Sunday, December 27, 2015

As a young woman, 9 to let's say, age 18, 
I was particularly bossy.  Not a TRUE bully, not a female version of "Scott Farkus,"

wailing on unsuspecting peers, stealing milk money or pinning an arm behind a back and shouting, "SAY UNCLE!"  Nothing like that.
A bit closer to Porter from The Sandlot?

Large and in charge, intimidating, good intentions but a bit full of myself, overly-assertive, easily irritated.
Propelled by a sort of know-it-all attitude (to mask my low self-esteem.)
Rules did not apply to me (still don't,) and I sort of just did what I wanted.

I had an affinity for controlling anyone and anything that crossed my path.  In a subtle, yet manipulative way. 
My intention was not to hurt, never to shame or ridicule.  
I was always all-inclusive and truly cared deeply for hurt feelings,
but my not-so-becoming behavior certainly did not give off that vibe.
I behaved this way out of fear (like a Mother Hen on crack.)
Not just fear of lack of control, but for the well-being of others around me.
Commanding some sense of control gave me power (I thought,) hid my insecurities and made me feel like I could stop bad things from happening if I worried enough, manipulated people to do what I wanted, if everything was tidied up neatly and running smoothly (which would explain my mild obsession for organization and cleanliness.)  Perfection, no less.

Obviously, I didn't know any of this as a child.  I was just a brat.  
And I think the neighbor kids merely tolerated me as did their parents.
When your childhood world is confined to a four-block radius, you sort of have to take what you can get, as far as playmates go.

I was, I believe, a bit detestable to the parents of the neighborhood.  Maybe a bit too harsh to say that, but now looking back, I'm pretty sure I was seen as that one child you really wish your kids didn't play with, that bratty girl who has no respect for her elders.  But I was a child.  You don't speak ill of other people's children.  "She is a child of God," (I could hear some of them saying behind clenched teeth.)

I was the one that helped myself.  Opened the fridge in someone else's home and took what I wanted, let myself in without knocking, TELLING the parents, "Yeah, so Jennifer is coming to play at my house.  Thanks."  When her parents specifically said she couldn't.  But again, knowing options were limited, well, I think there was a good amount of parents biting their cheeks and instead, teaching their children how to tolerate someone as audacious as that "neighbor, girl, Liz."  

Needless to say, parents were never happy to see me.  There were some looks of disdain and annoyance.  I was young yes, but KEENLY aware of others' moods and shifts in body language when I arrived.  Somehow that wasn't enough to motivate me to try harder.

I was getting a ride home from a friends with her mom.  She was the sweetest thing, my friend, my polar opposite.  And she too, tolerated me.  We drove past another friends' house and she said, in her always overly enthusiastic, happy way, "Oh, look!  There's Marta's house!"  (Thank you, Captain Obvious.)  And my initial reaction, out of jealousy and irrational assumption that maybe she likes HER more because she made such a grand effort to point our her house, I replied, (in my snottiest, pre-teen voice,) "So?  So WHAT!"  Big deal.  Who cares.   

Her mom swung her head around to glare at me over the drivers' seat, privy to this general attitude from me for years now, "Oh, Liz, don't be such a snot!"
Put in my dang place.
I shriveled up in to the window crank of their 1987 Saab, humbly bowed my head.
Man, did I need to hear that from more adults.  

Yet I continued to use this side of my young persona to my advantage.
Helped I was taller than most of the kids I ran with...larger overall.  
A heavy-set preteen that led with her gut, topped nicely with a permed mullet and some solid buck teeth.  
Looks only a mother could love.  
(Take a gander at which one is me.)
Slow afoot like a moose, but a fire of fear within that propelled and motivated everything I did (from rounding up all the kids for an "organized" game of tag (I don't think tag's supposed to be organized.)  
Or micro-managing the goings-on of my younger sisters.

Now that I've painted that lovely portrait. . .

Like every other summer weekday, I spent the morning laboriously trying to organize and gather recruits for my newest endeavor, a "sports club."  Where we played sports all day, that of course,
I chose, that I decided when would start, that I would dictate when would end, who played, what, where, when, how.  I was coach, manager and official.  Naturally.

