Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Question Posed

whattodowhattodowhattodo

I've had several comments and even more email about yesterday's post regarding Ruby being bullied. Most people want to know the magic words that I wanted to put into the story. Well, there's a story about the 'magic words'.

If you are a regular reader here you will know that I've written about being teased a lot as a child. My weight. My athletic cowess. My lack of manliness. All were fodder for bullies. Some days of my childhood were simply torture to endure. I got the 'sticks and stones' thing and it did nothing for me. I knew that confronting the bullies would lead to a shitkicking. I knew that I had to develop a kind of mental toughness.

So, I came up with a little rhyme that I would say to myself. It's a simple rhyme and, now that I look at it objectively, kind of childish. But it gave me strength. I never told anyone about it. I never shared it with a single soul. It was something that was just mine. It was then and is now precious to me. The idea of sharing it terrified me. If someone mocked it they would be mocking my way of survival. If someone laughed at it, it would be worse than the laughter I suffered as the brunt of jokes. So I kept it for 'just me'. I never even shared it with Joe.

And then when I heard that Ruby was getting teased, suddenly I wanted to share it. Suddenly it's childish nature seemed to fit with the situation. For the first time ever I wrote it down and emailed it to her.

But I wonder how vulnerable to make myself here on the blog. I've got terrific readers and the comment section here often has wonderful and respectful discussion. The discussion thread on 'Touchdowns' was terrific, really terrific. People disagreed with each other but did so with remarkable restraint. Even so, the thought of publishing it here on the blog chills me to the bone.

A question.

How do you share life strategies yet stay safe at the same time?

What would you do ... would you share ... how would you handle discussion or debate about something dear to you ... could you handle it?

What would you do if you were me? ... Help me decide.

38 comments:

Laurel said...

Of course I'd like to know those words too. Bullying touches a deep chord in most of us, it is pervasive and miserable and most of us have experienced it. Then we worry about our children experiencing it and the idea of magic words is pretty much the perfect solution we all envision when we think about making bullying go away.

But if it chills you to the bone to think about publishing them, for god's sake don't do it. In reality, your magic words might be pretty different from mine anyway. And no one should have to expose their most private thoughts and feelings, even for a good reason. That's not a sacrifice that's okay to ask. Besides which, you're out here writing because you feel safe. If you don't then your wellspring is at risk of drying up and we might lose you altogether... and that would be a crying shame because there are so many other ways you've reached out and helped so many people through this place.

Maybe you can write up the general sense of the thing without revealing the specific words. Maybe not. But no one should require you to lay yourself so open here.

theknapper said...

My thought.....I'm not sure the words are 'magic'. (tho' I've always wanted to believe in anything magical)....but the meaning of them that helped you.....they may not work for someone else.It may be more of a concept for each person to create their own mantra.

Pink Doberman said...

My philosophy is if it can help someone and I am no longer in need of it then I should share it.

That being said, if you still need to hold it tight to not let it go don't.

If you are able to share it and still remain strong and courageous then share it.

You are encouragement and a strong soul your eyes are a light into some of the dark places most avoid looking at. Keep yourself strong so you can continue to look into those places and share what you see so others will also see your light brighten their world.

I love reading your posts!

I also like TheKnapper's idea as well.
Blessings,
Tonja

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Hi Dave,
Hope you & Joe ok. I had a similar debate with myself recently, but after the savaging to disability benefits and services proposed by our current government I decided however scared I may be, it is time to act.
That led to this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qagXyuEZaE
and now we have a new blog, forum and campaign, The Broken Of Britain.
You're such an experienced disability rights campaigner I wonder if there is any advice you can give us as we try to create a voice for disabled people in the British press and political sphere?
Thanks Dave
Bendy Girl
thebrokenofbritain.org

miss kitten said...

ruby is safe to share with, because she NEEDS those magic words now. joe is safe because he has a proven history with you, you two have weathered many storms together.

to be open, to open your garment and bare your flesh (symbolicly), to stand before us in your strength and fragility, those are scary things.

you're the only one who can decide what is right. but i'm glad you shared with ruby.

its hell to be tormented.

Joyfulgirl said...

