This has been an unexpectedly difficult week for me, and even though I knew it might be, I am still shocked at just how much so. For example, I am up at 1:40 AM right now because I cannot get to sleep. I have all these thoughts bouncing around in my head and they aren’t letting me get enough peace to go to bed until I do something with them. And so this is it.
The cause is not the movie “Bully,” but it is most assuredly the catalyst. This film has been on my radar for quite some time, because it is a topic about as close to my heart as anything else I could imagine. It is unfortunate timing that its initial release into the world comes at a time when I am back in my hometown of Rochester. I never know what combination of memory, nostalgia, anxiety, regret, or anger will strike me when I am here. On a good visit, I feel nothing at all. At a time like this… well…. all it does is show me how truly little I’ve healed up and how far I have not come.
You see, there’s a little version of me who never grew up. He’s trapped in hell, which I have always imagined would be like junior high, but for all eternity. He shouts at me a lot because he thinks I have forgotten about him, and all he’s suffered through. When I try to come to peace with who I am, he likes to say “How can you turn your back on all this? You were there! We can never forget. We can never forgive.”
A couple of years ago, in a time of deep prayer and meditation, I came to realize that this version of me isn’t really me, and maybe never was. This is the mask the devil uses to keep me angry, to keep me from forgiveness, and he does it because it works so well. I really did believe I had him licked. I haven’t thought about him or listened to him for a good long while now, but the Lenten message has been all about forgiveness, and how sometimes maybe we haven’t forgiven when we think we have, or when we say we have. And there’s this movie, you see…
Before we go any further, you have to realize that the idea of “closure,” as it is commonly held in regards to earthly justice, is complete bullshit. Ask someone who has attended or marked the execution of a killer who took away a loved one, and odds are that what they will tell you is that they are taken aback at how little things change for them inside. The person put to death is never the person they really hate, the person who did all these things to hurt them. They’re just what that person became. The people we really hate are locked inside our memories at the time they hurt us, and the sad irony is that those people are gone, no longer with us. As hard as it was for me to realize, the same holds true even if the person hurt us even days ago.
What freed me then, and will hopefully be my way out again, was for God to show me that it wasn’t just the people who caused me pain who no longer exist. Rather, the person to whom these people did it also no longer exists. I am not that person, and never need to be again.
I’ve talked around it, and it should be obvious by now even if one didn’t know, but I was bullied fairly relentlessly all through school. I don’t really feel like getting into particulars unless it is to serve some sort of point. It doesn’t here, and I’m angry enough already. Mostly at myself, which makes me angrier still:
–I hate that I have looked up online the people who used to bully me while secretly wishing that they have led horrible lives, or have a terminal disease, or are dead.
–I hate that when I happen to find that in the rare case where it is so, that I don’t get any pleasure out of it, and I hate that I want to.
–I hate that the reason I don’t hunt or have a gun in the house for protection is because I know I would use it on myself. I hate that I can’t get myself to take out life insurance on myself because the temptation to buy off my family with my death might be too strong.
–I hate how when I go into a high school I no longer recognize, where no one I knew still works there, to give a copy of my new book to the library where I no longer know my way around in hopes that someone will read it and find meaning in it, that my first instinct when a group of kids less than half my age comes walking down the hallway there is still to keep my head down and avoid eye contact.
–I hate that I am not in bed, asleep. I hate that I am crying.
–I hate that I know their names, but have forgotten the names or maiden names of so many of those who didn’t make my life miserable.
–But most of all, I hate that I still have to take medication whose purpose is to try to keep me from killing myself because when I was in high school I tried to and part of me has never stopped wanting to end the pain.
Here is a fun fact for all my old high school classmates who read this blog and/or follow me on Facebook. Many of my fellow alums might remember that I gave the closing speech at our commencement ceremony, a speech I called “Hidden Talents.” What I’ve never shared before was that the aforementioned speech was one I wrote with the sole purpose of being a speech likely to get me chosen as someone to speak at graduation. What no one knows is that I had a second speech in my pocket, and if I had been less of a coward, I was going to read it instead. The gist of that one was that the thing I was most grateful for was that I was going to be leaving, and that I never had to spend another day in the presence of my tormentors. And I was going to start naming them, in front of everybody. At least until someone would have gotten the presence of mind to cut the microphone or tackle me off the stage.
But I chickened out. I read the cutesy speech instead, and never said what I really wanted to. That was probably for the best. For my sake as much as for anyone else.
It’s now close to 3 AM. It’s a good bet that all the people whose harsh words, brutal fists, and abominable actions have put me sitting here are sound asleep. They’re still getting the best of me. But I keep hoping that maybe someday, somehow, because of me, someone else won’t be doing this somewhere down the road. They’ll be sound asleep, too. Maybe that person will be me.
So to summarize, if the movie “Bully” is playing near you, then go see the fucking movie. It won’t be a feel-good movie, and I apologize for that. I’m sorry it needs to even exist. But it does.
And I know why.