Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I never really noticed before that there are people who come into our lives, and, for whatever reason, leave the most enormous mark, but never know that they left it.  My last post talked about bullying and how long lasting the effects can be.  It got me to thinking about how I managed to survive everything that was thrown at me, and that, leads me to where I am right now.

I am sitting in a chair in my living room where I do most of my writing, thinking about how incredibly lucky I am to have built various communities for myself to shield myself from the worst God can throw at me.  Obviously, or in many cases maybe not so obviously and I am just lucky, my family is my first line of defense.  The problem is, the older you get the more time you spend out of the house the less they know what is really happening.  When I got the courage up to ask my mother why she never stepped in with the bullying at school she answered that she never knew- and if she had she would have pulled me out so fast heads would have spun!  And you know what?  She sounded so furious now, 25+ years later that I completely believe her.  I was a pre-teen.  Too cool to let my parents know anything was wrong, so how could they know?

But over the years I built a secondary community for myself of friends and safe-houses where people did know what was going on.  I had two incredible friends in elementary school, both a year ahead of me, who I knew I could count on no matter what was going on.  If I needed to talk, or to cry, or to get away they and their families were always open and welcoming to me.  Over the years we have drifted apart and drifted back together in various combinations, but I only hope those two people know that I would not be alive today were they not there for me on so many occasions.  They mean the world to me, and the fact that we are all friends again, and slowly becoming better friends again, is one of the high points of my life.

Then there was the best friend I made at camp.  Wow were we both miserable, so we ended up spending the summer miserable together and having a pretty good time while we were at it.  Of course, then I sprained my ankle and got to go home early and she was jealous beyond belief.  It tooks years, until an NCSY shabbaton, until we met up again.  She was instantly the same best friend she was that summer (once I recognized her with long hair that is!).  Her family welcomed me with open arms.  I know that if I need someone in the middle of the night, not only CAN I call her, but she will hurt me if I DON'T call her.  I can tell you here and now if I called her and said "I need you" she would be on the next plane to Israel.

In high school there was a big group of us who were friends, and I knew I would pretty much always be welcome anywhere, but there was one girl in that group who was different.  Her family became my extended family and vice versa.  We were together more than we were apart- in fact, I think that is partially what drove me away from my close friends from elementary school.  Our mother's were both "mom" and our brother's were both annoying pests.  After I got married I did something, I am still not even exactly sure what I did, but I drove her away forever.  It is one of my single biggest regrets that she is no longer a part of my life.

And there were others.  A boy <SPACE> friend whose family welcomed me with open arms.  I knew his home was always open to me if I needed somewhere to go.  I am lucky that, while we did go through some hard times, I can once again count him among my closest friends- and his wife is slowly making her way there as well.

Another guy who never seemed to have any rules, real jerk on the outside, but total sweetheart on the inside once you got to know him could always make me smile.  Picked me up one time when I got stuck because a date got drunk and I would not get in the car.  It was 2 am and I was not sure who else to call.  The only person I know who wished us a terrible aliya only so that we would come back and we could be closer to him.

A friend from Bais Yaakov whose house became my "shabbat home".  A friend who I did not think twice about letting move in with me temporarily when she needed to.  A friend who I sometimes think spent more shabbat meals at my place than I did.

And of course my husband and his family.  Jason could not be more stable and reliable and rock steady if he was a boulder stuck in quick sand.

And now here.  When I have needed people the most, I have been able to rely on some of the best people God ever made.  To she who just makes sure I get out for coffee once in a while even though neither one of us drink coffee, to she who has us over for shabbat on weeks where I am just ready to give up, to she who came over and helped me up when I was sobbing in a ball under the kitchen table.  From the woman who left a family and studying to spend nights with me at the hospital, to another friend who changed her shabbat plans last minute to come out here to help me make the place feel "shabbosdic".  To all of you, and you know who you are, thank you.

In these weeks leading up to Yom Hadin I need to beg your forgiveness for being a bad friend.  For leaning on you and not always being able to give you a shoulder when you need one.  For borrowing things and forgetting.  For being a space case on more medication than one human should be able to handle at your shabbat meals.  For cancelling last minute, and for anything else I have done over the last 18 months, I am so sorry.  I am finally, slowly starting to come back to myself and I owe all of you, and Jason, for every single piece of me I recover.  Thank you for being there, for loving me, for putting up with me, for helping me, and Jason and Channah to make it through.  Thank you for everything you are going to continue to do even if I beg you to stop.

God gave me a truly incredible family.  Then he helped me build a second one I would never have made it this far without.