Poor little Ruby. To make someone so young feel bad about themselves is beyond horrible.
I don't think you should share the actual poem or actual words as they are precious and magic to *you* - and maybe everyone needs their own special magic words that work for them - but as a mom of a 4-year old it would be great to have some general ideas or the 'concept' of it as theknapper said. Thanks as always.

miss kitten said...

and to add...

my beastlyboy is 17 now, but when he was 4 and 5, he went to work with me. i rode the special needs bus as a bus attendant. and he asked a LOT of questions about "why" the children (some of whom were up to 21 years old) were the way they were.

some were born different, some had illness later, some were hurt. ALL of them deserved love and the best we could give them. and so we did, smiled and laughed WITH them, talked to them, made sure they understood that in the soul, we are all the same.

he's 17 now. and very understanding of most everyone, and tries very hard to see the soul of a person...and calls me to ask WHY some people are just ugly clear through.

and again, the answer is some are born like that, some people have illness which makes them seem mean, and some people were hurt and want to spread that hurt around.

i'm sorry ruby is having to learn this, at such a young age. i'm glad that she has such loving family members who are teaching her how to approach life head on without feeling the need to hurt others in her wake.

Tracy said...

Dave,
Of course I'd love to know those words too. I'll admit that it's selfishness on my part, wanting to see your soul, but I can pretend that it's a desire to help my son who's been bullied. At any rate, I don't think that being a blogger means you have to bare yourself to us. However much I enjoy and get nourished from your blog, there are some things the world wide web has no right to ask of you. I think that if your magic words are too personal, you should and have a right to keep them that way! Perhaps, if a particular comment touches you, you could respond to that person only. I have a deep affection for you Dave. I often read your blog and think, "Dang. I wish this guy lived in the apartment upstairs from ME" because I'd like to actually know you. You have a right to your own personal magic. You are not obligated to share. And having shared it with Ruby just makes it more magical. Exponentially so. My son does get bullied. My middle son Ethan, not our baby with Ds. He's in special ed and he's 8 years old. However, I have to say that he gives as good as he gets. He's got a mouth on him and he's got a quick wit. His class mates all bully each other equally. And eventually, what ever he may lack, he will make up for with his intididating size. I've taught him a few effective one liners to deal with the bullies. It's usually something benign, and he walks away, but sometimes he comes up with his own one liners and leaves his harrassers either speechless or feeling stupid them selves. One of my favorites that he came up with on his own is "Dude. I'm twice your size and three times as smart. Think about it." Like my middle son, my daughter also has autism. We know about bullying. Fortunately, 5th and 6th grades have been wonderful with teachers who nourish a sense of responsibility for each other in the class room. She goes to middle school next year, and this causes me an untold sense of dread. One day you may receive a regular email from her asking for your magic words. Maybe you'll share them with her. Her name is Rachel and I fear that middle school will unravel the great sense of self and cummunity she's developed in fifth and sixth grades. Maybe you'll be ready to share your magic words by then. Maybe she won't need them. I'd better close before this becomes it's own blog. Thanks Dave. You're a good man to know.

Tracy said...

Dave,
Of course I'd love to know those words too. I'll admit that it's selfishness on my part, wanting to see your soul, but I can pretend that it's a desire to help my son who's been bullied. At any rate, I don't think that being a blogger means you have to bare yourself to us. However much I enjoy and get nourished from your blog, there are some things the world wide web has no right to ask of you. I think that if your magic words are too personal, you should and have a right to keep them that way! Perhaps, if a particular comment touches you, you could respond to that person only. I have a deep affection for you Dave. I often read your blog and think, "Dang. I wish this guy lived in the apartment upstairs from ME" because I'd like to actually know you. You have a right to your own personal magic. You are not obligated to share. And having shared it with Ruby just makes it more magical. Exponentially so. My son does get bullied. My middle son Ethan, not our baby with Ds. He's in special ed and he's 8 years old. However, I have to say that he gives as good as he gets. He's got a mouth on him and he's got a quick wit. His class mates all bully each other equally. And eventually, what ever he may lack, he will make up for with his intididating size. I've taught him a few effective one liners to deal with the bullies. It's usually something benign, and he walks away, but sometimes he comes up with his own one liners and leaves his harrassers either speechless or feeling stupid them selves. One of my favorites that he came up with on his own is "Dude. I'm twice your size and three times as smart. Think about it." Like my middle son, my daughter also has autism. We know about bullying. Fortunately, 5th and 6th grades have been wonderful with teachers who nourish a sense of responsibility for each other in the class room. She goes to middle school next year, and this causes me an untold sense of dread. One day you may receive a regular email from her asking for your magic words. Maybe you'll share them with her. Her name is Rachel and I fear that middle school will unravel the great sense of self and cummunity she's developed in fifth and sixth grades. Maybe you'll be ready to share your magic words by then. Maybe she won't need them. I'd better close before this becomes it's own blog. Thanks Dave. You're a good man to know.

