Well guys, day before last I signed off promising two blog posts for yesterday and did not even manage to complete one! My apologies if you were expecting them, the whole day was a runaway train of busyness. My daughter had a “fall feast” party at preschool where the kids were all dressed as pilgrims that the parents got to attend and it was painfully cute. I’m always embarrassed to be the mom who gets misty at school functions but I can’t help it.
For such a highly bonded (nice way of saying clingy) child, she takes going to school with a grain of salt but behaves so well, and is always the most enthusiastic voice in a singing situation. I love how boldly she takes on the world and I hope nothing ever deflates the wind from her sails. (I hope she never endures the pain of bullying like I did, and these thoughts I had while at the party inspired this blog post today.) So that consumed my morning but was well worth the lost time.
And then once home it was a flurry of baking bread, prepping dinner early, exercising, cleaning and time with the kiddo before Justin and I had evening dental appointments. Once it was all done and Lilith was in bed my husband and I couldn’t even make it through one TV show before we headed up to bed ourselves. It was one of those run around kind of days that just leaves the tank totally depleted.
But, the upside is that an exhausted body sleeps well, so I caught up on some much needed quality rest. Family issues and stress have had me laying awake for hours at night, mind racing, but this reset the system and now I am back to feeling pretty refreshed and alert. So with no further ado, I’m back at it, here we go.
Today I intended to talk about posture and how making the effort to maintain good posture can really help with personal development, which is what I meant my first blog post yesterday to be about, something that might seem kind of mundane but I’ve struggled with it and I think other people may as well. But I’m glad that post got delayed because it allowed me to develop my thoughts on a deeper level and I realized that my issues with poor posture have been a result of other, larger issues.
While poor posture can certainly cause problems for us, I want to dive more into the roots of the poor posture. Just like I have stated that I feel obesity is a symptom of larger issues, well, the posture is right there with it, at least in my case.
Maybe not in all cases, but I find a lifetime of obesity goes hand in hand with a lifetime of hunched shoulders and downcast eyes, aka poor posture. I’ve taken to observing people more closely when I am out and it’s easy to spot someone who feels badly about themselves. They exude an energy of ‘don’t look at me’ that I understand and relate to all too well. Recently I’ve been having severe, recurring back pains and have taken notice of the fact that my default posture puts me hunched forward, curled into a ball like a porcupine to repel the world. I see that reflected all around me in other obese people, or even thin people who have experienced more than their fair share of unkindness in the world.
But why? It’s not the actual weight pulling me forward, but a desire to hide away from the world. This is caused by a huge overload of emotional abuse, endless, recurring, coming from every angle that roots back to my childhood. It’s a protective mechanism, I’ve realized, one that needs to get rectified along with many others including the binge eating.
I’ve been making effort to keep my head up and shoulders back and finding it hard maintain without conscious effort even though it feels instantly more physically comfortable. The hunched position adds a layer of oppression that you don’t notice until it’s gone, yet I invariably sink back into it unless I stay aware of what I’m doing. So I started thinking into this, why, why do I naturally position myself in a way that causes noticeable discomfort? Why is this my default?
It didn’t take too long mulling it over before I realized this is an unconscious effort to maintain a protective positioning, concealing as much of myself as possible from the world even at the expense of my own comfort. After a lifetime of being assaulted and harassed by other people simply for existing in my too-large physical form, it’s no wonder why.
As a child, I was mercilessly mocked for my weight and appearance and it was a natural development to hunch forward, hiding my belly, arms drawn forward hugging myself. I was mocked on the way I walked, lumbering along apparently, so I began to walk very quickly so as to get it over with fast, something that also sticks to this day, a lightning speed pace that is unusual in someone of my size.
That picture is me around age 7 when my being bullied began.When I was in elementary school, bullying was not the hot topic that it is today. Bullies were casually corrected as if it was no big deal, the bullied were told to let it roll off their back. (What better way to let roll off your back than to hunch forward to make your back a more rounded surface?) I have to wonder if the big fight against bullying nowadays comes from the bullied kids who have grown up and want better for their child, I know I certainly do, and if my daughter is ever bullied I will be the squeakiest of wheels to make it end.
It began for me early in my education. I enjoyed three quiet years of schooling that were comfortable and uneventful until I met Danielle. For three years in a row, 3rd to 5th grade, I had a bully named Danielle in my class who became increasing abusive with time. My torment was her recreation, and she quickly rallied the entire classroom into hating me.