Friday, September 7, 2012

I am truly sorry.  This blog will no longer accept anonymous comments because one woman who I have chosen to cut like a cancer out of my life is using anonymous commenting to try to get under my skin and I am not going to let her.  Please feel free to make up a name if you are not comfortable using your own.  I am sorry it has had to come to this but I have now labelled at least 5 of her comments as spam including a recent revolting one.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

As a child I was bullied.  I don't mean just made fun of like average 6 year old's make fun of each other, I mean tortured every single day of my life so that I was scared to do anymore than leave my room.  I was scared to stand up to anyone for anything, defensive even if told in the nicest, calmest way that perhaps there was a better way to do something, and terrified of everyone around me.  I was terrified of my own parents when I got in trouble for normal teenage things that they were going to hurt me or throw me out!  How can a child feel safe in an environment where their peer shave made them afraid to breathe?

Even now when I see some of the girls they give me the "how dare you draw air from the same air that we breathe" sort of look.

I had two good friends I could hide behind when I felt truly alone in the world.  They were my guiding light in a world filled with dark.  There homes and their families were my shelter against the scary world that existed outside those safe houses.

I was made fun of for being fat.  For wearing glasses.  For not having the right close.  I was made fun of because my parents were divorced, because my names did not "match" the rest of my family.  I was made fun of because I saw nothing wrong with being friendly with boys so long as they were nice and generally also bullied.  I was bullied for being smart in some areas, and stupid in others.  I read too much, but how could someone who read so much suck so badly at spelling?

I remember I started to develop before some of the other girls in my class.  I had my training bra snapped.  I remember one boy in particular who would come up, grab me by the chest really painfully hard and scream "squishy boobs" at least once a recess.  Granted he has grown up into a nice guy, but I will never forget the pain and the humiliation.  I can carry on a civil conversation with him now- people grow up and mature, but I wonder if those memories still embarrass him as much as they embarrassed me.

I remember one boy in my class who was bullies as much as I was.  He eventually left the school.  I remember another one who was so nice, but scared to associate with me in case they would start making fun of him to.  One girl who would only be friends with me "in secret outside of school" so no one would pick on her.  I was diseased.  I was contagious.  I remember going to one bar mitzvah and sitting at a table made up of only 4 girls- the losers in the class.  I spent the whole afternoon crying in the bathroom.  I remember the day of a bat mitavah being hit by a car and breaking my leg only to later that night have one boy ask me how badly I damaged the car.  I never went to another bar or bat mitzvah after that.

Teachers and staff knew.  Older kids knew.  Kids in my class knew.  But no one ever did a thing to help me.  I would hide in my room and cry.  There was one year when one girls drive with her parents all the way down to deliver a mishloach manot to my house- it did not matter that she was giving everyone in the class, the fact that she had not left me out meant so much to me I never for got it.  I told her about it a few years ago and she did not even remember- but it is one of the warmest memories of my childhood.

And so I hid.  I would take a book at recess and sit on my own until a teacher would yell at me for not playing with the other kids.  I would say I was not going to go on shabbatonim but the hanhalah would call my parents and tell them I had to go.  When it came time to choose a high school I did not want to spend any more time with anyone in that class, but the hanhalah of the school actually tried to pressure my parents into sending me to a school I did not want to go to!

I went to the school I wanted, and there made some wonderful friends who have lasted me the rest of my life.  Friends who have been with me through thick and thin, happy and sad.  Sure there was bullying- to one extent or another kids will be kids, but it was nothing on the level of what I had put up with until the end of the eighth grade.  I was always still scared that one day everyone would turn on me.  That I would end up being the one with no friends sitting in the corner crying while everyone else was having fun.  And there were times where it did happen- but often because I let it.  I did not have the skills to know how to stop it.

I just tonight wrote to two people who could have helped save me from the hell in which I lived for all of those years.  I asked them what they knew that made letting an 8 year old be scared to go to school be okay.  I asked them if they knew what was happening, and I was sure they did, why they never put any sort of stop to it.  We will see if I get an answer.  They are both men whom I greatly admire so I really hope I do.

So why does this post belong on by blog about my sweet little Gabi?  Because once you fall in to the roll of being bullied, it is almost impossible to get out.  If I had not let people bully me into things I knew in my gut were not right, I strongly suspect my gabi would be here.  Maybe a preemie like her older sister, but not dead in an unmarked grave somewhere.  If I had the guts to stand up to my husband when I wanted to go to the hospital, to the doctor who said lets wait a few hours and see, and then finally had I had the courage to stand up to the chevra kadisha liason, she might not be with me, but at least I might know where she was.

I know that I will never, ever , ever forgive those girls in my class who made my life a living nightmare for some nay years.  Times has worn down the scars and new friends have hidden the scar tissue, but the marks those girls left on my soul will be with me for ever.