Tracy said...

Dave,
Of course I'd love to know those words too. I'll admit that it's selfishness on my part, wanting to see your soul, but I can pretend that it's a desire to help my son who's been bullied. At any rate, I don't think that being a blogger means you have to bare yourself to us. However much I enjoy and get nourished from your blog, there are some things the world wide web has no right to ask of you. I think that if your magic words are too personal, you should and have a right to keep them that way! Perhaps, if a particular comment touches you, you could respond to that person only. I have a deep affection for you Dave. I often read your blog and think, "Dang. I wish this guy lived in the apartment upstairs from ME" because I'd like to actually know you. You have a right to your own personal magic. You are not obligated to share. And having shared it with Ruby just makes it more magical. Exponentially so. My son does get bullied. My middle son Ethan, not our baby with Ds. He's in special ed and he's 8 years old. However, I have to say that he gives as good as he gets. He's got a mouth on him and he's got a quick wit. His class mates all bully each other equally. And eventually, what ever he may lack, he will make up for with his intididating size. I've taught him a few effective one liners to deal with the bullies. It's usually something benign, and he walks away, but sometimes he comes up with his own one liners and leaves his harrassers either speechless or feeling stupid them selves. One of my favorites that he came up with on his own is "Dude. I'm twice your size and three times as smart. Think about it." Like my middle son, my daughter also has autism. We know about bullying. Fortunately, 5th and 6th grades have been wonderful with teachers who nourish a sense of responsibility for each other in the class room. She goes to middle school next year, and this causes me an untold sense of dread. One day you may receive a regular email from her asking for your magic words. Maybe you'll share them with her. Her name is Rachel and I fear that middle school will unravel the great sense of self and cummunity she's developed in fifth and sixth grades. Maybe you'll be ready to share your magic words by then. Maybe she won't need them. I'd better close before this becomes it's own blog. Thanks Dave. You're a good man to know.

Tracy said...

Dave, I don't know how I posted my comment three times. My computer or my internets connection farted! Please delete at least two of them and this on too! SORRY!

Jan said...

Dave - Share what you can but remain safe. Ruby is the important one and you shared with her. I like the ideas shared by some for some general strategies we can share with the Ruby's in our lives. Take care and keep safe Dave we need your strength

Anonymous said...

Whether you share your "magic" words or not has to do with your feeling of safety in doing so. You will make a good decision - of that I am confident.

I wonder if you can encourage Ruby to use your strategy (rather than your words). Could she be supported in creating her own mantra of protection from bullying? After all, it worked well for you - and I am confident she would be able (with some support and encouragement) to do the same for herself.

Holly Salsman said...

Hi Dave, I really think in your blog you answered your own question. :) When you were young and being bullied, those magic words worked for you BECAUSE it was a secret that no one knew. You protected it and kept it safe, and in turn those words helped shield you from the harshness of the world around you.
Ruby will have the opportunity to use that shield in the same way, it could be her own little secret that she will tuck away and keep safe to help protect her from the cruelness she is already experiencing at such a young age. Having a secret gives you a sense of power, a sense of being a part of something that is bigger than yourself. If you're selective about those whom you share it with, with those who really truly need it, I think they become stronger.

Andrea S. said...

Dave,

There are other things that you have not chosen to share with us because ... they're too personal. Or just not our business. Or maybe just not relevant.

What makes this different? If you *want* to share that's one thing. But since you're feeling conflicted enough to ask for people's opinions, then I wonder if there is a real "want" there or if there might be a sense of obligation involved, which is a different thing. Are you really "obligated" to share, even with bullying victims who aren't Ruby? I don't think so. Some things are personal enough that you shouldn't feel you have to reveal that part of yourself, and especially not if those magic words still have power for you--power that you may need to hold on to. There are other ways to help people that shouldn't have to involve revealing yourself in ways that maybe you don't feel ready for.