I remember one of the few girls who I was friendly with one day in third grade telling me that she couldn’t be friends with me anymore because Danielle had said so. She was honest that she felt bad about it but didn’t want problems with her for herself. Danielle ruled the classroom and the teacher made concessions for her awful behavior out of pity for her situation. (Later in life thanks to the public trove of information that is Facebook, I learned that her home life was a mess and her father had died when she was very young. Certainly triggering enough to cause bad behavior, yet I bore the brunt of her grief for years. This knowledge make me feel pity for her but didn’t undo the fact that she shaped my future as an expectant victim.)
She rallied the classmates with her and the web of people who tormented me expanded to nearly the entire class of 30 children. Some would watch uncomfortably, some abstained yet would laugh and some took equal pleasure in it as her and made their own campaign against me. As we aged, the bullying turned from exclusion and verbal insults and mocking to stealing my possessions and putting sexually assaulting notes in my backpack. But because she never hit me, the school didn’t feel it merited us being separated and this lasted for three years, causing massive mental devastation to me in my formative years.
I told my mother about the bullying early in 3rd grade, which she spoke to the teacher about once and Danielle was given a light reprimand which I remember her laughing at openly, coming to me afterwards and telling me now that I had told on her it would be that much worse. True to her word, it only caused the bullying to become that much more sinister. Despite this, I told my mother it was still happening yet the school told her it was just a simple children’s dispute which was handled and she sadly let it go, getting exasperated if I brought it up in the future so I just stopped talking about it and internalized the pain. I realized I was on my own, the issues between us weren’t taken seriously by the school at all and she was placed in the same class as me for two more years, much to her delight and my dismay.
The torment from her and her group of friends was so constant that it made me hate school so that I would be absent as much as possible, made me fearful of my peers in general and set me up for a lifetime of distrust of other girls. Once I ascended to sixth grade we were thankfully no longer in the same classes and I had a bit of relief, but not much, because many members of the old classes were still there to continue her work, knowing I was a ripe target. Sometimes teachers would look at me with pity, knowing I was the outcast yet doing nothing to intervene.
In modern days this would result in lawsuits galore if a child was allowed to be tormented this way, but my mother had thrown her hands up in the air and said deal with it, teachers didn’t care and so I suffered greatly. I became deeply broken, terrified of interactions and dangerously susceptible to anyone who offered me a bit of kindness, genuine or not.
Going into junior high and high school, I immediately became fodder for boys well seasoned in taking advantage of broken young girls and got all of my ‘positive’ attention from them, quickly earning me the title of a slut which only further ostracized me from the girls. Of course the joke was on me, because the boys openly treated me like garbage, would use me privately and if I was foolish enough to approach them publicly even just to say hi, would blast me with verbal attacks and insults and deny any involvement with me outside of school.
It didn’t take long to realize my place in their worlds, and yet it wasn’t enough to stop me from coming back for more attention when I could. I had no one and nothing else. I look back at this time in my life and simply die inside for the lost little girl I was. My home life was terrible, my relationships with my parents were strained and unhealthy, I had no support and no one to tell me my value. I pretended to my family that things were fine in my life because I had learned that even if they weren’t, they didn’t care to help change them. My parents were busy with their own lives and didn’t pay attention to what I was doing so I had to figure out a place to belong and it never led to good choices. I spiraled further into boys and drama and it was ugly, so ugly. I’ll write another post someday about my relationships with boys and teenage friends because that will be a monologue all of its own. One of the few teen year pictures I have is below, I was only concerned with finding someone to want me.
Into my teen years, I discovered a new layer of protection between me and the world, the LBJ, or little black jacket, which I wore with everything, every single day. I was wearing it in the photo above. If it was a 90 degree day, no matter, I was wearing the thick, black cotton jacket to conceal my form. Fooling no one, tormenting myself, yet this barrier between me and the world remained vitally necessary to me for almost a decade of my life.
I still remember buying this jacket with my mother when I was going into 9th grade. It was a cheap, black cotton jacket with two front pockets and a zipper that we got for maybe $12. I quickly made the connection that on days I wore it I wasn’t mocked for my body because people couldn’t see it, so I wore that jacket all through high school and even college, every single day for about seven years until it was disintegrating. It was a literal security blanket.
