Sunday, December 18
i'm the one yelling my head off two people to the right of the mic.
photo courtesy of the brilliant Chris Roque!
..but you can't bring me down
i finally remembered that i had to pick up soy milk. i live with my sister and we go through soy milk like it's (thick, thicker than...) water because of our love of Rice Chex and the constant lack of anything else in our refridgerator. she had bought the last 8-9 (hundred) gallons, and just as my weary, post-weight lifting arm cleared fresh gym sweat from my brow, endorphins cleared my mind long enough to remember that i had to run to the corner deli before i collapsed in my chair to watch WWE Raw.
with an intentional stride past my apartment and onward to the Christmas tree stand on my street corner, my eyes glowed with happiness like the lights that would soon adorn the naked trees i was walking towards. this sweet, holiday magic was quickly soured by a criminal scrooge, armed with mace and a desire to steal my phone. as he made a threatening (and public) grab for my things, i blocked him, screamed, and elbowed him really hard in the rib cage. a friendly doorman and cinematic couples walking their dogs through Christmas paradise quickly came to my aid as he ran and i stood paralyzed in shock.
he didn't manage to rob me of anything and i only felt robbed of my safety for a short time. but he did mace me, which left behind an orange residue and a brutal burn that blanketed my skin, only cured by water, air, and time. the pain followed me to the police station. and then to the hospital. and then to a wicked shower that dripped with a new stream of pain as i tried to wash it away, and new combinations of swear words that bounced off of the bathroom tile as i shouted them.
the following hours of exquisite pain and days of paranoia were caused by a split-second attack that was over almost as quickly as i forget a lesson that i love to relearn: trust. the damn. universe. and yourself.
we can work what problems in our control and learn to let go and accept what is not in our control. furthermore, don't be plagued by negativity and waste your mental energy on what you can't change. i write about this concept ad nauseum, because we can't escape it and i believe it's at the core of what happiness boils down to. but i don't think i've placed enough weight how powerful perception can be in this equation.
i walked away from this attack feeling so thankful. for my instincts, my support system, the NYPD officers that helped me, that i still felt so safe in my neighborhood, that the pain inflicted from being maced was temporary, that none of my possessions were stolen, that my assailant will likely be caught. and for so much more.
i could have let the emotional pain engulf me the same way the scalding sensation ignited my skin. as i laid in bed coping with the post-mace heat, i could have let my mind burn with fear, with doubt, with self-pity, with anger, with what-ifs. i could chalk it up to big bad New York City and move. i could lock myself in my apartment after dark. i could wonder what-if i had just gone home, or had my phone tucked away, or had taken the bus instead of the train, or hadn't been slacking on groceries so many weeks before?
but what a pity to have not gone through this little hell and not out of the flames better for it. i don't ignore the fear and i don't hide my anger, but to me this is proof that when i'm faced with such a test, blessings rain down on me. showering myself with anything less than gratitude would be such a disservice. this perception is a choice. i choose not to swim in the waves of negativity, because they are powerful and you can easily drown.
the only experience to rival this physical pain recently was the ache in all of my organs from being pinned between a barricade and a mosh pit at H2O's album release show (the day after seeing Chimara and Unearth at Starland Ballroom). the difference is that pain was AWESOME.
i found H2O working for my college radio family at WSOU and rekindled my love with their music (and tattoos) when i found out he was good friends with WWE professional wrestler and fellow S.E.O.G. CM Punk. the band is fronted by Toby Morse, and if you aren't drawn to him, you're allergic to inspiration. he is a mastermind behind embracing a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA). his lyrics, attitude, and soul don't bury or ignore human hurt, but it rips out their silver linings and turns them into shining overlays. his outlook impacted me far more than any cowardly attempt at a robbery. we can't control what heartbreak we encounter, but we can choose the path where we struggle the least; the path that steers us away from self-pity and towards transformative knowledge. we have to power not to be haunted.
like the pain that danced on my skin, emotional pain is often unprovoked, undeserved, and may linger. it's up to us to wash it away.