Cyberbullying for Adults: 101, and the REAL Me

This is a big post for me. I’m revealing more about myself than I ever have, publicly and overtly, thus far:

I have severe, negative self-image issues that are hard-wired to key people in my past. I abhor talking about my looks; I shut down when that happens. If you say I’m pretty, I have enough good manners to say “thank you,” but it’s like I become dead inside. I know you’re just being nice. I know I’m not pretty, no matter what words come out of your mouth. I’m working on getting over this. But I’m telling you this about me up-front because it’s possible that my own views on good netiquette are skewed, due to my “preexisting conditions.”

Maybe, maybe not….

—–

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The original FB profile photo, in question.

Evening, a few weeks ago. I’d been home from work for about an hour, helped the little kids with their homework, cleaned up, and was just about to take my teenage daughter to the store (her, practice-driving!), when a friend, with whom I’d been texting all day, suddenly FB-messaged me that she liked my previous FB profile photo better than the one I currently had up.

What? WTF? Where did that come from? I was shocked, confused, and defensive. Who judges people’s Facebook profile photos?

Instead of letting the raw emotions win, I messaged her back:

"Feisty tonight, aren't we?"

She then proceeded to message me again, saying how she thought my current photo made me look too harsh, and the previous photo “made you look softer. And like you had hair.”

What!?! Then I really did get upset.

in memory of peter owens

The 9/11 tribute.

First of all, the only reason I’d had that photo up is because on 9/11 (a Thursday, this year) I’d put up a tribute-photo to a family member who’d died in the Towers, and then I’d hastily changed it out with a photo of me that was (a) recent and (b) that I hadn’t yet used for my profile. I knew it was obnoxiously close-up (one of my cousins commented that day: “Extreme close-up Friday?”), and I’d intended to take a new selfie and swap it out soon. But by now it was the following Monday evening, and I hadn’t yet had a chance to sit down and do it. So I had that level of defensiveness going on. (Okay, already, I’ll get to it!)

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The hasty, post-9/11 replacement.

Secondly, I didn’t think it looked that bad — certainly not bad enough for someone to go out of their way to comment on it and let me know. Indeed, some of my friends seemed to like it. Regardless, I didn’t hate it. It reminded me of a lazy afternoon at the pool. Which it was.

And thirdly, it was my freaking Facebook profile photo, not a beauty pageant. Not something to be judged-on. And, again, it was my freaking Facebook profile photo. It was my own expression of myself, that I’d chosen to show the world at that moment. I hadn’t asked for anyone else’s opinion, let alone a negative one. Yes, unfortunately, Facebook announces to the world (or at least your entire newsfeed) when you’ve made a change to your profile picture. And, unfortunately, they allow comments. And they can’t stop your friends from messaging you, either. But didn’t we all learn in Kindergarten that if you don’t have something nice to say…?

Seriously, I have never, ever told someone I disliked their FB profile pic (or even insinuated it by saying that I preferred another one). I’ve either “liked” it or said nothing. My friends are my friends because of who they are inside. It’s none of my business to tell anyone else how to present herself among her own circle of friends. Each person has her own vision of who she is in a given moment. Amiright?

I was pissed, and I felt unduly, negatively judged. And ugly. After dealing with my kids, I grabbed another spare moment and inserted a pic of me and my kids from the day before, at the park. But the damage was done. My friend and I stopped talking. (She said she didn’t want to deal with someone around whom she felt like she had to walk on eggshells. Can’t say I blame her. I’m not fun to deal with all of the time.)

Sadly, my ordeal wasn’t over.

—–

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Yesterday’s pic.

Yesterday. I changed out my FB profile picture again. I got a few “likes,” a few nice comments. And then one of my cousins — a wonderful, supportive, gorgeous creature, whom I’ve worshiped since childhood — told me she preferred two previous pics to the one I’d currently chosen. She happily offered to show me which ones.

"No, please don't...!"

I messaged this to her and explained my recent episode with my friend. I also explained about my negative self-image issues (which I’m not sure she’d understood about me, previously), and how being judged for a profile pic on FB triggered all of this in me. I also explained how I considered it rude to comment on peoples’ FB profile pics, when they hadn’t asked for it (i.e. “stuff that is no one else’s business”).

My cousin apologized. I think she felt bad, and I felt bad for making her feel that way. I told her I didn’t think she’d meant to be harmful or rude, but that, seriously, who’d asked? She said she and her sister tell each other stuff like this all the time. (Maybe I should be flattered that she treated me like her sister?) But the whole thing made me really not want to be judged anymore. Especially by my “friends.”

So I deleted my FB profile pic and haven’t replaced it yet. I’m a blank silhouette now.

—–

Fresh start: This morning, I decided that if the world was going to judge me, they were going to have to judge the real me. Usually people see me with all of my makeup on:

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But before I look like that, this is the real me. This morning, fresh out of the shower:

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Ugly? Not pretty? Yeah, I already know. And, yeah, maybe I’m taking a page out of Colbie Caillat’s playbook. But so what? There is no call to judge people who don’t ask to be judged. Not about things that don’t really matter.

