Thursday, 16 July 2015

Fight or Flight


Today maybe I thought I'd talk to you about anger and aggression and temper. And they're all different things.

Last night there was a bit of a to do with one of my friends and me. And your mum thinks maybe I've got too bad a temper. And sometimes maybe I have.

But it made me think, as often you make me do. About growing up and where this all comes from. When I was little I was soft. Proper soft. I think I cried too easily and things upset me.

And somewhere along the lines I learnt to toughen up. I can remember this boy at shull. Kids hung around as kids do and he was so full of himself. I thought he must be so much older than me. We stood in a circle as children do and I guess he probably bullied and picked on people. As we stood in this circle each one of us probably hoped he wouldn't pick on us and were secretly relieved when he picked on someone else. He never picked on me but I worried every time I went to shull, in case he might and I was too scared and ashamed to tell my dad.

As a child there are more times than there should be when you feel like that. And as an adult, if you're not careful people can make you feel a bit like that but your footing is somehow different. Or at least mine is now.

I knew, in my heart of hearts, I knew that at some point I’d have a run in with this bully boy. I didn't know how I knew, or really what I knew or what it meant, but I knew I'd have to face him at some point. Maybe this is how you learn your instinct.

When I went to middle school everything was strange. And I didn't really know anyone. There were only two classes in our year, maybe sixty kids in all, and all by nature of being Jewish, fairly soft. The tough kids we'd all encounter later.

Low and behold who was in my class but that bully boy. Jxxxx Kxxxx he was called. And he was a show off in only a way that kids can be. When you grow up they become clever heads or know it alls or loud mouths and somehow they're less powerful. It's as though, once you're a grown up you can see behind the bravado, you can see the fear that they're trying to protect themselves from, and they're not so scary. Or at least not as scary.

So I knew we would tangle and I kind of braced myself for it. He already didn't seem as big as he used to and there were no proper fights in this soft ghetto anyway.

It happened one day. I can't really remember the details. We were in a classroom and I guess we'd all spent a few weeks weighing each other up. It's kind of a primeval thing boys do without even knowing. As they get older they're more aware, more conscious, as 9 year olds it’s more a push and a shove to find your place in the pack.

So he pushed and he shoved a little and I can't really remember what I thought. I'm not much of a fighter but I'm not really a runner either. I held my ground, probably wrapped myself around him so he couldn't do too much. And I've always been strong, probably stronger then than I am now. It was a weird kind of a fight. I think I probably restrained him more than anything else. And he backed off. At the very least he realised he couldn't win. And with bullies that's sometimes enough. I can't really remember how I felt. Relieved? Maybe more a sense of knowing this moment would have come and finally managing to conquer it so it wouldn't hang over me so much anymore.

(Though strangely, when you're young, there's normally a few of those moments. They creep up on you and you have to master them again and again, but eventually they are done).

We became fairly good friends for the four years we were at that school. When we left for bigger schools and tougher kids he pretty much withered away. His mouth couldn't compete with the toughness of the proper scrappers. The last I knew he disappeared into religion. Hiding behind something big enough to pretend he wasn't so scared I guess.

(His mum said to me he never grew as big as the other boys and he felt like he couldn't compete. But I'm the same size as him and I compete just fine. He was all mouth and no trousers and once his mouth didn't work he had nothing left).

My path was a little different. I'm not a fighter, never have been. But I know how to protect myself and I know when to stand and when to run. And more often than not, it's better to run, or walk away and if you can do that more quickly than it looks or before trouble finds you, all the better. 

Equally, and maybe it's a boy thing, sometimes you have to stand your ground. Face what's coming.

Someone once said to me: everyone has to take a beating once, and the longer you run the further it chases you. (I've made that last bit up).

But there is some truth in that. Fighting isn't the way but sometimes you must stand up for yourself. Even if it's only to learn that getting beaten one way or another isn't always quite as bad as it was in your head. Maybe you can cause more pain inside your own mind than most other people will cause with their fists.

I guess what I'm saying is, most people are scared of something at one time or another whether they show it or admit it or not. We're all scared sometimes. There's no harm in being scared. Also though, you have to learn to face your fears, stand up to them rather than run away. Some of the scary things aren't so scary when you see them for what they really are. Especially when you face them head on because you've chosen to do so.