, someone will be offended by my words. Oh well...I am tired of being silent. My silence serves no purpose.

Recently, two things took place that caused a paradigm shift in my thinking. One was a comment made by a high school class mate, the other was made by my cousin. Upon reading about my childhood, the classmate strongly (and rightfully) applauded my decision to break my pattern of silence and speak up. Thank you. In a different update, my cousin recently observed that perhaps I missed my calling as a writer. On the contrary, I believe I am finally answering it.

I see by the clock on the wall my lunch hour is over. Stayed tuned...I will be back to pick up where I left off.

Okay, picking this up.

With bullies, there is no gray area. It's pretty black and white. Their end goal is to inflict pain. They enjoy it. It pleases them. So let's just call a spade, a spade tell it like it is. A bully is a terrorist. An emotional terrorist. They are cowards, no better or different than any radical terrorist group in the news.

Because that's what they are.

Personally I have a long history with bullies. As a child I had my share of their tactics. So did my younger sister. On a regular basis she came home from school in tears, the victim of yet another bully. Mom was working so it was I who stepped in to console and comfort her; wiping tears away while her sobs shook her little body in my arms. At night, I could hear her muffled sobs in her bedroom directly above mine. Instinctively, I got out of bed, walked up the stairs of the basement and went to her, fully understanding her pain. I just wanted to be a sponge and absorb it all away. Mom raised the roof at the school to no avail. This went on until the day my sister finally had enough, fought back and stood up to him. He never bothered her again. The same worked for me; the times I confronted a bully, she immediately backed down. It took her completely by surprise, and she was blissfully unaware of how she affected me. On one occasion I confronted a bully at work, and when the shock of being called out wore off, she switched to tears and laid a pile of excuses at my feet  for her behavior. I gave her a hug because I knew it was what she needed at that moment. But she never changed or stopped the bullying behavior. She just found another target and continued to spread her toxic waste into the environment.

Bullies are everywhere. We all know they exist in school. The internet is a breeding ground for bullies and trolls. No one is safe, not when the bully or troll can hide behind the anonymity of a computer screen or smart phone. Actress Ashley Judd recently wrote an article about bullies after she was attacked repeatedly on Twitter for making a comment about a college basketball game. The things men and women posted about her was dispictable and unexcusable. Petty and childish. A game the bully knows and plays well. No reasonable minded, healthy, mature person over the age of 21 behaves with that kind of malice.

That's the thing about bullies. Freedom of speech only applies to them. They can say what they want, and justify it as 'expressing their feelings.' Call them out or stand up to them, and the worst of the worse bully will flare their ire. How dare you question them!

Bullies in the work place are so common companies must address the problem through policies, actionable steps and training. A few years ago I read that supervisors spend at least 20 percent of their time dealing with the fallout from bullies (aka toxic people...let's face it, they are one and the same). That's 8 hours a week; one whole day, wasted. All because some unhappy person lacks impulse control. Or engages in gossip. The bigger the company, the more bullies are present. Bullies and their negative behavior directly affect a company's bottom line. They hamper productivity, cause high turnover rates, ruin company morale, and can ultimately destroy an organization's credibility. Their behavior costs employers money. If not appropriately addressed a company can find themselves at the wrong end of an expensive lawsuit. That's just within the private sector. Now let's consider all the branches of government: cities, counties, states, and federal. You got people dealing with bullies there as well.

Is it any wonder our country is in such a huge mess?

Where does it start? Where does it end? We all know how horrible the problem is in schools. This year alone I personally know of three people directly affected by a bully in school. And sadly, all three of the targets of the bullying suffered until they finally put an end to it by ending their life. Only then did the bullying stop.

Why did it have to come to that?

The thing about bullies is they often won't own up to their behavior; they refuse to be held responsible, blaming their actions on outside influences. They pass off their bad behavior with rhetoric and excuses, such as "I'm having a bad day," or "I'm stressed out because _____", or "I'm worried about ________." They are masters at deflecting the blame away from themselves.

So what can we do about it? Educate yourself. As with any social problem, ignorance is the enemy.

Know how to identify a bully or toxic personality. 1) They're controlling. 2) They gossip. 3) They lie. 4) They play the victim. 5) They always come first, and don't think about your feelings. 6) They're negative, critical, judgmental because they lack emotional intelligence. 7) They are arrogant, selfish and deny being a bully. 8) They are always right. 9) They violate your boundaries and they never respect 'no'. 10) It's always about them, and what they think, and want, and feel.

Arm yourself with reliable information. Practice emotional intelligence. There are many excellent resources available on-line.

7 Smart Ways To Deal With Toxic People  

12 Ways Successful People Handle Toxic People

Emotional Intelligence - Psychology Today

Emotional intelligence (EQ)

But most of all, speak up. Silence is not the solution to dealing with a bully. Whether at school, at work, or within a circle of family or friends. This is not a case where silence is golden. What you allow, will continue.

That's what a bully is counting on.

Thank you to Kathi and Kathy for sharing your stories about the two students who were bullied. I think about them and their families every day. It is my hope that these words help someone in need, and prevent another tragedy from happening.

