Loving My First Bully
I’LL ALWAYS remember where I was the moment I officially became an adult: on the sofa of Mark’s 10th Avenue Manhattan apartment, in the middle of an argument over something so irrelevant that I can't even remember it now.
I felt like I was talking to a brick wall and was frustrated beyond belief. That’s when I heard the telltale whistle of an F-bomb a comin’. Instead of dropping it, I calmly said, “I want to call you a name right now that I really don’t like. It’s time for me to go.”
And so I left.
On the cab ride home, all I could think about was the fact that I had almost sworn at him. And no sir, I did not like it.
Before you go thinking, “Aw…how very Pollyanna of you, Erin!” there’s something I need to explain.
I grew up in a house with a father who blew his top first and apologized later. And not in a funny, “To the moon, Alice!” Honeymooner’s-type way. Because his mom had died when he was young, my dad was prone to childlike temper tantrums.
Sometimes he would pick me up by my neck with both hands and force me to look him in the eye while he screamed and shook me midair to illustrate his rage.
By the time I was a teenager, I learned to survive by out crazying the crazy. If he screamed, I screamed louder. If he put his hands on me, I pushed back. And when I did, he would tell my mom that I needed to be put in a foster home because he was afraid of me.
Come to think of it, my dad was my very first bully.
So when I was able to recognize my impending outburst and stop it in its tracks, it wasn’t just my first “grown up” moment; it the first time I ever stood up to my own inner bully.
In the past month the world has gotten exponentially crazy and I have struggled to find words that emphasize the importance of loving others in the face of their hate.
With all the despair over mass shootings, the impending threat of ISIS and whatever else might have happened by the time this column makes it to print, saying “just love each other” might seem ridiculous, if not pointless.
But it’s necessary.
So I will do my best to speak honestly and from the heart.
The reason I love those who commit unlovable acts is because I have done them myself. Violence and hatred are learned behaviors taught by those of us who are doing our best and haven’t yet learned how to do better.
I love because I have lived with the guilt and despair of doing unlovable things that are untrue to my heart; especially when I hurt those I love most.
I love because I have been as scared of myself as everyone else was, even more so.
I love because I have been too ashamed to say, “I’m sorry.”
I love because there’s nothing more healing than the compassion of others when I feel unworthy of forgiveness.
I love because we learn by example.
Originally published in Connect Savannah (p. 45)