I’ve been going through my old journals, and came to this the other day. It was 1988, and I was 36 years old.
I had forgotten that this was a *conscious* decision, a choice between being the kind of cool person I yearned to be, and being more simple, kind, and welcoming. I don’t think I was able to choose the latter very consistently back then, due to my vanity, but time made it inevitable. As I got older and plumper, a cool identity just looked silly on me.
I was thinking that some aspect of being able to prefer that other way was due to being bullied, in my early teens. I always was the shortest, chubbiest, and least coordinated of my friends, so I can see why I was an obvious target.
But the way that experience left an influence on me was that I quickly came to understand that there was nothing I could do to affect the bullying, not one way or the other. If I got angry, if I fought back, if I cried, if I tried to close my eyes and ears–no matter what I did, the bullying was still going to go on for as long as my classmates wanted it to.
So I came to the conclusion that I could just endure it. It was just something that was going to happen, like the weather. The only choice I had was: I could endure it while getting angry and scared and vengeful inside, or I could endure it *without* inflicting those painful and futile extra emotions on myself.
That taught me a lasting lesson about being able to remain who I am no matter what others said or did to me. If there had been any hope–if I had had an adult who would help me, or if I could have put an end to the attacks in any other way, I might not have learned that lesson. It was the utter futility of resistance that taught me. There’s a blessing in everything.
I think that realization was part of my inclination so many years later to recognize that the soft and welcoming identity was more useful in the world. I could see that there was a difference between “beautiful” and “attractive.” A person can be beautiful and yet not attractive, in that they don’t attract like a magnet does; they make you feel uneasy or want to back away. But the range of ways a person could be attractive, a hospitable presence, was as many and varied as there are personalities.
I do feel tender-hearted toward people. I have a conviction that most people don’t get enough listening-to. So I try to listen to people, and make a space for them in my attention. It frees me to not have any needs, when it comes to other people; my regular self-advice is, “Try not to have any needs.”
I recognize that most people don’t have lives that are as easy and joyous as mine. I have a husband who cares for me so well, and seems to really believe I am beautiful. (When we were house-hunting here in the Smokey Mtns, I was looking at the view in all directions as we drove along, and I said, “When we move here, we’ll see beauty every day.” And my dear husband said, “Well, I’ll see you.” ) I’m in a good and loving relationship with all my grown-up children and their growing families. My husband and I have enough to get along financially. I can see beautiful Buffalo Mountain right through my office window. I am content. A contented person can make room.
I have probably posted this with some underlying strategy to be admired or thought “spiritual,” and perhaps mentioned the bullying to draw sympathy. Sometimes you just have to post something anyway, in case it does some good, even if there are mixed motives. Forgive me for being less than I try to appear to be, and please keep me in your prayers.