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 name 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.

Now Is Not The Time

It is safe to say I am not the poster boy for patience these days. Things I’d normally let roll off my shoulders are being snapped at.

There are a few stressors at the moment. I have to leave where I am living as a member of my landlord’s family needs the home. My landlords have, for these past nine years, proved themselves to be the greatest landlords in the world.  I am also on disability with a sprinkling of money here and there for writing along with the occasional speech; there is a reason there is no fancy car in the driveway. Truth is I wouldn’t want one anyway no matter the state of my revenue.

Thinking I was moving to Herkimer County New York we switched my NY TBI Waiver benefits there and now, given that the deal for the house we’d hope to buy looks to be dead in the water, I find myself without rent or utility subsidies and despite the fact I may be moving to a place close to my current home, I am dealing with a state Department of Health that will likely make it impossible to regains the subsidies. Those of us on the TBI Waiver are having their services sliced and diced and, in too many cases, entirely denied  by a DOH that essentially creates regulations on the fly and doesn’t even follow what few regulations they have set forth in the manual they wrote.

Moreover, because of the presumed move to another county, there are, for this month, no food stamps. So, a for man who has  been homeless before, hospitalized twice for hunger pains, the pressure is on. While intellectually I know I will not wind up homelessness, I think it fair and accurate to say that once you have experienced real homelessness in your life, its specter is always near. Along with this, my body, normally an ally, has paid the price. Nights are fairly packed with back spasms which strike sporadically throughout the day as well.

This too shall pass, as they say and I know that. I have been reading some good books, having, I am ashamed to say, started reading John Dos Passos for the first time this year (a staggeringly brave and brilliant writer).

Having said all this, now is not a good time for someone to give me any grief. Some years ago someone I was working with said, “You’re a tough guy you know.” I was mortified! To me tough guy meant bully and not only have I never been a bully I have always been the one who has looked to take on the bully. I took my mortification to my friend and sister in my heart, Judy.

“You got a minute?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said, sitting down, smiling.

“Am I a tough guy?”

“Tough guy?”

“Yeah. Tough guy. Like in bully.”

“You’re not a bully, no. But you are a tough guy.”

“What do you mean?” More mortification.

“You don’t take any shit from people.”

Now that I could live with. And it’s true, I don’t take any shit.

Especially now.