And to the brave mothers I know who are building their child's coping skills tool box while they deal with a bully at school or in the neighborhood, I applaud and commend you. Father's too. You are doing the right thing, and practicing emotional intelligence.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

L. I. L. (Lessons In Life) edited 7/12/2015

Welcome to the karma cafe. There is no menu. You are served what you deserve.
In my travels I've seen and heard a lot of things about karma. It's in songs, books, movies, memes and discussed in round about ways over dinner, drinks and debates. There are many ways to express it.
What goes around, comes around.
What you put out into the world, comes back to you ten fold.

Any way you put it, it still shakes out the same. Sooner or later, everything you do comes back to you in the form of a lesson. But it's only a lesson if you are paying attention. If you learn the lesson, you say to yourself, point taken, so noted, got it. Thank you and move on. If you don't learn and you aren't paying attention, the lesson is repeated over and over and over, like a never ending scene from Ground Hog Day. Stuck on repeat until something different happens.
And one thing I know is, wishing bad karma on someone is wishing bad karma on yourself. It was the quote at the beginning of this entry, that...the moment I read it I was immediately reminded of an encounter with karma that deeply hit home, like a fly ball sent deep into the stands of left field.
And then there is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a powerful thing. It can cleanse every part of you, restore and rebalance your heart and lift your soul to the heights of joy; the kind of joy expressed by children at play. And that's the best thing. It sets you live your life as it is intended.
Because the thing I've learned about forgiveness is that when you forgive someone, you are not releasing them from a past hurt, you are releasing yourself from the poison of anger.
If you knew that, why would you want to hold on to feelings like resentment and bitterness?
Some people can hold a grudge, and some hang on to resentment for a lifetime. My mother was like that, and on some measure we all have that capacity in us. For some resentment is fleeting, floating in the air like a soap bubble, clear and light, before it vanishes with a pop. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. Over and done with. Never to be brought up again. Then there are those who carry resentment like a hammer, wielding it whenever and wherever they can. And if the opportunity to express a lifetime of bitterness presents itself, they take it. Regardless of the circumstances.
Such was the case of a woman from my father’s past, that I knew of but never met. Until the day my father’s long battle with cancer put him in the hospital in preparation for the end of his journey.
It was on a quiet afternoon, sitting with my father in his room, that a valuable lesson in life revealed itself to me. Up until that day I'd never met anyone who didn't like my father; well, okay there was my mother. And they didn't exactly part on amiable terms. But that story is for another day.
On this day, dad was still lucid and we were watching the television show Law & Order, a favorite of his. It was just dad and I in the room. The door was slightly ajar and muffled sounds of distant medical staff engulfed in their daily routine occasionally filtered in. Dad and I were simply enjoying each others company. What lied ahead or behind us mattered not. It was all about the present.
I sensed her presence out in the hall before I saw her. When I took my eyes off the television, she stepped into the room, taking only two slow but determined steps before stopping, never taking her eyes off dad. I didn't recognize her. She was much older than my father and in her eyes I saw a look that was far from friendly. Her steely eyes were hard and harsh. Short gray hair, perfectly coiffed and curled, she could have been anybody's grandmother. Short in height and slight in figure, with an air of dignity about her.
Behind the frames of her glasses her eyes narrowed a bit just before she spoke. "Well, Donnie," she said with an upward thrust of her chin. "I see you finally got what you deserve." She lingered for a brief second, then turned abruptly and walked out of the room.
In that moment I knew exactly who she was. And what brought her to the hospital. In another room down the hall, was her husband.
And I should have said something. How dare she speak to my father, in his present condition, like that! But her words, so abrupt and delivered with an icy smack of seething bitterness, stunned me into silence.
With the weight of her words still heavy in the air, I got up from my chair and stepped to dad's side. In that awkward moment, I looked deep into his eyes and saw the hollow remnants of his pain in them. Taking his hand, feeling the shock of her vengeful words needling my guts, I smiled tenderly at him and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“I don’t care what anybody says,” I whispered. “I love you. You don’t deserve this.”
Dad smiled and patted my knee. “Don’t worry about it honey,” he said with a wave of his hand, as if to push her words and memory out of the air. “She believes she has a right to be angry. And she’s been angry at me for a very long time.”
I shook my head, completely aware of the history between these two. “You’d think she’d be over it by now,” I observed, glancing out towards the hall, half expecting her to return to the room to start round two.
“Not her,” dad expressed with a deep sigh. “She’ll hang on to it like a dog with a bone.” His bright blue eyes shifted from the television to my eyes. “Some folks just can’t let go. They don’t know how. Or they don‘t want to…”
I felt for him. I felt of him. A simple man, paying the price for something that happened when he was a teenager.
The room was quiet again. Distant voices in the hall broke the uncomfortable silence now between us.
And I wondered. How long had she waited to say those horrible words to my father? Upon hearing my father was dying in the hospital, did she plan to walk into his room with the main goal of making that remark? Or was it a spur of the moment decision?
I'll never know, but that doesn't matter. What matters for me, as long as I live, is I’ll never forget the feeling this brief encounter with this one woman put inside my heart. And I know I don't ever want to be a bitter, hateful woman, young or old. Not like that. Not like her.
Just days after dad's funeral I attended the funeral of her husband.
Odd isn't it? How that one quote about the karma cafe always makes me think about that moment with my dad. Leaving me to wonder if karma, like justice, is blind when holding the scale of life. When it comes to sorting through facts to find the weight of truth, I know it's not blind. But people often are.
It's been said time heals all wounds. Perhaps. But I do believe forgiveness is the key that starts the process of healing.
Lesson learned.