Guilting the Lily

I would like to just walk away from this, but it sticks in my heart and mind, the charge that I am a bully. Look inside myself—anonymous, and one not-so -nonymous, commenters said to me. If they are saying I’m a bully and they know many, many people who agree, then it must be so. Their feelings are valid. (Okay, they also accuse me of a having a “chronic need” for validation and recognition, which I think is a bit ironic.)

I did look inside myself and couldn’t find the bully they described. But I found it hard to write a blog post. Nothing seemed to get through the fog. The more I told myself to let go, the harder it was to think of something else. It was kind of like when I was a kid on Christmas Eve and the grown ups told me that Santa wouldn’t come until I fell asleep—and then I tried to fall asleep.

I just couldn’t get the voices of the chorus out of my body, mind, heart, and psyche. I had no idea what to do with that energy.

So, I set on a quest to understand what it was I needed to let go of.

Betrayal? That was painful, but that healed.

Anger? As always, that one subsides with time.

The hope that things could have been different? Almost there.

And then, I found it, lurking in my genetic conditioning—what I need to let go of: guilt and shame. Guilt for believing that I am entitled to be recognized for my accomplishments and shame for voicing it.

I will readily admit that the most painful thing for me is when someone willfully doesn’t “hear” me.

I will also readily admit that not being heard is a deeply rooted wound for me. I believe that when that happens, I attempt again and again to be heard, increasing the desperation and then the volume, as if either will solve the problem. I become relentless in my attempt to be heard.

I suspect my relentlessness is what is being translated as bullying. It is perceived as hostility, but really, it’s anger. I would say that willfully not hearing someone is a hostile act—a passively hostile act. I suspect that the decision to willfully not hear is a defense mechanism, one that might not even be conscious. It’s probably reflexive.

But that’s the other person. The question for me is: why the relentless pursuit to be heard when it’s clear that the person either doesn’t have the ears that are capable of hearing or just doesn’t think it’s important to hear me.

There is that niggling voice inside me that preaches guilt: who am I to expect to be heard—it is after all, just me.

So, really, I end up yelling at my own guilt. It’s the most useless form of guilt ever created by humans—a guilt for which there is no way out, because there is no reason to feel guilty to begin with. It is our birthright to feel entitled to our own life.

If gilding the lily means giving something a deceptively attractive or improved appearance, then I think guilt over feeling entitled to one’s own life is “guilting the lily.”

I don’t think we need to do either with our lives.

In defense of my relentlessness, it was my relentless pursuit to have writing as an art integrated into Art Happens that got Storied Nights established. I continued pursuing that goal when other writers who wanted a venue for recognition of all forms of writing gave up. Tricky thing, it is, the strength that can also be your weakness.

My Fair Waterfowl Day

Last week, as I approached the entrance to our sun room, there, not more than six feet in front of me, was a mama duck and her ducklings, fuzzy little ducks not yet ready to fly.

I had surprised her. As I fumbled for my iPhone to get a picture, she quickly gathered them under her wings, pushed them to a corner under the rhododendron bush, and marched towards me.

Yup. She marched. She didn’t waddle.

I backed up toward the door to my Writing Shed. She turned left, outstretched her wings, made a noise that sounded like a wounded bird, then did what looked like waddling while flying low to the ground, drawing me away. I followed her as she made her way through the yard, worried that perhaps she was wounded. She made for the Japanese maple tree surrounded by overgrown stuff.

In a stunningly Homer-Simpson-“doh!” moment, I realized that I needed to back off and give her space. I headed to our front porch and waited. She peeked around the bush, head held high. She saw me, let out a quack, then waddled back towards the sun room.

It was an impressive moment of maternal courage. I was in awe. I hope that her head-held-high quack was an indignant moment for her in which she understood that I had gotten the message—stay away from my children.

I managed to get photos of her and her ducklings as they headed away from the rhododendron bush to a more secure vegetative covering. At that point, I think she was at least convinced I wouldn’t kill them, but she might have been thinking, this picture better not end up on Facebook.

It did. And now, it’s on my blog.

duck and ducklings

Later that day, as I drove down Third towards town, the goose family was crossing the road. This was an extended family of some sort. The goslings seemed to range in age from itty-bitty-but-able-to-waddle to adolescent-but-still fuzzy. The adult geese acted as sentinels, flanking their young as traffic stopped waiting for them to cross the road. Their necks stretched high, their heads turning once to let me know that they saw me.

Why did the geese cross the road?

So I could get pictures of them. I had plenty of time to whip out my iPhone as they herded the various members of the younger goslings. They weren’t in a hurry. They were determined, however, to get them all across the street safely.
Perhaps the head turning was to say, “These picture better not end up on Facebook.”

They did. And now, they’re on my blog.

These encounters with waterfowl made my day. I can’t even explain why. Or maybe I can.

It just seemed like moments when two species co-existed in the same space at the same time and worked it out.

This seems so fair to me.

I’ve been accused of being a bully recently, in an anonymous post in a comments section on a blog. I had commented on the blog because its author had taken credit for something I had done. When I pointed that out, the author rewrote history again, this time to make herself the victim of my comment.

The anonymous commenter (I believe this was a woman) pointed out that I had a chronic need for recognition and validation. Many, many people agreed with her on this point, as well as my bullying ways, she claimed.

Bullying is nasty. It’s the coward’s way of asserting power by humiliating another simply to gain a sense of power. I think there is a difference between that and standing up for oneself—holding someone accountable for her willful misrepresentation of history to make herself the star of a show she never even participated in.

I do have a chronic need for recognition and validation. Just like that duck and those geese, I believe it is my right to be recognized—to be seen—and to be validated—to have my right to exist in my own space to be respected.

So that’s it. I just figured out why that day was such a fair waterfowl day for me. The universe (as it were) gave me not one, but two opportunities to mess with another creature’s vulnerability. Neither the geese nor the duck were bullies. They were standing up to me and claiming what was theirs to protect and defend. Instead of messing with their vulnerability, I respected it as life expressing itself.

Being smart does not make a woman a bully. Asserting her right to recognition and validation is not a pathology.

I’m not a bully. I’m a strong, smart woman who feels entitled to defend and protect that which she created.

There, I feel better now.

Note: I drove by the geese later that week: