Because I'm a fall birthday, I started high school at the tender age of 12. While this is an awkward time for most, I was no exception. Braces, glasses, weird hair, and hand-me-downs from my sister did nothing for me. My hot-mess geek status was magnified by the fact I tested out of most of the freshman-year courses offered and was subsequently sent to live among the sophomores. And these sophomores, who hailed from nicer, more affluent suburbs than my own, were smooth, polished, and well-spoken.
It was a disaster, to say the least. And a total nightmare for 12-year old me.
The worst was study hall. Two sophomores by the names of Tim* and Ken* took great pleasure in torturing me for 42 minutes a day. I saw them during 3rd period Geometry and both sat behind me during 4th period study hall. Maybe it was my appearance or maybe it was my age, but they believed I somehow held all the right answers in math class and therefore they had the right to want/need/demand my homework. Constantly. When I refused, the teasing started.
Like any good bully, they lived for my reaction. It went from mild teasing in study hall to actually seeking me out between classes. They liked to yell my name, watch me blush, and use all kinds of play-on-words with my last name. My heart sunk every time I saw these two. It was like the Gruesome Twosome and I hated their very existence.
Something clicked in my brain, however, when freshman year ended. Relieved to be away from them for summer break, I spent my time earning money by transplanting plants and flowers out of my grandma's garden and mowing lawns in my neighborhood. I earned enough money to purchase contacts. A week late, I got my braces off. My mom paid for me to have a nice haircut, and I started paying attention to the way I dressed.
Now, it's not exactly the stuff that romantic comedies are made of. There was no montage set to music and I certainly was no glamour-puss at the end. My appearance made me simply more accepted in general society and no longer a fashion pariah. But the best was returning to school in the fall and seeing Ken and Tim's faces the first time they saw me. Oh, they still teased - but the teasing took on a much more gentle, almost flirtatious tone. They weren't jumping out at me from dark corners and cackling my last name for all to hear. And by my junior year, there was no more teasing at all. Just nice smiles and sheepish grins. There was loose talk that both wanted to ask me to prom, and though it never materialized, it was delicious and satisfying and still makes me smile to this day.
I learned an important lesson at an early age:
Living well is the best revenge.
After the disaster that was our wedding in 2006, similar feelings of despair flooded me. I was simply in shock that everything I had worked so hard to do - 22 months worth of planning and tens of thousands of dollars of our own money - was destroyed at the hands of one person in the span of several moments. What was worse was that person took no responsibility for their actions, offered no apology, and actually had the nerve to attack us - again and again. What happened next can only be called the Greatest War Fought Over Email ever, and it tore me apart. I started having panic attacks, I had trouble sleeping, and began to fear for my physical safety. I lived in my head most of the time, wondering when the next howler would arrive in my inbox, and it was torture. Pure torture.
After about seven months of this, again, something clicked in my head. I just got fed up with feeling afraid. I told myself I can't let this person ruin my life or my marriage, and while I can't control their actions, I can control mine. So I quit my government job, repainted our entire house, and opened a private practice. I started working less, cooking more, and enjoying life again. And as I reminded myself during the entire year that was 2007...
Living well is the best revenge.
Now, I'm in a similar place. I thought I was doing okay after my father's passing, but I happened to notice at the gym the other day that I was going twice as fast - at a higher resistance - on my elliptical than anyone else around me. Where was this frantic, frenetic pace coming from? Why was I pushing myself? What am I running from?
It made me think about the last two months. I've had this insatiable urge to purge everything from our house. I want to clean every single closet, organize the garage, and ensure there is not a single weed in our lawn (a futile effort, I'm discovering.) No fork is out of place, no hanger is turned the wrong way, and by god, every label will be facing forward in my fridge. (which is cleaned and polished, thank you very much.)
Ditto for Junior League work. Every day during nap time, I throw myself at the computer and work for a solid two to three hours. I don't want to stop. I want to create a fantastic newsletter. I want to increase community awareness for our projects. I want to make others proud, and in doing it, I'm logging about 15-20 hours a week. I'm exhausted, cranky, but something inside of me is pushing me to go further.
(I'm sure my committee members are just delighted to read they are part of my latent grief reaction. Sorry, ladies.)
When it comes down to it, I'm pushing and pushing and pushing myself because of one reason: I'm pissed off. I'm mad at the Universe. I'm mad that my dad was only 60 when he passed away. I'm angry that forces beyond my control saw it fit to take a kind, loving, generous man from his family while other douche-bags walk around, totally healthy. I'm pissed that my mom is suffering. I'm angry that there are no easy answers to any of this.
In short, I'm just plain old pissed off.
Hell, I painted my toes blue. A tribute to my dad, but also a proverbial middle finger to the Universe. You want to take my dad? Fine; I'll rebel. I'm not going to conform and be appropriate; I'm going to paint my damn toes blue.
(Yes, I recognize this is a very quiet, very geeky way to rebel. Next, I will likely get a tattoo or something. Except I hate tattoos, so that will never happen.)
Most mental health professionals would tell you that anger is the processed carb of emotions - it's quick and easy, but in end, you are left still hungry and vaguely unsettled. I get it. I know there is a short shelf life for this behavior. But at the same time, as I looked around the gym that day, I started tallying up what I've done in two months. I've lost eight pounds. The newsletter is on par to be a great publication that may hopefully increase community awareness of our projects. My house is a testament to organization.
So really, it's not all bad.
Because if the Universe wants to take my dad, I'll fight back.
Living well is the best revenge.
*real names; I will not protect the guilty