Monday, May 23, 2011
I recently had an encounter at an end-of-year picnic that my youngest son and I attended to mark the end (yippee) of one of his sports. There were a number of families there that I had never met because this is a sport (rugby) that has a number of teams of all different age groups. We had no sooner arrived than I practically bumped into a man who was screaming obscenities in the face of his young son, who looked to be about 11 years old. My own 7 y.o. happily ran off to play with some teammates and was oblivious to the ugly encounter, but I stood frozen for a second, shocked at what I was witnessing. The father was a burly guy with a shaved head and a beard - he had a menacing look but that could have been because he was enraged. Most people look a bit intimidating (and, honestly, often foolish) when they are engulfed in anger. The child's crime? He was not participating in a skills drill. I will be the first to admit, I get frustrated with my children on a daily basis. I have sworn around my children. I have spoken to them harshly, and thusly, have apologized many times when I have let my temper and impatience get the better of me. I have great empathy for parents who are having a bad day with their kids and I have reminded myself, at times, when I am tempted to judge someone for speaking harshly to a a child, "I have no idea what they have been going through". This was beyond frustration. This was bullying, plain and simple. I very quietly, so the child, whose back was to me, would not hear, said to the father "please stop that". He immediately turned on me, which enabled his son to make a quick getaway which was the whole point of me butting into the tirade. He screamed at me to mind my own business (a valid point) to which I reminded him that it became my business when it occurred inches from me. It isn't as if I broke down their door (though, if I had heard what he was screaming coming from behind closed doors, it would have been tempting to do something, anything - it was awful). He told me "I say whatever I want" to which I replied "well, clearly, you do" and, as you can tell, this was not a confrontation that would turn into a useful conversation, and so, it ended - him glaring at me, me glaring back - but no more words exchanged. Believe me, it occurs to me that he may have then taken it out on his wife (who was there but showed no sign of responding) or the son, but I have no control over that and bullies count on people remaining too fearful to act. I pray it never goes beyond screaming, and that they seek help, especially for the children so they know that it is not normal be treated like that. I have no idea what others' were thinking, or observing. For that one awful moment it was just he and I and, for a split second I braced myself for a blow because he was furious and I was now the object of his fury and I was within striking distance. I escaped an abusive marriage when I was a teenager. It was long ago, long forgiven, and taught me many useful lessons, once I had some safe distance. It was interesting to me that such a long forgotten response would come roaring back inside my body. He knew, though, that hitting me would be an instant "do not pass go, proceed straight to jail" card for him. Not too much time passed (with us at opposite ends of the picnic grounds) that I was in front of the buffet table. I chose spinach salad, no chips, no brats, and three tiny desserts. I was aware, when I was eating those petite little sugar-bombs, that I was taking them in much like, many years ago, I would inhale deeply from a cigarette, or take a pull off a bottle of liquor. They offered momentary pleasure, and then, minutes later, I felt like Dorothy in the poppy field on her way to OZ - I was so tired, I just wanted to lie down and sleep. I spoke to a friend later in the day, about what had gone on earlier. She (who is far smarter and better educated than I) said "oh, of course - you had a fight or flight response, and when the body has an acute episode of this the liver dumps glucose and goes looking for more, so the sugar is exactly what your body and brain were searching for". Well, hello, you just described much of my life, especially the past few years. I have had a lot of "fight or flight" for reasons I won't go into here (though I have touched on some of it in previous blogs). My liver has been on a glucose dumping mission for many years and I have accomodated it by being a very accomplished glucose replenisher. This was a lightbulb moment for me. I had known this to some degree, but the incident yesterday put it in stark relief. In order to truly overhaul my eating habits, and restore my body to it's God-intended size, I have to be diligent about examining and treating stressors, both small and large. This has never been more obvious to me. I have some tools that are very useful - prayer, exercise, reading, more exercise, friends, Sparkfriends, blogging, tv (a great diversion if not overused), family (when they aren't providing me new sources of stress, that is). However, I am always looking for new suggestions and willing to learn lessons from my wise Sparklers: what is your most helpful tool for reducing stress? Please share it with me - I will be grateful to lean on your experience and wisdom. Bless you.