I was never able to let it go, I was aware it was becoming disgusting, faded, stained, small holes across it, my keys had worn a hole through both pockets. It was really hard to find one that was similar enough to fill my fixation, I scoured the internet for YEARS for the same one, could never find it. I was obsessed, because this jacket and this jacket alone adequately concealed me and fit my body in a flattering manner, I told myself in my sick and abused mind.
I also had a litany of ‘special use’ jackets like this white one I used for the beach. I always remained covered, as if it was an invisibility cloak to protect me from the world.
It was pathological, because I spared myself from one torment of people seeing my form yet I was constantly mocked for always wearing a jacket even when bizarre to be doing so. I claimed to be cold all the time, despite being obviously drenched with sweat in the summer. This continued for so long in my life that I look back and cringe with pity for the broken girl I was. One day, as an adult, I set it aside with conscious effort to leave it behind. I retired it to my ‘work clothes’ bin and only in the last few months of downsizing in the name of minimalism did I actually throw it away.
In addition to the jacket, I’d sit hunched forward, arms drawn across my body. All of this was done so unconsciously at a point though. I didn’t realize I was living my life perpetually in a defensive state. I was so tuned out of my own life, my own existence, I never put two and two together of why I was tormenting myself this way. I never stopped and processed that this was about insecurity, this was about the pain of being viciously bullied, this was about trying to protect myself when it seemed like the entire world was out to get me.
The depression that stemmed from all of that drove me deeper into my food addiction, deeper into seeking attention from boys who would use me and then become disgustingly abusive after the fact and eventually into dabbling in drugs and alcohol whenever those same boys would have some and want to share. It drove me deeper within myself until I was completely blind to the reality of my life and that it was torment, it just was what it was. Everything of value about myself was suppressed, I was a loser and life was a battle to endure. This attitude stuck with me through my entire life until very recently.
Now, a year into my personal awakening, I’m making conscious effort to stand tall and comfortably. I go walking in my neighborhood almost every day and don’t wear a jacket if it isn’t cold. Through trial and error- terrifying, daring trial and error, I’ve learned that I get treated no differently as an adult if I wear a jacket or just a t-shirt in the grocery store or going to pick up my daughter from preschool. I’ve cautiously put myself out there and am seeing that not everyone in the world is going to assault me. It was my misfortune to have grown up in a perfect storm of abuse from every angle, but now I am fighting to lower my defenses.
It sounds so pathetic, I know, to be so deeply cautious of people. I’m learning now that most people are inherently good if given the chance. But this is the thought process of a person broken by those around them, used as an emotional dumping ground for years. The fearful, overly cautious, overthinking of every situation, trying to prepare for what abuse that might result, trying to harden myself in advance to be able to endure it stoically when it invariably occurs. This is the thought process of many who have lived a life similar to mine, I’ve come to learn.
As I’ve aged, outright bullying happens less, at least less to my face. Adults learn at some point that it’s poor form to be an outright bully and that it reflects badly upon themselves to openly mock someone in public so they now do it in whispers and glares. But it still happens. I’ve learned to combat that now by practically provoking them into doing so, by being a totally bold, badass kind of woman in my physical form. I now choose to defy the expectations of those around me, and to try to teach lessons to those who would mock me for being myself without saying a word.
I’m aware I am still walking through this world eighty pounds overweight and for the people who are offended by a fat body, I still offend as much as ever. But now, I also offend the people who feel a woman with a short haircut, minimal cosmetics and jewelry, dressed in t shirts and sweats must be a lesbian, and as a lesbian is somehow threatening they glare at me for simply existing in such a form. And if they see me with my husband I can see the wheels turning with confusion, because why the hell would I have this kind of appearance unless I’m gay? That’s just not the way it’s done, right?
I made the choice to cut off my hair after great deliberation, knowing I was setting myself up for additional mocking. Being fat is one thing, how dare you, being fat with short hair is just beyond being fathomed for some. How could you possibly offend the world with having to look at you, some reactions seem to say. I notice the looks and whispers that happen sometimes, yet now I have enough confidence and security in myself to meet them head on. Finally I’m starting to meet my minds eye of who I am supposed to be… and that happens to be a woman with short hair, minimal cosmetics and clothes comfortable to exercise in. I battled that vision for years with thick eyeliner, a mop of curls and painful shoes. No more. I live for me now. My comfort in my form makes the would-be bullies mad. I’m not supposed to feel secure in who I am, it rocks their world as they know it. And that’s exactly why I love being who I am now.
I wish I could travel back in time and have a chat with 13 year old me in that clothing store and take the damn jacket right out of my hands.