As usual, the neighbor kids were too scared to say no.  (A few pictured above, including my two younger sisters.)  Even the sweet boy we ran with wouldn't stand up to me.  And why would he?  I was twice his size.

On said "sports club day," I had instructed everyone we were going to play badminton in our backyard first.  
The net set perfectly midway from the the patio stairs to the steel-framed swing-set, a good few yards away.
BUT not without a race from one end of the yard to the other, to determine teams, based on the winners of the race.
Because I knew I'd come in last, I (of course,) gave myself a head start.
I bellowed.
(Remember those old swing sets that had trapeze's and rings and were made of rusty metal?)

Before proceeding, keep in mind, the netting on a badminton net is VERY black and VERY thin.  
And apart from the white border of stretchy nylon that frames it, it can be quite camoflauged to the trees and surrounding Minnesota foliage that is it's backdrop.  
I took off sprinting (well, more of a gallop.)  
As I approached the net, I stole a quick glance back to see how far ahead I was. . .maybe to sneer with pride and greed.
HOWEVER, I didn't give myself enough clearance to run below the net (which everyone was instructed by me, to do.)  "YOU HAVE TO RUN UNDER THE NET IN ORDER FOR YOUR RACE TO COUNT!  YOU CAN'T RUN AROUND IT!"  

It caught my big fat head.

Oh no.  Not just caught it.  It was like an over-inflated water balloon held in the arm of a slingshot.  Where you stretch it back as far as you can before you launch and release.  Only it was my head. . .in the net.  The neighbor kids, no doubt saw my current entanglement and seized the opportunity to bolt ahead.
If I recall correctly from hazy memory of that moment, I ran quite far ahead IN to the net before realizing I was stuck and was tossed like a chubby rag doll about twenty feet back.  (Material that would've won us a good chunk o' change on American's Funniest Video's, had my dad had the JVC out.)

I was LITERALLY knocked flat on my fat ass.


I laid there, immobile.  On my back, in the grass, under the heat of a July sun.  
The net no longer taut and strong.  
Not concerned about my life, but staring at the summer sky wondering what in the hell just happened. 

And my face was stinging.
The neighbor kids slowly started to approach. . .like gazelles' would a wounded hippo.
"This jerk was trying to hunt us down.  Should we pick off its carcass or let it be?"  Circling me, not quite sure what to do.

"Um, Liz?  Are you okay?"  One of them kindly asked, but I'm sure I heard snickering.
None of us were old enough or smart enough to know the meaning of the word "Karma" back then, but had we, I'm sure someone would've whispered it under their breath.
"NO!  I'M NOT OKAY!  DID YOU SEE THAT WHAT HAPPENED?!"  I screamed and I'm SURE blamed it on someone other than myself.
"No!  We didn't!  We just looked back. . .and there you were.  On the ground."
More stifled giggles.
"Man, that looks like it hurts."
I was so disoriented from my current situation, I hadn't even noticed I was in pain and BLEEDING!
I had ran in to the net SO HARD that it actually cut my face from the top of my right ear down to the top of the left side of my neck.
Like a big ol' paper cut you'd get on your finger. . .only it was across my WHOLE face.  From a net.
From thinking I was all that.

Moral of the story. . .
1.  Get rid of your ego.  Right now.  No, seriously.  Right now.  That part of your mind and the voice that accompanies it, that says you're better than them.  That you're smarter.  That's always passing judgement, offers unwarranted opinions and advice, makes assumptions, pigeonholes people based on their weight, height, appearance, behavior, attitude or blames everyone but yourself?  That's your ego.  It's not who you really are and you don't need it to live in this world.  To be creative.  To be alive.  You can still inspire, motivate and love without it.  Please let it go.

2.  Growing up and learning from our past mistakes, can be painful.  But necessary.  We all have shortcomings.  But we can learn from them daily and improve upon them at any time.

3.  Everything unfolds as it should, whether you like it or not.  Good and bad.  Some things truly seem cosmic. . .as if they were meant to be, some things are random and make no sense.  Doesn't matter.  Just go with it.  Learn what you can from it.  Keep going.  

4.  Don't be a jerk.  

5.  Badminton nets are dangerous.


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