If you feel moved to share the words with a specific person, as you did with Ruby, go ahead. Maybe there are times when sharing the words make them feel more powerful, at least for you (though I'm with the people who are guessing that each person probably has a different set of "magical words" that would work for them and that maybe magic words can't be transferred, at least not directly ... maybe only the concept of having them and possibly a strategy for coming up with your own set of words could be shared).

If you're debating sharing them with Joe ... sure, if that feels right to you. Just because he's Joe, and you already know he'll treat those words with the care they deserve. But if you're debating putting them up on the blog for the whole world to read them ... then you should only do that if you feel ready. Maybe I'm wrong. But I'm thinking if you really did feel ready, you would have simply shared the words. If you're asking, then I wonder if you really feel ready yet. In which case, none of us have a right to know these words.

Andrea S. said...

To Tracy,

Yes, the computer sometimes likes to double post my comments too. I can't remember off hand if it has ever triple posted for me, but it wouldn't surprise me. Isn't technology grand? LOL!

Anonymous said...

I'd keep it to myself if I knew that I shared as much of myself as you do. You've given us enough, you don't need to give us everything. I bet we all have our own magic words that we could find. Sharing that concept should be enough for us. My goodness you had a rough start, but my goodness look how far you've come. You may not feel it, but most of us here want just a few ounces of the strength we find in you!

Tamara said...

I'd vote for no. Sometimes sharing things with the world is powerful; sometimes not so much.

Save them for the right situations. Share privately when someone needs them.

Anonymous said...

Your instincts all your life were right. It was a precious gift that you gave to Ruby. If need be she can share this special something. Your blog readers are special wonderful people but for them to ask for something so obviously precious and private was crossing the line. You do not need to share with them just because they ask.

coffeetalk said...

Dave, you share so much of yourself with your readers already. If you feel compelled to share this, you should. If it still chills you to the bone, then you don't have to. Here's the thing, though. If you do share it, you will have overcome a huge personal hurdle. You will have trusted and survived whatever the outcome. Because you will survive! You are a strong, intelligent, caring individual who has survived already. I believe that this is a safe place for you to share, but it doesn't matter what I believe. Your beliefs are what matters. When my alcoholic, emotionally bereft dad was dying and his family asked me what they should say, I told them "Say what you have to say to have no regrets". I say the same to you, Dave. No regrets either way, OK? Take care my friend.

Anonymous said...

You asked recently that people would comment and I haven't done. I thought that i would comment today as I had something to say. However when I got here, people had said it better than I could

pink doberman wrote: My philosophy is if it can help someone and I am no longer in need of it then I should share it.

That being said, if you still need to hold it tight to not let it go don't

Maggie said...

Dave, I'm so grateful for the transparency of your process, here as in many other blogposts. I learn so much from you.

About the magic words ... Some of us (me, certainly) thought you were speaking generically about the situation of being bullied, and the verbal responses one might make to bullies. I'm afraid I heard the phrase "magic words" pretty much the way my parents used it, which was as a semi-jovial code for "those words you know but have forgotten to use" -- usually, in our case, "please" and "thank you."

When I read the comments asking for the magic words, I thought I was reading a request for "more guidance in handling bullies." Certainly I would never have asked you for a personal mantra or a privately-made-up personal protection spell.

In my own life, these days, I often use a set of words publicized decades ago by a woman whose name I wish I could recall: "I am who I am, I look the way I look, I am my age." This allows me to get out the door to some public event where I know I will look 64 and frumpy, without having too much self-judgment about that.

Thank you, so much, for the many blessings you share with us.

Brenda said...

My wise (and deeply missed) Mom used to say: "If in doubt, leave it out." If there's a part of you that is wary about sharing something so personal, then please don't. Sure, we're curious; that's human nature. But in reality, I wouldn't want you to do anything that left you feeling uncomfortable in any way. Whatever you feel is right - IS right. Go with whatever your gut is telling you.

Daisy said...

Dave, your question reminds me of an earlier story you posted about when Ruby didn't want to let other kids try on her Halloween mask. Like you pointed out then, it made sense to keep her mask from getting other kids' snot all over the inside of it. You very astutely observed that sharing something like that would be a little too personal and that Ruby was just establishing healthy boundaries by putting limits on her sharing. I think you can apply the same logic here. You have plenty of great advice to offer on dealing with bullying without letting other people try on your mask of magic words!