I wish I could tell myself, “stop! The world is going to judge you no matter what you do, because that’s the path you signed on for in this life. You’re here to experience years of persecution so you can understand how that feels. It’s going to help you develop tremendous empathy and understanding for the others who endure it in the world. You’ll be able to look inside every flawed person and see the roots of why, it always boils down to pain and fear. And you’ll understand that the people doing the hurting, inflicting the pain, they’re even worse off because their life is so full of feelings of inferiority that they’ve taken to abusing others to prove their own self value! Whenever someone is unkind to you, meet them with pity because they are pitiful. But you are something special. You have the gift of empathy, something greatly lacking in this world. So take the knocks as they come. Live the journey. Just know that it’s not for nothing, someday it’s going to fuel you to do great things for the world. Someday you’ll help draw others that are still living the darkness you endured into the light. You’ll be a part of the awakening movement that will change the world one person at a time, a return to true moral values. Don’t forget your worth but don’t fight the pain. The pain is the fuel that is going to light up your future.”
The number one reason I wanted to write this blog is to help other people overcome their painful lives. I want to pioneer a world where my daughter will never face these things. Having lived a life like mine thus far, I know what it feels like to be constantly torn down for other people to climb up. I want to help free people from the pain that causes them to self destruct and waste their time and effort marching to someone else’s beat. You have a choice here, you don’t need to be anyone else’s hand hold. Even if they try you can refuse to allow them to pull you lower. Their power is not absolute. It depends on your reactions.
I want to be living proof that you can escape any kind of situation. I’m on the road to doing so, growing and changing everyday. You can begin the long walk to true freedom too.
If you are someone who sits hunched forward, shrinking into yourself and trying to go unnoticed…
If you are someone who hides in jackets and oversized clothing, trying to conceal your form lest it brings abuse upon you…
If you are someone who gets mocked for your choice of form, be it anything from choosing short hair or defying your birth gender…
If you are someone who has been torn down simply for existing in a world that only wants robots, not free souls…
If you are someone who has been used and cast aside by the people around you and feel you are a loser and worthless..
If you are someone who has lived for years in a prison of your own creation, choosing solitary confinement for your own protection.
It’s time to make the choice to free yourself.
Take off the jacket today.
Stand tall today.
Face the world head on today.
And if anyone mocks you, if anyone reviles you, if anyone tries to make you feel apologetic for being who you are… give them a smile of pity. The kind of weak, sad smile you reserve for when you meet eyes with the ‘lost causes’ of the world, because even if that person is wearing designer clothes from head to toe with a $500 haircut, they are a lost and pitiful soul who has lost their way. They betray their facade with choosing to harm another. Truly happy and confident people don’t need to tear others down. You know something about them that they don’t even know: they’re scared, they’re sad and they feel worthless. They’ve simply learned to cope by abusing others, but you don’t need to assume your expected role to fuel them for their life.
Turning the other cheek is the kindest action you can take, because the only way to provoke change in these people is to break down the system as they know it. They insult, you cower. This is how it’s supposed to go. That reinforces their feeling of superiority and all is right in their world. But if you meet their attacks and insults with kindness and empathy masqueraded as a lack of reaction, just a small, weak smile, they don’t know what to do with that. They’re going to think it over on the ride home, wondering what just happened.
Maybe, just maybe, for every hundred times this would happen to them, one of those aggressors would experience an awakening. They would see your calmness in the face of assault, they would see that they weren’t able to break you. It would cause confusion, why doesn’t the old formula work anymore? They would wonder why. They would question your actions, and with it reflected by enough people at them, perhaps eventually their own.
The saying, “be the change that you wish to see,” it begins with us. We are the ones who have the power to change the world. The broken, the abused, the outcasts. The ones who know what it feels like to be in true emotional pain. The ones who endure it without passing it on, because we understand how destructive these behaviors are. The current system works for the aggressors, the angry, the high and mighty. We need to turn that all over on it’s ear and be the change we wish to see. Claim this world back, because this world is ours. Deny them their results and force them to find a new way to reinforce their value. Force them to change.
The weird, the different, the introspective and spiritually obscure: this is our world now.
We are the ones who can change the course of the world, because we are the ones who understand why change is necessary.
The ones who have gotten their security on our backs, they don’t realize what they are doing, they don’t think into it as deeply as we do. They don’t realize they’re abusing the people who hold the keys to their kingdom.
We are not the sheep here.