Tuesday, January 18, 2011
A little off topic but....
I have a couple of friends - although if you spent more than 5 minutes in their company you would question that term who have known each other for years.
I've known them since I was about 7. Growing up in the country regions of NSW in a town called Broke (yes its true do a Google:) there weren't many kids around and they both had siblings who were much older so they were both growing up sort of as the only child in their family.
James I guess was the more obviously cool kid one academically gifted and was always into sports swimming was real passion even when he was 6 or 7 and he had hopes of getting into it competitively later on life.
Michael was also intelligent but was not quite as outgoing and tended to not be as much of a class clown as James so didn't get as much attention. What I DO remember about Michael was that he was just a really caring, kind kid who had his own funny sense of humour and would always be there no matter what you needed.
You could see that Michael idolised James and they were thick as thieves
When it came to going to high school in town (in Australia high school starts at 12'ish years old) they were both looking forward to a new adventure. By that age they physically looked much different Michael's Mum had opened a convenience store in the small town and he spent much of his time working in the store repacking shelves and eating a lot of lollies by the looks of him!
Over the summer before high school started Michael had packed on more weight I remember him talking about being really nervous about high school and being picked on but he knew his mate James would look out for him we were all going to the same high school so we assumed there would be safety in numbers.
The first day of high school dawned and as James and Michael got on the bus they just seemed a little weird with each other James was poking fun at Michael's new weight gain in good humour but he just wouldn't leave it alone through the whole first trip to a new high school.
Within just a few minutes of the first lunch time starting, kids started to pick on Michael about his weight. Puberty seems to trigger the mean gene in many kids.
James was straight in there and made sure that Michael was kept out of harms way. It continued like this I guess for quite a few months but the awful thing to see was the change in James.
As those terrible teens hit James still defended Michael in public but I could see that James was starting to get embarrassed about being around Michael and I would hear James harassing Michael about his weight and how he needed to do something.
It got worse over the years Michael didn't give up on the friendship (I guess they were set to be friends for life and he would often tell James he wanted to be him when he grew up) but James always seemed to be at Michael about his weight, his clothes, his hair there were days when the friendly banter got pretty nasty and I really felt sorry for Michael having to put up with it.
He was publicly bullied every day and then James would be in his ear every morning and night about being fat, about looking awful, sniping and picking at him at every chance.
As they grew older they remained in contact but the bullying just seemed to get nastier and more personal James was on a mission it seemed I just couldn't understand their relationship but who knows what defines a friendship I guess.
Michael ended up being quite a loner in his adult life because of his weight many was the time I would encourage him to go out but he always some excuse or other - but James never allowed the friendship to dwindle or to disintegrate I mean they were buddies and hung out all the time but the basis of their friendship really became more about James feeling good about putting Michael down.
James did really well for himself - had carved himself out a very successful career and family quite early on he'd used his academic talents well and had become what society would deem a balanced and successful individual
But his achilles heel seemed to be his friendship with Michael - you could see it - at parties, at dinner every time I saw them there was a constant barrage of criticism from James and Michael just took it. I just did NOT understand why they remained friends.
The bullying just seemed to get worse over time I'd heard that at one stage Michael was so depressed I guess over his weight battle that he attempted suicide in his early 20's .
Michael didn't actually tell me about this we were all out one night very drunk and James as usual was picking on Michael about something or other and then I overhead James laugh to himself and quietly tell Michael he was such a loser he couldn't even manage to suicide successfully.
I was devastated and I made it my mission to try and break up this toxic friendship how could someone who was apparently a best friend be this cruel to his friend who was clearly suffering deeply.
Michael really hit bottom after the suicide attempt he started to drink heavily and it seemed like every time we spoke he was either hung over or drunk. This went on for years into his 30's and 40's.
Gambling started to take hold as well and whilst he was earning a decent living he threw most of it away .
I never really understood the Michael I knew was an amazing human being, full of love and compassion for others but he just didn't seem to be able to find any love for himself.
