Posted on February 14, 2016
My teenage tormentor had me pinned up against the red brick wall near the quadrangle. So close to me, I felt his spit hit my face, as he demanded to know what the point of me was. I was fat, he said. Ugly. Stupid. Invisible, yet taking up too much space.
As he walked away, and I wiped the stain of his hate from my face, I saw the self-satisfied smirk that showed that taking something from me built something in him. I never defended myself, never said a word, after all I didn’t have the answers for him. I’d often wondered myself, as I had learned years before that people like me didn’t inherit the earth. That was the domain of the smart, the funny, the attractive, the powerful – even if that power was “earned” from taking from the weak. It was the domain of the jocks, the artistic, the ones whose mums were active on the parents committee, or whose dads coached the local football team. It wasn’t for people that had nothing to set them apart but awkwardness. Someone who didn’t wear the latest fashions or listen to the latest music. Someone who definitely didn’t chase the boys. How could they understand that I wasn’t a teenager aching to stumble through my first awkward sexual experience, because I had already known the intimate touch of a predator at the age of 6. If there was a point of me, I didn’t know what it was either.
Years later, I was still wondering. I’d put four children on this earth, and I knew the love of a good man. I’d had a successful career, travelled the world, and counted a few lovely people as friends. I no longer spent a lot of time questioning my worth, the voices were quieter, but I was soon to know that these things stay with you, until some giant fuck up, or some cosmic twist of fate brings them screaming back from where you think you’ve buried them.
They’d never screamed louder than the interminable days and weeks after the doctors told me that my days on this earth were not going to number many. I surveyed all that was before me, and I wondered what the fuck I was thinking, what on earth possessed me to think that I would be able to have anything good, anything beautiful, and get to keep it. Selfishly, I couldn’t think that they would be glad that I had gave them life, that Gaz would always be glad he loved me, and I loved him. Instead, I wished them all into non-existence. I thought only of the carnage I would leave behind me. Four children who would grow up without the love of a mother. A broken man who had no love to hold his hand at the end of his days. All because, in a moment of madness, I entertained the possibility that there might be a point to me.
I can’t exactly put my finger on when the shift started. It might have been witnessing the raw grief of those in my circle. The ones that said they would fight for me, stand beside me, hold me up when I knew I was falling, never let me go. Maybe if I could move people that much, there was a point to me after all.
And what of those four children? Dakota is 12, and blessed with a self-possession that I have never known. Everything is effortless for her, or so it seems. Making friends, excelling at school and sport. She does it all with a humility that draws people to her, as they know that she never thinks she is better than they are. Indi is 11. She is FUNNY, she has us in stitches constantly with her quick wit. She is also incredibly fair. Once she was helping me clean out the car and she found two dodgy squares of chocolate on the back floor of the car. I brushed them off, declared them safe to consume, and told her to eat them and not tell the others. She battled with her conscience for a short time, then snapped them in half and took them in to the others. They got a piece each and she didn’t get any at all. What an absolutely magnificent human being. Tana is 9, and she is the most like me. She’s always struggled to make friends, she hunted desperately for a besty in prep, but they were all taken. This made her sad for years, and all I could do was hold her and tell her that it was like that for me, too, but look at all the friends I had now. She struggles a bit to know what makes her special, what sets her apart, but she is gaining confidence as she grows. A couple of years ago, a new girl came to school, an opportunity she seized, to have someone of her very own. She loves that friend with a singular devotion and enriches both of their lives. Georgia is 7. The great gift that came with her Down syndrome is a simple and pure heart that never wonders about her place in the world. She simply exists at the heart of our family and knows she is loved for exactly who she is.
I tell them I love them all the time, and I tell them they are beautiful. Yes, their bodies are beautiful, in whatever form they come, but what really makes them beautiful is the things that set them apart. I tell them that we all have something that makes us amazing, sometimes it is something obvious, sometimes it is something that we have to look a little harder for, but it’s there. I tell them they were born into a world that values difference and quirkiness in a way that the world that I was born into never did.
Maybe the point of me is so that they never have to wonder what the point of them is.
And what of my beautiful man. I can honestly say he has never questioned my worth, but to my mind the biggest point of me to him was on a cold September night in 2003, when he rang his sister Robbie and sobbed into the phone “I’m a father Rob. I’m a FATHER”.
Perhaps the biggest shift came the day that I was literally on my knees. Cancer had broken me open, laid me bare, exposed me emotionally in a way that I had never been before. Normally I would have kept that part of myself hidden – something that it becomes easy to do when your scars are worn on the inside, not the outside. But in one split second, I decided not to do that, I was going to let the box stay open. I was going to write about all of it, the pain the fear, the brokenness.
I often wonder if fate already knew what was in store for me the day I was held up against that red brick wall. Never could I imagine that one day 10’s of thousands of people would read those words. That the number of messages that I received about them now literally numbers in the 1,000’s. That people would say that the broken part of me had touched the broken part of them and made it…better. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for the fact that I never wonder now about the point of me.
We all create ripples….we all make the world a different place with our existence in it. If you ever wondered what the point of you is – don’t. Just as I tell my girls, I want you all to know that you all have something special, and you have all changed the lives of someone, for the better. Don’t wonder for as long as I did, what your ripples are. Think about it, even for a short time, and you will find them – I promise.
Me and my quirky, beautiful people