Monday, November 29, 2010

bullying where you least expect it

As a general rule I don't write about people without their permission. I am respectful of privacy, of other's stories and situations. I never mean to hurt, to expose, to cause pain or concern. I write openly and honestly about myself - my experiences. My joy. My pain. My life. And should I write about anyone else, I clear it with them first.

Today though, I'm breaking, or at least bending, my rule. Someone in my life has been needlessly cruel to me for over 25 years and I've had enough. I realized yesterday that I've been bullied since my early 20s and the intensity and venom hasn't eased up since then. There have been respites, periods I'd thought we'd moved past the enmity only to find myself body slammed by hate. Again.

It started with this person calling me at work, at my first job at Fred the Furrier, telling me that someone in my life, someone I adored more than anyone, actually hated me and asked her to let me know he wanted to sever all contact. Forever.

This came out of the blue. From a person I'd known for a long time and liked.

It was a shock. And it was a lie.

I've lived with that intense hatred, sometimes simmering below the surface, at others spewing all over me, for my entire adult life.

I've never done anything to this person except be. But it seems like that's excuse enough for decades of appalling behavior.

And yet, with every attack, every slam, every poisonous barb launched at me, I was expected to let it role off and move on. This was just a bad temper, stress, hormones. It wasn't really about me per se, I just was the unfortunate target. She didn't really mean it. She was just blowing off steam and all would be fine eventually.

And so, I let it go. I welcomed her into my family, into my home. I listened, I supported. I forgave.

Over and over and over.

And yet, it hurt every time. For someone who spends so much time and energy on relationships and family, the fact that my own was so often ripped apart has been brutal.

I've been threatened in person. Over the phone. Through email and facebook messages. I've been forbidden to call certain people, certain locations. For as long as I can remember, hearing her voice unexpectedly started my heart racing, terrified I'd be reamed or screamed at.

Which brings me to Thanksgiving. On one hand, I don't know that I've ever been so grateful for the people sitting at our table. My brother and sister were here, both of whom had summers and falls that pushed them to the edges of what people should ever have to handle. And yet, both are fighting, hard, to get to better, healthier places. My own little family? Ever challenging but I am thankful beyond words that this is my life. But, for the first time ever, I didn't invite everyone I usually do. The internal battle over that, the guilt I felt, shredded my insides. Life at the moment though, is so extraordinarily challenging I couldn't bear the thought of adding any drama to the mix.

This last rift has been going on for almost a year. It started, as far as I know, last January. Huge blow outs. Accusations. Blames. Finger pointing at I'm not sure what. One strained visit since then that left me shaking my head with confusion.

I realized, as I stared down the invitation decision, that I'm not angry. I'm not vindictive. I'm not harboring resentment. But I'm not a victim anymore.

I treat people with kindness and respect. And I expect the same in return.

That's my story. And I'm honoring myself by sticking to it this time.


OneGreatSmile said...

That's horrible (on her part). If she doesn't like you, why not just ignore you instead of making your life miserable? UGH. But, as bullying goes, since you're responding to it, she knows it's working and that's why it continues. I think it's time for YOU to start doing the ignoring.
SUPPOSEDLY if there' no reaction (the "payoff" - eventually it will stop since there's no reward).
Who knows??

Or, you could just stop inviting her to Thanksgiving, regardless of whether it's politically correct or not.

Elissa Stein said...

Ignoring a bully is a tacit way of accepting their bad behavior. I teach my kids to stand up for themselves. And I'm finally learning the lesson myself.