Daisy

adult standing frames said...

My thoughts go out to Ruby - as for the situation go with youur instincts.

Kristin said...

Dave, I'd like to assure you that you would get nothing but respectful discussion and from your regular readers and commenters you would. However, I can't guarantee there wouldn't be an ass clown who did a drive by. If it scares you so much or makes you feel so vulnerable, then do NOT share those words here.

Ashley's Mom said...

I suggest you ask each commenter to share one of their life strategies. If you get a group of those in the comments, perhaps you will feel more comfortable sharing yours.

I'll start...

When I can get to sleep at night because of all the worries tumbling through my brain, I imagine that I am out in a beautiful meadow. It is night time. God is sitting under a large apple tree. I sit down beside him, lean my head against his shoulder, and he strokes my hair. The calmness overhelms me and I drift peacefully off to sleep.

wendy said...

Dave,

I understand the dilemma. If it feels you with dread and you would feel hurt or diminished if someone mocked you then don't do it. There is never any way of knowing what you will get in response to a post and it's not worth doing if it still has the power to be hurtful. We will all survive you holding some stuff back. You told Ruby. It will help her not because the words are magical but because they were given to her by someone she loves and who loves her.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Although I would love to know the "magic words" - it is mostly curiosity. Not a good enough reason for you to share something that personal and take such a big risk. I think you should not share them unless you feel confident that someone ridiculing you for those words would not harm you - and that is not what I am hearing. I think that this would make you way too vulnerable. If you have not even shared them with Joe then sharing them on the blog - not a good idea. Just my opinion.

Much gratitude for what you do share
Colleen

Shan said...

Naw, I think you should keep it private. Ruby is family, that's different.

J. said...

Safety matters a lot. No one has to justify what they need to feel safe, even if others don't understand.

I have my own magic tricks that I have used to cope with horrible things over the years and like you, I have not shared them. When my daughter needed some magic words we came up with some together and they work beautifully for her. I did not share my own words and inner workings, just the process and my love for her. The words that work the protective and strengthening magic for me probably wouldn't work for you and yours might not work for me. I suspect that if we were to share them we would have a deep respect for what we hear, but magic is something deeply personal and goes far beyond any grouping of words.

Suelle said...

I like the idea of keeping your magic words yours. You don't want to lose that magic for yourself. I think we all have our own magic words, we just don't realize it.

Clay said...

Sure, I'd like to know what your "magic words" are, but I agree you have no obligation to share them, if it makes you uncomfortable.

What I always did, when people called me names or made remarks to me was to tell myself that they were "just words in the air", and I could let them pass by. They always went by at the speed of sound, unhindered by me. ;-)

Myrrien said...

I've not read anyone's comments yet but my feeling is you shouldn't if it is that deep and private. Oh I would love to know, I need to know how to cope with these things myself but not if it is going to leave you too exposed

Anonymous said...

Dave,
I think the magic words are the words you share here. What a wonderful community you've pulled together - and what a safe place you've created for talking about things that can seem so difficult to talk about. I agree with other commenters who've mentioned that the idea is what's important, while the exact words can remain private.

And don't forget what magic is contained in a name; naming the problem, naming your solution, having a name for yourself even as others use names to hurt you - all of these are a kind of magic that you already share with your readers.

mcs

lisa said...

Dave,
I think you should keep those words safe within you. And of course, if you need to share them with someone special, like Ruby, then I am sure you will. But, I think you make yourself vulnerable already. Take good care of yourself.
Lisa

ivanova said...

If it were me, I'd keep it to myself. Just one jerk passing through on the internet could make a hurtful comment that might damage something that's been precious to you. You give a lot. And I think we all need to make up our own stories and magic words to help the kids in our lives.

Stephanie said...

Perhaps it may seem a bit simplistic, or even cold, but the strategy I use to make such decisions is similar to risk analysis in a business decision.

I ask myself this question: "Is the chance to help others worth the risk of being hurt?"

Often, the answer is yes. But some things really are too painful to share, and that's okay, too.

I don't do a list of pros and cons--I've never found such lists useful when it comes to "weighing" emotions. But by asking myself the question the balance tends to shift one way or the other. I haven't regretted the decisions I've come to based on this yet.