Monday, October 25, 2010

My lost tribe

     A recurrent theme with me since my divorce is this feeling of losing my tribe. I'm not sure why this feeling is so pronounced now because my circumstances didn't dictate some of the fallout that normally happens in a breakup. I didn't lose mutual friends. Yes, I have lost touch with some family members from my ex's side, but I'm still friendly with those I love and even socialize with them on occasion.
    I think it's the feeling of fitting in somewhere unconditionally. I have a wonderful family of my own, but we don't live very close together so visits, etc., are manipulated and planned. My ex-husband's family was large and near enough that gatherings were often and big and taken for granted. I'm glad my son still gets to experience that, because I miss it very much.
      I didn't like everybody who attended these family events and I'm sure there were members who found me a pain in the ass. There were times when I actually resented going there so often, because of various reasons from boredom of the doing the same thing to finding it unpleasant due to the family dynamics of the moment.
    But that's what belonging to a tribe is all about: Acceptance.  Even when I was ready to throttle someone, I never felt out of place or unwelcome. Neither did the person I wanted to throttle.  There was a grudging acceptance, that no matter how unpleasant or undeserving a person in the tribe was, they still were welcome for dinner.  I felt  comfortable, never had to put on airs and I didn't realize at the time how wonderful it is to have a place to go and be yourself and know you were welcomed for any holiday or weekend.
    I know a lot of what I'm feeling comes with the territory. It's the transition of everything being new and having to find my new soft place to fall. But, now, more than ever, its what I need, and I just don't have the resources right now to make it happen for myself.  It is onerous to me to call and invite and arrange. I can only let down my guard with my closet friends. Even the simplest event is painful for me to organize right now and any rejection is brutal and just underscores the "lost tribe" feeling.
    I don't mind spending time alone. I enjoy it-- and sometimes prefer it in fact. That I am such a private person and am choosy about who I let in close, makes this even more difficult. But I do like to feel like I belong, as I'm sure everyone does.  I like to feel like I contribute something to a group, that my presence is wanted and needed.
    I understand why people who have been rejected from their families because of their sexual orientation or other silly familial un-met expectation, form such cohesive social groups. I understand why Al Anon is so important to many of its members. It has become important to me, though it doesn't work for me socially. 
     So how does one go about making a new groove for oneself? How do you get other people out of their grooves/ruts to allow you to fit in with them?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm really feeling it

     "It" being the divorce. The enormity of it all.
     The human body is wonderful in how it protects you. When I first separated, I only felt relief. I basked in the ability to rest easily and go about my workaday life without the constant unwelcome interruptions  that had become my marriage.
    Then I didn't really feel much for awhile. I was kind of numb. I did all the right things. I exercised and socialized and called friends and spent lots of time with my son. But I had a hard time being present in the moment. My mind was elsewhere and where that elsewhere was, I don't know.
    So I'm at the six month mark of my divorce. And I feel it. The sadness. The overwhelming sense of loss. I want to take a magic wand and wish it all away. I want to take us back to when we were happy together. Could it have gone differently? Could I have changed the course if I tried? I know from Al Anon when it comes to alcoholism you can't cause it, cure it or control it. Still I wonder. I didn't recognize it for a long time and I didn't handle things very well. If I had been attending Al Anon long ago, maybe....but then why would I have been attending Al Anon before I knew my husband was an alcoholic?
    This man was the love of my life. He still is. Or rather, the memory of who he was, is. In many ways, it feels like a death. People tell me I'll be happy again. I know I will, in some ways, but I can't even fathom being happy with another man again. Romance was a big part of my life and very important to me and now it feels like I have to sever that part off myself.
    Every major adult event in my life was shared with this man, from graduating college to giving birth. How do I reconcile my wonderful memories with the present? Will I someday be able to enjoy the memory of a terrific lover and friend without the bitterness of what happened afterward?
    I know that whatever I'm feeling right now is what I should be feeling at this point and time.  It just seems that everything, from getting through the day to remembering a past Christmas is just so damned hard right now. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Bully Paradox

