A funny thing about fear, it can either motivate you or stop you. Before I took on this life list, it was stopping me. Now I feel compelled to conquer.
In recent years with all the media south of the border about guns, I have grown more and more afraid of weapons and the power they possess. Then again, trying things that frighten you makes you a stronger person. So I went to the shooting range for target practice.
I had held a rifle before and even shot one at a can in the woods outside our hometown. My now husband wanted to introduce me to something he loved at the time; hunting partridge. It was a lovely time walking through the woods and shooting our pop cans until we spotted our target.
I’m going to give him the male pronoun because I think any female with an instinct to protect their family would have seen us and at least be quiet. This bird figured we might be friends and eyed us up as if he was about to ask us where he could find the nearest pub. Even after the warning shot, I asked for skimmed by his head and I ran further down the road so as not to be too close and somehow associated with my new pub mate’s ultimate demise, he stood rooted firm in his spot.
We were both afraid. The bird was still, then another shot rang out, and I was crying while my new pub mate was really still. Then there were two more shots while I hung my head in my hands and I assumed my husband was a lousy shot. He wasn’t. Our dead friend had two of his mates with him, and it was then I extrapolated that our pub mate was, in fact, trying to be the family hero by being the sacrificial lamb, or a partridge in this case. But these birds were not going to let him die alone or stand his ground without being witness to his sacrifice.
I have seen partridge since around our cottage. I have called them, ‘too stupid to live’ and laughed at the vignette in my memory of the three birds that stood still to be shot. Now I wonder if it was fear that had them stop there, bravery, loyalty, or maybe they are just too stupid not to be put out of their brainless mystery.
We all get rooted in fear, and sometimes we are shot at. My grade school bully loved my fear. It was a target as big as a deer with a shotgun at point-blank range. I was, and still am, afraid of abandonment and being unloved. I’m confident the root cause of this fear was my parents’ divorce when I was really young and my mother’s subsequent move out of town. My bully saw this weakness and, in a stroke of genius, organised my entire class one day to form a line and scream, ‘your mummy doesn’t love you’ when I turned the corner in the schoolyard.
That moment defined me for years. This charming young woman who more than once peed her pants in the presence of classmates, and once on a classmate, had found a way to move the focus from her bladder control to my pain. And, she continued to spread the word when we got to high school. It wasn’t until I took a year off after high school that I felt I could shake the giant target on my chest and cover up the ‘unloveable’ moniker tattooed on my forehead.
In the woods that day with a gun in hand, we were the bullies. Don’t mistake me for not being okay with hunting. There are a time and place for weapons, and we were there with a hunting licence in blaze orange vests, so the time and the place was then. I’m not angry that my husband took those shots. We even feasted on partridge and buckshot that night to be thankful for the sacrifice of that family.
Maybe I should be, on some level, thankful for the shots my bully took at me.
I am not suggesting that bullying is grand and that Melania’s omnipresent campaign to eradicate them is not spot on. Instead, I am learning to understand the role my bully’s torment played in making me the person I am proud to be today. It has taken me decades to forgive her, but I have, and I feel the bigger person for it. She was a kid with her own insecurities, and she was trying to deflect attention from her target. I hope she has healed those demons. I want us all to be able to see the rifle and make the decision to move or take the shot and own our choice. We don’t see the bullets coming when we are young, and we feel the searing pain of them ripping open our flesh. It is possible to take that wound and heal. The scar tissue is a badge of honour, and it can make us stronger if we stop being rooted in fear, and begin challenging its role in our lives.
That was a long story to get to the shooting range. Those guns frightened me. Holding power in my hands made me extremely uncomfortable. I did not feel stronger for firing those weapons. In fact, I shook for a good hour after we left. Do people who take shots at people, with guns or with words, feel that way too? Do they experience the power draining from their target and from themselves as well? Are they empowered to conquer their own insecurities by targeting others or does it just mask that pain and bury their own fears deeper?
There are too many bullies in the world. I’m not sure how we get rid of them, but they are as familiar as the partridge on our cottage walks. Always there, not quite seen at times, occasionally heard, but ready to cross your path when you least expect it. The best we can do might be to wear our blaze orange with pride and build up that scar tissue over the parts of us that are stronger for having them around. We certainly can’t wait for the First Lady to solve it for us.
Understanding the source of your fear, diagnosing its power over us can help us move when the fear wants us to stay still and lay prey. Maybe that is the power that bullies really wield. The ability to give us the strength to understand ourselves. An antagoniser makes us stand up to our own insecurity in the face of theirs. Who’s character will win? The answer is in our own control to discharge. Arm yourself with the scar tissue to keep you safe and the knowledge that your heart on your sleeve doesn’t need to move if you just own that it is there.
My Turning 50 Like a Boss Tip: Owning your fear can give you the strength to control the discharge.
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