Not a day goes by without me being fully aware of how many people have it much worse than I do. Much of my correspondence with the outside world includes folks so ravaged by their disease that they can’t stay in their own homes. An acquaintance of mine recently had to move to an assisted living facility. At 53. Because she can no longer bathe or dress herself.
I think of her when I’m bathing my smaller dog to wash off the pee my bigger dog put there. (It’s not the best of ideas to have one pet who stands at exactly penis-height of the other.) I think of her when I’m dealing with the two dozen other daily rituals of the RA-stricken.
My post yesterday turned from a blithe, breezy entry about my aging memory into a little bit of a funky riff on the bully in my life. So then someone anonymous–with all the courage that refusing to identify yourself affords–pops up in the comments to tell me to suck up because at least I’m not drowning in radioactive flood waters or starving in the wherever-people-are-starving-now-and-the-cool-white-guilters-like-to-bring-up. In short, they came to bully me about how you shouldn’t whine about being bullied because God is the biggest bully of all.
That “It Gets Better” book is having its big publicity tour now. It’s the book that was compiled from the stories of the adult homosexuals who survived the years of being bullied gay teens. The point of the It Gets Better movement is to let gay teens know that there is hope and they won’t spend their whole lives being picked on for being homosexual.
There is, you will note, no equivalent book for those who got picked on because they were fat (check), weird, (check), smart (check), nerdy (check). We just either had to figure out on our own that life had to get better because it couldn’t get much worse OR we had to embrace being the clown in other people’s worlds. Or a little bit of both. That is, of course, if we wanted to survive.
I know that I’m lucky. I know that I eventually figured out I was pretty (check), funny (check), smart and nerdy (check and check) and that there were as many people who wanted to get to know me as there were who wanted to hold my head under the water of their disapprobation until I stopped breathing their air. Now at 40 I find myself in the unique position of being truly and deeply loved by enough people to make the hate not matter anymore.
Most of the time. There are still times, like these past few weeks, where the cruelty of others starts to remind me of the cumulative cruelty I’ve lived with and suddenly starts to look like a wall I can’t climb over. I know it’s not starving. Or gasping in thirst for potable water. Or having your house swept away by the earth’s heaving. But there is a point where sadness is sadness and pain is pain. And telling another person that they have no right to be sad, no right to be in pain is the cruellest jab of them all.