     I have just read the heartbreaking story about the Rutgers student, Tyler Clementi, who killed himself after two fellow students secretly taped his sexual activity.  Recently a teenage girl killed herself after months of taunting from her classmates in school and on the internet. What they have in common, besides unbelievable despair, was a bully.
    These tender young human beings were bullied for being who they are. Bullied because they were different or misunderstood. They were feared because of these differences. Differences that caused the bully no harm, but frightened them nonetheless.
     I was recently  the victim -- or should I say survivor -- of a bully. I certainly didn't have an experience as heinous or insidious as these unfortunate young people had, but it did get me thinking a lot about the phenomenon.
    Bullies have been around since schoolyards were invented, and they all have two things in common: They all misuse some sort of power for evil and they seem incapable of minding their own business.
    Usually the power is something pretty mundane that they didn't need to work very hard at, like physical strength or unearned money or access to technology. 
    I'm not talking about the kind of power that comes from maximizing your  God-given gifts.  The well-educated CEO of a successful business who has the respect and loyalty of his or her's employees is powerful.  But that person uses that power for positive effect. That person is a leader, not a bully.  Leaders do not take advantage of weakness, but rather encourage and bring out the power within others.
    Bullies use their power --- however cheap --  to hurt others, to get them to do things or make them feel things, so they, the bullies feel even more powerful. They target people weaker than themselves in some area. The power may be physical,  as in the stereotypical dim-witted, thick-necked high school senior who hazes the 90-pound freshman the first day of school. Or the power may be, like in my case, economical.
     Cyber bullying is something new a lot of young people are suffering through. Technology can give even the dullest and dimmest power. In this day and age, where everyone has access to the internet or cell phones or web cams, the  misuse of technology can do great harm. Images and messages can instantly be telegraphed to thousands. There is no editorial oversight, no organizational ethics to govern the misuse and little consequence. We've all heard countless stories of high school cliques  who target some unpopular classmate with poison emails or texts.
     In the case of the Tyler Clementi,  he was secretly recorded  in a private moment and then these sleazy bullies spread that moment over the internet.  The misuse of technology to humiliate, ostracize and slander people is the tool of choice for  children (and adults) who would be otherwise powerless.
    So bullying is about the misuse of power. But it's also about boundaries. There would an elimination of ALL bullying -- 100 percent --  if people just minded their own business. It was certainly not minding their own business when Tyler Clementi's classmates planted a secret web cam to record him. It was none of their business who he slept with. It was  not their business to care who he slept with. It was none of their damn business period.
    So what causes these awful people to stick their noses where they don't belong? Small lives and brains. It's that simple. Why else would another person's habits, beliefs, concerns, looks, etc. frighten and challenge them so?
     Which gets to the crux of the bully paradox. They terrorize others because they can't handle their own fear.
    As far as the root cause for the misuse of power. Well, you don't have to have a psychology degree to know it stems from low self-esteem. Some people  can't feel important unless someone else is diminished. They can't feel they are a winner unless there is a clear loser.
    My heart goes out to these kids and young people who were so viciously attacked. They must have felt so alone to end their own lives. It pains me to think that they may have, on some level, felt the bullies were right about them  in some way. If they only knew how many people are on their side and how wrong these bullies are. I was fortunate to realize in my own small experience that while this person may have economic power over me -- for now-- they have no power to make me feel badly about myself.
      I am sure, had these young people survived this horrendous attack on their personal boundaries, they would have grown into  exemplary fellow travelers.  Because there is a remarkable thing that sometimes happens to intelligent, sensitive people  if they are pushed around as a child or even as an adult: They learn deep compassion and empathy. The kindest, most life-affirming  people sometimes spring from the darkest backgrounds. The Holocaust survivor who gives inspirational speeches. The disabled child  who grows up to mentor and give hope to other disabled children.  Mr. Fred Rogers, arguably the gentlest man of the past 50 years, was bullied unmercifully as a child.
     The bully is sick. His sickness flourishes because his or her mental capacity is limited. They cannot see beyond what is shown them. If they are pushed, they push somebody else. The suffering is wasted. They learned nothing.