I stopped work early today to pick up my daughter who, this morning, mentioned she was really tired. I thought it’d help her to come home early and get some downtime. I got on MUNI to head towards the stop near her school. In the subway, downtown, the streetcar lurched and screeched and screamed in a sudden fast stop. I was standing, holding on, and I fell, flew forward down the aisle, caught myself on my knees and hands. It happened in seconds. I saw a woman, sitting, fall forward and hit her head on a pole.
The man who had been standing next to me did nothing, watched me as I got up and caught his eye, turned away from me. The elderly ladies sitting in seats exclaimed, “are you OK? would you like my seat? Do you need help?” I felt bruised and scraped and slightly embarrassed as I picked myself up, grabbed my bag of computer and gadgets and regained my position on the streetcar. I was fine. My knees ached, I could feel the scraped skin, my hands burning from the landing, and I’m just waiting for 3 more stops to pass so I can get off this bully of a streetcar.
I grew up in the country, in a beautiful house on beautiful land with beautiful views, at the top of a hill with a 1/4 mile long gravel driveway from the local highway up to our house. Early every morning, as a child, I would walk/run down the gravel driveway, with its curves, past the clump of trees where my imagination claimed tigers and lions lived, to meet the school bus down on the local country highway. I rode the bus for an hour to get to school. Sometimes I would fall while running down the last hill, rocks scraping into my knees, above my knee socks, below my skirt or dress hem. I’d get onto the school bus with bleeding knees, some kids would point and laugh at me, and the ever gracious kind bus driver, Nancy, would hand me bandaids.
Today on MUNI, with my knees aching and feeling scraped after falling and flying down the aisle, the memory of the gravel driveway and running for the school bus felt fresh, along with the memory of the kids making fun of me. There were a lot of bullies in my elementary and jr high and high school years. In elementary school, for a year or two I had pointy toed saddle shoes and kicked-in-the-shins anyone who made fun of me or my friends. Was I a bully too? Or was I protecting myself? What’s really the difference? Aren’t some bullies acting out of reactionary self-loathing?
Recently I felt bullied on Twitter, reminded of the gravel grinding into the skin of my knees, when a friend wrote vitriol and curses to me and my wife. She’s since removed the curses that she directed at me and my wife.
My wife, Moya Watson, has written and spoken a lot about, and helped create media about, bullying online and offline and within one’s self. The way she listens and hears the stories and experiences of others, expresses, her own and other’s experiences, and weaves all of the humanity, is a luminescent beauty.
Last night I went to a splendiforous dinner party at Firehouse 8 where the entreaty at the start of dinner, once everyone was seated, was to leave our inner critics at the door. That can be a self-bully, that inner critic. The one who can say you’re not ____ enough.
So this city, these friends, that friend, those people, the damn streetcar, your own self, we it all have bullies within and around us. The trick for me right now, the attention, is to be aware and conscious of the full drama of humanity, also, within and around, with love and kindness on the flip side of anger bullying criticism.