James and he remained in their bizarre friendship throughout this time James seemed to take some perverse delight in Michael's downward spiral.
In the end I just let it be it wasn't up to me to try and fix this broken relationship I guess.
Fast forward to today. I was doing some New Year calls to friends and decided to give Michael a ring and see how he was - after quite a few years.
Everytime I spoke to him previously I always managed to include some comment about him ending the friendship with James move on for Gods sake enough is enough.
I finally asked him what the deal was why the hell he and James were still friends after this many years and he told me.
And he told me.
He had no one else that understood him. He had no one else that really understood what he was going through. Because even though James was forever picking on him, bullying him and never left him alone about his weight he was the one person that had stuck with him through thick and thin. Because James was the only person that Michael felt that he could be himself with while many of us saw the terrible way that James treated him there was an underlying bond that kept them together.
But thank God - they had parted ways only a few months ago after Michael finally stood up to him and told James that he was not about spend another 50 years being bullyed by someone and they ended their friendship.
I asked Michael what actually happened what was the thing that made him finally ditch James.
And he told me.
He finally accepted that he could never be James that he was meant for a different path and no matter how much he tried to be James, emulate James, be the typically normal, succesful human that James was the standard to which society says we should aspire it was just wrong.
He was himself a caring, loving man who had never allowed himself to be just him, a man who had never stopped and seen the good in himself.
A man who was so broken by his weight, his depression, the constant bullying, the inability of others to understand that the comfort of food, the numbness of drinking and the artificial highs of gambling were all better than facing the pain. A man who spent his entire life battling the scars from the abuse and hate that so many had piled upon him because he looked different. A man who never tried to just be with himself, who never stopped to wonder what could be if he simply made peace with who he was if just allowed himself be himself.
And now he was ready to accept that he was someone who had worth. Some one who, at his core, was a compassionate, caring loving man who only saw the good in people and who trusted to a fault - no matter how many times he was beaten down by others. He could always see that at their essence everyone wants the same thing. To be recognised as beings of worth, to be respected and to be allowed to just be who we are.
He had finally started to seek peace within instead of trying to find comfort from hiding and eating and slowly destroying himself.
He was finally ready to give in and just let himself.... be.
And yes Michael and James are ME - James the bitter unfulfilled me that has never been happy and Michael the overweight me who never lived up to my own expectations.
I am the person who continued to believe that James' path was the one I should travel and that Michael's path was the one I would forever be stuck with.
I am the person who allowed James - myself - to bully me to the point where I was almost snuffed out of existence and spent most of my life pretending to others that I was fine.
And I am now the person that is starting to understand that the bully in me is wrong there is more to me than just the fat that has defined my actions, my relationships and my life for so many years.
I have sometimes questioned why, in my late 40's, I was given an opportunity to work in the middle east. The circumstances that bought me here were odd - working for a small ticketing company in Sydney in a middle mgt position and suddenly here I am in Dubai because they decided to open one other branch halfway across the world and myself and 2 other people were sent to get it going. Huh?
I strongly believe in the fact that everything happens for a reason - and I have sometimes questioned what bought me here and away from home.
And only now am I starting to see the why.
Of all the places in the world, I end up in a place where drinking - while available - does not mean you can pick up a bottle at the pub (a what?) and go home and drown. And where gambling is illegal.
Too coincidental I think - someone out there is looking out for me.
And after 3 years of wondering why I am really here I am starting understand. I have somehow been given a chance to hit the pause button on my old life, stop, take a breath and look at where I am.
And only now, after so long, am I finally able to feel - that's all - just feel. Feel all that pain and anger and hurt. And be ok with it. And be able to accept it and start to move on from it.
The weight of all of those years is starting to lift off my shoulders and finally - at nearly 50 - do I feel I can start to just let myself ... be who I am.
To let myself just...be.
So to any of you who may have stumbled across this blog and seen some of your life in mine stay true and know that you too have a path to be travelled and you are a person of worth...whether or not you know it yet.
Thanks for reading.