Like how a person looks on the outside.

 

“Moderate to Strenuous” (Mt. Sanitas, Round 1)

*Gasp-huff-gasp!*

My legs quaked as I braced my hands on my thighs to suck air. Panting, I raised my head to look at the trail.

And yet another rise that loomed in front of me.

Holy crap! Fuck this shit!

Sanitas 1

—–

Eight hours earlier….

It was late on a Saturday night, and I was already nervous at the prospect of trying something new, let alone meeting new people. But it was an innocuous enough label on the hike I was was considering signing up for the following morning. “Mt. Sanitas, Boulder. Moderate-to-strenuous,” it said. Well….

I’m in shape, I reasoned. I walk for 20 minutes a day, and hiking is just walking on a trail, right?

I also do yoga five days a week, plus strength training. Plus, the hike was nearby, in Boulder, so I wouldn’t have to drive that far, and the start-time was a reasonable 9 a.m. (not 6:30 a.m., like some of the other hikes). Out of excuses for a milisecond, I quickly clicked the button. No turning back now.

The next morning I woke up at my usual time, showered, and applied my makeup (taking extra time, to make it look like I’d barely taken any time with it). Then, due to a bad map on the hiking site, I arrived somewhere in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Not a trailhead in sight. Fortunately, the hike’s organizer had left his cell number on the website. “Oh yeah, the map on the site is wrong,” he apologized… and spent the next 10 minutes talking me through as I drove to the correct place. By the time I found parking and hoofed it several blocks to the trailhead the group was long gone. There was a sign posted at the trailhead warning people of recent mountain lion sightings.

I decided to do the hike on my own, anyway. (There were lots of other hikers out. Odds are the mountain lions would eat one of them first.)

I set out and quickly hit the first set of “stairs” — a series of two-foot high boulders set into the slope. Giant step up, giant step up, giant step up…. After about a hundred ungodly paces, the stairs evened out onto a steppe. Okay *breathe, breathe* that wasn’t so bad. I looked ahead to see that the trail went flat for about ten feet, then went up again. Okaaaayyy…..

—–

I was getting lapped by scores of other people: teenagers, other people “my age” (who were probably from Boulder — i.e. Hippie-Health Central), and even by senior citizens (evidently the altitude had affected their abilities to tell that they were too old for this).

And joggers.

Yes, I was being lapped by people who were running — uphill — and downhill — over the giant two-foot rocks and past me. Instead of Sanitas, I began to call the mountain Sandinistas; I could see Nicaraguan rebels using this as a training course.

Moderate to strenuous? Are you fucking kidding me?!? 

That was when I realized that “moderate to strenuous” for Colorado was different from “moderate to strenuous” for the rest of the U.S. And “moderate to strenuous” for Boulder was different from “moderate to strenuous” for the rest of Colorado. I’m in good shape compared to the rest of the country. I worked hard to get to where I am, and I wear a size 4. That’s skinny in the rest of the country.

It’s average in Colorado. I’m in average shape for Colorado.

But now, I wasn’t just in Colorado. I was in Boulder Country.

Gah!

After about five rounds of fuck this shit. in my head, I knew I wasn’t going to quit — had known it from the start — because that’s just not how I roll. But it made me feel better to give myself permission to dismiss the mountain.

Sanitas.

The Bitch.

And then finally, when I was ready to die, I reached another set of boulders that just had to be the top. There were others, who appeared to be part of a group, panting, too.

“Y’all don’t happen to be Boulder Social Hikers, do you?” I asked.

“Yes, we are.”

Hallelujah! I didn’t even care about the sweat trickling down my nose or how my ponytail had held up. I was just grateful to have caught up with the group. And to still be cognizant and upright.

Sanitas 2

Going down was the easy part. I caught my breath, chatted with some of the other hikers. It was nice. But I haven’t forgotten the way up. And I haven’t forgotten how that mountain almost got the best of me.

Almost.

Sanitas, I’m coming for a rematch. You won’t know when, but someday, when you least expect it, I’ll be at your base. (If you have expectations, that is. You’re a mountain, for pete’s sake.) Just you and me.

Be ready, bitch.

New Day

WP_001042I am the Dawn.

I am the Light

and

the Darkness.

I encompass both

and many nuances in-between.

Little miss Sunshine? Ha! Not quite.

That’s not my description.

(Chin up, Buttercup: you’ll make it through the black.)

You see me radiant,

and you want the light.

Always the light.

Only the light.

But to know me you must know both.

And to have me you must accept both.

For the darkness, though difficult, is equally rewarding –

a promise I do not make lightly.

Listen to the sounds of the night. Become one with them.

Embrace your own darkness

and you can begin to embrace me

and mine.

Only then can you truly see my blaze

and become one with it.

It is always darkest before the dawn.

