From my place backstage, blue lights painting us all like ghosts in the preshow calm, I pressed into the pain in my foot. An old injury that has awoken with a vengeance in recent body study, it has been a constant note sung in the background of every weight bearing moment. I was thinking about weight passing through, and realized that feeling the pain was different than engaging with it, and pressed down harder. Like my toes had words to say to the floor, I let the bottom of my foot whisper about gravity and the force of my weight to the stage underneath me. The full length of my toes, all the way up to the metatarsals were clearly illuminated in the conversation between my body and the floor. What had previously been a blind ball of pain with fuzzy, bright edges contained underneath my outer ankle became a network of splinters, a burning spiderweb that spread out along the underside of my foot. The pain has begun to dissipate in the days following, and I can feel my feet talking to various supporting surfaces sometimes, chatty and just a little bit vulnerable. In my anatomy class earlier that week I had a similar awareness rise up, of a multidimensionality of experience that is always happening, but I had always been lost in such a spacial/temporal immediacy of attention. Our attention has a history too, whether we can hold all of the threads in our gaze or not.
I noticed myself getting worked up on the train ride to my current gig, picking fights with people in my head and filling up with the steam I was going to cruise in with. Its not the first time I've watched this happen, preparing myself for the battles I might potentially face and triggering an adrenaline response before I even walk through the heavy doors of the Armory. Like modulating poisons in my body, the clarity and speed that manifest in my anger are a dangerous alchemy that make it hard to settle in non work circumstances, but that shaking rage has helped me unload countless trucks of steel and wield construction vehicles and crews of men like a knife, like an extension of my own hand. In building truly beautiful things in a massive scale, as well as weaving a fleshy tapestry of love with the guys I'm in charge of, I have always felt blessed to have such a profound outlet for all the anger living in my body, that I had a place where my voice could boom so loud it filled the city-block-wide space when I can't even make my own mother hear me. Maybe I always thought I would eventually be drained of that feeling, that I would run dry of rage, but I'm starting to wonder where I got that idea in the first place. I watched my calm, cool boss pace and writhe after a confrontation with an impossible employee, as he tried to speak to me through the blood in his eyes, he admitted how enjoyable he found those moments. He is someone I resonate pretty deeply with, and I know the feeling he described, that same beast lives in my blood, a dark pleasure in proving to an invisible someone that I am not powerless. Only now I am wondering about that conflation of pain and pleasure that makes ease and comfort without a fight seem like it is undeserved, like I am vulnerable somehow for experiencing it. Something I thought I was getting rid of, like emptying a bottle... may only be carving deeper and deeper grooves, burning away my other choices, making it less and less likely I can engage in other ways. Not modulating anymore, but eventually becoming an addiction to accessing these superhuman parts of myself, at the cost of losing access to everything else.
"This pain is not your karma", a wise-woman told me recently.
"I see", said the blind man, after he stared into the sun for too long.
In whispering conference in the dark with my closest counterpart who supervises builds with me, we talk about the unique us-shaped hole we've dug for ourselves, and what it might mean to stop digging and consider climbing out. Five months prior to this moment he had sustained a massive blow to the face while on a jobsite, and the back of his left eye as well as a line down the back of his skull continue to give him serious pain, he is terrified that one of his eyes now lives farther back in its socket. After CAT scans and doctor's visits, they finally told him to come back in a year since they can't quite discern what's happening. As he looked at me through massively uneven pupils, he encouraged me to follow this alternative body-focused path, even though I was scared about affording it. I can't NOT take this eagle-eyed man seriously, hearing the momentary tenderness in his Ukrainian accented voice. I forget sometimes, how much he has seen me grow in the past half decade, two superhuman beings guiding the ship of this space, and I already miss the depth of his awareness, the subterranean knowledge that underlies the language we use with each other. If I choose a different path, will all of the fighting, the boundaries broken by me as a woman in a man's world, the power I've wielded, will it be like it never even happened? If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did I ever drive a forklift and work with steel? Will I just be another long haired artist girl who draws to get by? Who could I ever trust to know or witness the wholeness of me in the world beyond ours?
A man I loved working with a few years ago asked me once,-"Could you imagine showing up to work and not having to fight?". At the time we were renovating parts of buildings under construction, the other guys we worked with hated him, with his loud bossy temperament and Taurean strength, but I could trust him to help me finish the job no matter what - the guys henpecked him into finally leaving the city completely, the way my sibling's chickens killed and consumed my chicken in the backyard as kids, only leaving the feet behind. I was regularly the only woman on these jobsites - the snickers and sneers from the other construction crews slowly turning into respect were my lifeblood for a long time. Men from vastly different cultural backgrounds approached me with questions about why I was different from the women in their lives. I was fighting the good fight in the only way I knew how. But as my body falls apart under the pressure I constantly put it under, I am starting to wonder why I am so afraid to do the things that come naturally, afraid of that particular kind of ease and comfort, like it was something I haven't earned yet.
And I wonder how much of my potential power leaks out into a million pointless, futile battles, if there is not a better way to participate in cultivating those things I believe in and want to be a part of.
Roll Jordan, roll.