Why It Stings

The world is a truly bizarre place. What I mean is us. I mean we are amazing creatures. Each and every one of us. We are all amazing for our own reasons. Even the bad ones that do bad things and the evil ones that do evil things. All of us have something.

As far as I go in this world and as far as I travel and no matter how many people I see or meet, I doubt there will ever come a time when I am not amazed or at least, surprised, even in the least of surprising times.

I have seen a lot of things and yet, at the same time, I haven’t seen anything. All I’ve seen is a few brief windows of opportunity. All I’ve seen are the views from my perspective, which is fine.
I have met my share of beautiful people. And I’ve met ugly ones as well. I look around at this world of mine. I look down from the rooftop of a building over on Lexington Avenue. I look at the world in disbelief and then I find myself, lost in the projection of what I fear the most. I’ve seen different faces on subways. I’ve seen the homeless and the wealthy, the intoxicated, and the junkie. I’ve seen incredible and extraordinary acts of kindness. And of course, I have seen hatred as well. I have learned both what to do and what not to and where to go and what to stay away from.

I am amazed however, at the people that make such amazing things. I am amazed at the people that have literally nothing in their pockets and yet, the wealth in their heart is equivalent to the wealthiest family on the Earth.
I am often humbled by them. I am often shocked as I look at myself in my mental mirror. I see me and my abilities and then I look at someone that has so much less than I do, but yet, they take advantage of every opportunity available without “Quit” and without a second glance.
There are only so many people in this world with such amazing dedication. There is no reverse in them. There is no retreat and the way they endure, at least to me, is almost superhuman.

There are times when I see people this way and I look at myself. I look at my efforts and my achievements and although I am grateful for them and proud of my accomplishments; there are people I see and the love from them and their ability is capable to make even the truest of heroes appear like an impostor.

There are moments in life when purity and wholesomeness can almost sting.  There are moments when people do such incredible things and as happy and brilliant as the moment is; still, there is something so incredibly sharp and almost painful — perhaps this is a distilling process or purification — or maybe this is like when we were kids and we scraped our knee; and someone came along and sprayed disinfectant on the scrape. And this burned for a second.

Maybe the interaction between us and purity reacts the same way. Maybe there is pain with beauty — or, maybe the pain has nothing to do with the beauty at all. Maybe this is just our hopeless ideas being sanitized. And we weep because, finally, we see something so pure and so amazing that it literally stings before it cleanses us and takes the pain away. Maybe this is the contrast between the darkness and light, and when we see this we react emotionally because at last, the lies we believed can go away.

There are times when we see ourselves through doubtful eyes, which predicate the direction of our entire life. There are times when we give all we have. We fight, tooth and nail. We give every ounce that we have to build something or do something, and then, right when we face the moment of truth, finally, we see the value of our efforts. All the fret; all the insecure doubts, and all the side-conversations from the critics are finally solved.

A few years back, I had been giving presentations for a while but none of them were as satisfying as a few. One of which, I only spoke for maybe ten minutes at best. I spoke honestly to a roomful of ninth graders on a Friday before the final bell. I asked the counselor if there would be anyone standing by because some of my presentations hit home with the students. I explained that there are times when this creates a lot of emotion as well as an opening for conversation and sometimes, people step forward. I was told not to worry because it was Friday. I was told each and every one of those kids would run out as soon as the final bell rang.

They were wrong. It took me more than two hours to leave. And before I left, I watched at least three different huddles of kids with arms around each other, pledging to one another, “We are not going to kill ourselves!”

Out of all the students on this day, one girl pulled me to the side. She was pretty. Very pretty. She was soft-faced and young. Her eyes were watering as she approached. She confided that she was going to kill herself. And fortunately, she didn’t. I directed her to the counselor. He looked at me in disbelief. I just smiled.

Oddly enough this created a bit of a stir and a parent complained to the school for having someone come in and talk about abuse, mental illness, addiction, and suicide. Apparently, their child went home crying and tried to talk to their parents Who knows? Maybe the parent thought this was my fault. Perhaps the parent that complained would have seen this much differently if they saw what happened after the presentation. but like I said, who knows? At the time, all I could think is no wonder these kids feel as if they have no one to talk to.

I never had too many experiences when The Old Man was able to see me perform. I never played sports very well. And the last time The Old Man sat in the stands for one of my games, I think I was somewhere around the age of 10 or maybe 11. He never saw me as I am now. All he saw was the way I was. He saw me in handcuffs and in treatment centers.

I had the chance to do a presentation in front of educators and administrators. I took a picture of The Old Man with me. I decided to let them see. I wanted them to feel everything. I wanted them to feel the pain and the strains of depression. I wanted them to understand what it feels like to literally want to die or if anything, to be so high there would be no objection to dying. None whatsoever. And that’s the attraction that most people don’t understand.

I am pretty sure the audience did not expect what was coming. 

At the end of my presentation, I took out a picture of The Old Man because he never had the chance to see me work. And whether he was there in spirit or not; I wanted him to see. I put his picture on the podium. I could hear the audience gasp with emotion. To me, this means I did my job.

The pain behind something beautiful is the sting that comes with purity; to wash away our sins, to cleanse our doubt, and to let us know the one undeniable truth, which is despite our faults, we are all absolutely beautiful.

My guess is that sometimes, we just fail to see it. We fail to recognize our own amazing ability. And maybe this is why we cry. Maybe this is because finally, after all the hours of doubt and disbelief, something happens to show that humanity is real. And just like that, the pain can go away.

This is The Old Man. I always wanted him to be as proud as he was in this picture.

3 thoughts on “Why It Stings

  1. You are a bloody gift and positive example of recovery in action.. You use your experiences to help others and carry the message. The final.paragraphs in this are so piercing and beautiful. Kids need to know it’s okay to struggle. I could never open up as an adolescence and active addiction was a hiding place for me. It helps for someone to normalize that struggle and bring it out of the shadows.

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