But

I am the Dawn.

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My Interview with Boulder Writers’ Workshop

I know I haven’t blogged in a while. Okay, in like almost 4 months. And I’m not gonna break it yet… but I want to share an interview I did for my writers’ group, Boulder Writers’ Workshop: http://www.boulderwritersworkshop.org/2014/05/11/member-spotlight-dawn-rinken/

A case of laziness or self-defense? You decide….

I was going to write about my first two, never-saw-that-coming(!) weeks back in the workforce after fifteen and a half years of being a stay-at-home mom. But something else has wiggled its way in and needs to be blogged about first. It happened three days ago, on Thursday.

I was on my way home from work and made a quick pit-stop at the liquor store for a bottle of wine. Back outside, the neck of my paper-bagged bottle in one hand (which, the thought crossed my mind, made me look like a wino, but with better shoes), and my keys in the other, I was about to open my car door when a voice called out.

“Excuse me!”

I looked up to where the woman was standing, about twenty feet away, under the awning of the convenience-mart adjacent to the liquor store. From the distance, she looked about my age and was sensibly dressed, in pants and a winter jacket. But I felt myself get instantly wary… and then berated myself for going to the inner-suspicious place.  Maybe she’s just going to ask for the time, I reasoned. Nope.  

“Are you going this way?” she asked, pointing left, up the block.

This was, of course, the way I would have normally headed to go home, a mere mile and a half away. It was just after five, dusky-ish, and any warmth from the sunny, January day was quickly diminishing. I wouldn’t want to be outside in the cold if I didn’t have to be. Empathy for the woman began to push against my caution. I could hear the echo of my kids’ voices chanting “Stranger danger!” But the echo wrestled with my mother’s voice, saying things about “acts of charity” and helping others in need. My spider senses were tingling. Or were they? Maybe, I worried, I just being uncharitable and didn’t want to be bothered with the hassle of taking an extra five minutes out of my day to help a fellow human being. Historically, I’d always tried to make people happy and help them. I was a people-pleaser. And a conflict-avoider.  (The easiest way to avoid conflict with someone is to just say, “yes” and give them what they want.) 

Then again, I was still wary.

I felt my head shake and a “no” croaked out of my throat. The woman kept talking, as though she hadn’t heard me (which she probably hadn’t — I hadn’t spoken very loudly).

“I just need to get up there — it’s just by the middle school — and I don’t want to have to walk that far with my prosthetic leg.” 

Oh, great. Now, not only am I being uncharitable, but if she’s telling the truth, then I’m stranding a cripple! The middle school was a half-mile away. Not that far, but maybe it would seem like it if you had a prosthetic leg. The guilt of that thought, however, was accompanied by a Big Red Flag. What I mean by this is that I had the sensation — instinct? — that something was fishy about this whole scenario. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I could feel it. Something was off. I’ve learned to identify when I’m getting the Red Flag signal and to pay attention to it. Unfortunately, I’ve had too many times in my life where I’ve ignored these types of sensations. Always to my detriment. (People-pleaser!)

Suddenly, the words of my two self-defense instructors came into my head: “The best way to get out of a bad situation is not to be there.” Pay attention to the Flags and get out of the scenario before you get into a position where you can’t.

“I’m not going that way,” I said, clearing my throat.

“You’re going that way?” she exclaimed, her face lighting up. A brisk wind picked up, sending a shuddering preview of the rapidly dropping temp. My heart wavered at her hopefulness. Was I doing the right thing? Or just being cruel. Or even lazy. But I wouldn’t ignore the Flag, for whatever reason it had popped up. Yeah, something was off, here.

“No,” I said firmly, shaking my head again and opening the door of my nice, warm car. “Sorry. I’m not going that way.”

I got in and started the engine. Then, worried that the woman might be vindictive or mentally unstable, I actually went right instead of left. Because what if she saw me go left, and took down my license number and tracked down where I lived? Overkill on the paranoia? Probably. What should have been a three minute drive home took more like ten. I was resentful, too, that she’d put me in that position. And that I was too much of a coward to have made the left-hand turn. Then again, I’m around to tell the tale.

So: what would you have done?

Basic instincts: What drives us?

It is the deepest desire of the human heart to be known and loved.

This is something my spiritual adviser said to me a few months ago. I was struck by its profoundness, simplicity, and absolute truth. As soon as he said it, I felt the “click” — everything inside me went, “Yes, of course,” as though this thought had already existed in my soul and was just then being woken up.

Conversely, it followed that the deepest fear of the human heart would be to never be known or loved. That rang scarily true, too. What if…? *shudder* Well, maybe that’s too deep a glimpse into my darkest recesses….

In my ensuing ruminations on the quote, it occurred to me to add the following:

And, in being known, to be loved not in spite of who you are, but because of it.

These concepts have had immediate impact in my personal life, but I am eager to see how they will manifest with my characters, too. Eventually. When I’ve processed them more. ;)

it is the deepest desire