Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sometimes, life is a bully on the bus.

Here is a brave person who is
saying "hi" to her new forest
When I was twelve, I shared a daily bus ride to junior high school with my friends, the other twelve-year-olds.  We all seemed to be doing life pretty well until we came to Marcia's stop. 

You could see from her expression, if Marcia, who was pretty, mean, moody and inexplicably popular, was out to tank someone's day, or not. 

You didn't want her to make eye contact with you. You didn't want her to ignore you. Her weapon of choice was random silent treatment. 

And so, did I, as well as the others, do everything we could to buoy Marcia's spirits, make her feel good about herself, laugh at her jokes, all in hopes of not being picked on, or off? Yes, I and we did.

On the list of things that can make life tough for a pre-teen, being frozen out for absolutely no reason by the popular kid is 1 through 3: Friend doesn't like you. Friends of friend don't like you. You don't like you. 

You can turn on yourself when there's a Marcia in your life, convinced you did something to deserve her wrath when of course, you've done nothing but show up in the same place you show up in every day.

Had my mother explained that, I would have said something like, "I really hate American Chop Suey. Why do you keep making it?" because to a twelve-year-old in a world that hinges on a daily bus ride, that kind of exchange with another innocent makes sense.   

And, sometimes life is a Marcia.

Life last week was such a Marcia, I went to my therapist for a touch-up.

Without going into detail, it was a stew of medical scares and waiting and tests and more waiting and results and bullets dodged, followed by a massive computer glitch, and followed next by an incidence of blurry vision which actually seemed symbolic. I was, literally, too stressed to see straight.

Everything turned out okay, or will. But for three or four days, it seemed like everyone I know, and I to a lesser extent, had made contact with Marcia-life.

I am nice to strangers, I love my beings and tell them so. I state my needs, I think about what other people are facing, and send them cards. I'm patient with our dog who is a pinball, and I treat the cat like there is only one like him in the world, which is true.

I do it in part because it's what nice people do. But I know I do it also to stay on life's good side, because the connection between these behaviors and a life that has smiled on me seems pretty apparent in some cause and effect corner of my brain.  

I kind of, sort of, think life should take that into consideration when it is preparing to be Marcia and needs a target.   

So, I looked skyward one morning last-week and asked my God in a nice way, WTF?

My God said, "Remember the album?"

Marcia had gone to my house when I wasn't home, lied her way in, and taken an album that my brother had let me borrow only after I promised to introduce him to a girl he liked, and probably offered a security deposit.

I knew where Marcia hung out, and I went there.

The first thing that happens when life is a Marcia – a job loss, a serious illness, a death, a divorce  – is that nothing looks like it used to for a while. It is mystifying, disorienting, and frightening to look around at all your stuff, all your people and habits and all that you're used to and feel like you don't actually understand this forest after all.  

You only know you still have a choice in how you'll recalculate.

When I caught up with Marcia she was holding court in a parking lot near the Dairy Queen. I walked straight over to her.

I said, "Give it back."

The conversation around us stopped.

She said some bad words, I said some bad words, she shoved the album into my hand and yelled more bad words at my back as I walked away.

I remember having a feeling I've had only a handful of times since, and it was of knowing  that my whole world was going to be one different forest in the morning. And that I would need a map. And that I would draw one.

It was a relief.

I lost my friends and replaced them with better ones.

None of them were Marcias.

Last week presented several views of a different forest to me. But today, I'm remembering that if I have less control over how Marcia behaves, I have the fortitude and strength to be mightier than she thinks I am.

I think most of us are blessed not to be tested, or scared. Life is how we hope it will be, probably, for the most part.

But I like to think that most of us will know what to do, if we're ever forced to show ourselves in a Dairy Queen parking lot.

We will be mighty. 

Don't forget that.


  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. Touched me in so many ways.

    1. I'm so glad to hear that, Mitzi. Thank you for letting me know.

  2. Life IS sometimes like a Marcia. Sometimes we roll with it, and sometimes we stand up to it. The challenge is, knowing when to do what........

    1. I am finding that challenges truly do bring strength you didn't expect.

  3. This was wonderful! I too remember my Marcia. Finding our own way can be so challenging. Thanks for sharing.

    1. We all grow up. I think I'd rather look back on how this made me brave, then be the Marcia who wakes up and looks back on the way she was.

  4. This made me think of my years in junior high. Years that are difficult for all of us. If only our future selves could communicate with us. Shared this.

    1. Oh, so very true. The upside is that often we're better able to relate to our own children and their Marcias. Such and early and unfortunate test of resilience, though.

  5. Replies
    1. Oh, thank you Stephanie, things are going well after a little attitude adjusting.

  6. I am 75 and there are still "Marcia's" in my world. I, like you, know that you don't need Marcia or her friends. When the discovery that Marcia is not a good choice for a friend is made, it is more freeing than flying. With that type of person the idea of growing out of middle school behavior is unthinkable. Thank you Susan. Great post.

    I hope those ghosts of "Marcia's Past" leave you alone and things begin to look up soon.

    1. Barbara, thank you. Things have rearranged themselves and all is well.

  7. Do you ever wonder what became of the "Marcia's" in life? I do. I wonder if they ever look back on their behavior with regret or if they're still taking delight in making other people miserable. Guess I'll never know but it is something I think about sometimes.

  8. I never think about it because I'm a Pollyanna when it comes to how people change. However, I know they probably think back on the behavior more than we do. I wouldn't want to have those memories.

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