A distance maker called bullying

It takes no strength to be a bully. That said, to call those who bully, villains or bad people, misses the mark entirely. Hold people accountable, certainly. But accountability does not mean compassion has no role.  When possible, it does. Very much so. 

Bullying itself is a distance maker as far as I’m concerned. A way of keeping people backed off. Distance makers, as I’ve been bold enough to namel them, consist of some behavior, attribute, environmental reality, that keeps people at a distance. Distance makers come in many forms. A former colleague of mine who dealt with a weight challenge told me that some folks put on weight as a way of keeping people away. 

It was pondering that observation that led me to recognize the presence of distance makers and the sizable repertoire of distance makers alive and well in the human family. In short, distance makers, healthy or not in form, are meant to protect us, keep us safe.

Distance makers are everywhere. Yelling, nastiness, sarcasm, name calling, threats, all forms of violence. I can attest to the fact some perfumes and colognes are distance makers. The first time I smelled musk I thought the end of the world had come.

I had a spectacular dance teacher at the Joffrey School of Ballet named Perry Brunson. He taught, Men’s Class. In all my time as a dancer I never met anyone who could teach Men’s Class as brilliantly as Mr. Brunson. On top of that, he was a nice man. A nice man who, before each class, dipped himself into a vat of English Leather, a cologne capable of repulsing anyone who got within a yard of the man.  That said, Mr. Brunson was no bully. He was, in truth, a lovely man, and a teacher I remember with gratitude and great fondness.

Back to bullying. Bullying does not take strength, in my view. I’ve heard some theorize that some bullies are, underneath, cowards. I don’t agree. To call a bully a coward is to inflict judgement, and judgement, when applied in the arena of understanding human beings, distorts reality. 

It may very well be true that many bullies live with fear, a primary antecedent to the bullying in some cases, I would think. But to engage in bullying behavior, while managing fear, is anything but an act of cowardice. In truth, it takes strength to manage both at the same time. And, of course, when you bully, you run the very real risk of someone striking back. Such moments can result in some tough emotional quagmires that can often be worked through, with therapy. 

I’ll tell you now, the therapist who guided me through the end of my first marriage, getting shot, the suicide of my mother and my daughter’s suicide attempt is a New York-based certified social worker.

Bullying is a distance maker. As long as it is present, no human-to-human connection can be a healthy one.

Banning Cruelty

And then, finally, anger. Not the pound-the-table with your fist anger, but the center of your soul anger. Anger provoked by cruelty. The kind of anger known to lift the veils of denial, confusion, doubt. 

Cruelty deserves no presence in any life. You betray no one but yourself if you fail to ban cruelty from your life.

My sanctuaries

My father gave me chess and unlocked the door to reading. My mother and father opened the wondrous world of books and classical music for me. I loved certain pieces of classical music so much, my request to have them playing on the record player so I could listen as I went to sleep was rarely, if ever, denied. These beautiful places of sanctuary have always welcomed me, no matter the moment my life.

It is true that life can wallop any of us so hard the pain puts us out of action, for a time. Time, for me, in which I can’t always find my way back to books, chess, music. However, it is never lost on me that they’re there, waiting. They never abandon me.

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For SCK & VBK

No one is disposable

If you are treating someone as if they are disposable, stop it. If you are being treated as if you are disposable, stop it. No human being is disposable. What’s more, a healthy relationship of any kind is impossible.

If anyone treats someone else as if they are disposable,  they don’t just wound the other person, they wound themselves! What makes this true? The pattern of treating others as if they are disposable makes it impossible for other person to be close to you.  This pattern of behavior is what I call a distance-maker. Something a person does that keeps others as at a distance.

I’m 65. I’ve been on my own since December 1969 when my mother had me put in reform school and disowned me, having me declared an “emancipated minor” meaning that I was the sole person responsible for keeping me alive. My father, the greatest gift my life has given me, died in August 1969.  I was disowned by my mother and never allowed back into the family again. I know what it is to be treated as if I was disposable. I have a nephew, Joe. A beautiful a human being. A really good man.  The narrative of his life is his to tell. That said, I think it is a safe bet he knows what it is to be treated as if he was disposable being, just as deep  as I do.

For those stuck in this pattern, the questions are not, why am I  bad person? Or, why am I  mean ? You’re not bad or mean. The behavior is mean, but a behavior does not define the all of you. Perhaps the more salient question you might want to ask is this.  How did I come to believe (how was I taught) that intimacy between people was dangerous for me?

Two more thoughts. First, it is more likely than not that those treating others as if they are disposable don’t realize that’s what they’re doing.  Second, it is likely those caught in this behavior’s web fat the moment have been treated as if they’re disposable somewhere back down the line. They deserve compassion too.

What I wouldn’t give to be in a conversation with…

What I wouldn’t give to be in a conversation with

Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, Haydn. Hell. All of them.

Add John Steinbeck and James Salter, Charles Dickens! Leo Tolstoy!  Edith Wharton, Shakespeare,  Dos Passos, Austen, Emily Dickinson. Hell. All of them.

And Lincoln, Washington, TR, FDR. Hell. All of them.

Dr. King, Mandela, Gandhi, Malcom, Sadat, Eleanor Roosevelt. Hell. All of them.