About three weeks ago I was visiting a dear old friend; we sat in the back of his house. A rectangular piece of cement held the post of a deck. A big grill was pushed to the wall to the left of the door, there were a few chairs just outside the back door, the rest of the yard was grass shared amongst the neighbors. No metal or wooden fences.
For comfort, I figured I’d go for the chair that was farthest from the door, facing towards the grill opposite to it. What I did not notice was that my sitting post was across a thin green cable to which my friend’s 11-month-old German Shephard, Diesel, was tied to, while he kept us company. We were catching up when the neighbor to the right of the house – directly behind where I was sitting -caught Diesel’s attention.
In the second that took Diesel to sprint toward the neighbor, to say hi, the cable hit me right in the face and knocked me off my ‘comfortable’ seat. The ringing in my ears disoriented me, soon the ringing moved to my face, as I felt my right eye get swollen.
My friend helped me up; his horror-struck-face worried me. I hurried back into the house, across the family room, and to the guest bathroom. I fumbled with the light switcher as the pain began to manifest itself around my eye, my face felt tight.
The light flickered on, and I saw my -somewhat -disfigured face. In retrospect, the hit wasn’t that bad. I’m quite white for a ‘Latina’ -it’s been brought to my attention many times,-and my skin is sensitive. I bruise easily.
Red and purple were the colors I first noticed, where the cable first hit my face; lots of tiny red dots conglomerated right below my eye, just above my cheek-bone. A small bump began to form, a purplish color surrounding it. Right above the small-round-swelling, beneath my eyebrow, another bump was already forming; lastly, on my forehead, right above my brow, light swelling. That was the last place the cable hit.
I was horrified at the reflection in the mirror. And in so much pain. My friend handed me some ice packs, after I felt calmer, I got in my red Kia Spectra (Rhonda’s her name), and I drove home. I wanted to hide and not let anyone see me. “What happened to you?!” It’s a tedious and lengthy question to answer.
The irony to what I was facing that late Sunday evening as I was driving home, is that I already had to face a similar situation, where I thought I had come into terms with my looks, above all, I thought I didn’t care about people’s opinions. This previous event happened a few years back, seven, to be exact.
I was 23 and recently single when a girlfriend at the time convinced me to go out dancing because “it would be fun, I was single, I had to enjoy my freedom, etc.” It was the Friday before Spring Break, naturally, I had no excuse not to go out. Who cares about unfinished essays, presentations or assignments. Cool and fun people go out and celebrate, they don’t stay in and study. Against my better judgment, I decided her argument held true, I was single, and I should celebrate; I’d have plenty of time for homework. Towards the end of our club-escapade, I got punched in the face by a guy I had not wanted to dance with earlier that night. He got me right on my forehead, above my left brow -funny enough this time around the blow was on the right side of my face. Long story short, I spent my Spring Break week in hiding, ashamed of my deformed face. I took no pictures. I did not see anybody. On the bright side, I got ahead in my school work. I realized I had been silly and vain. After Spring Break, I still had some left over black-and-blues; I had to face people and explain what happened anyway.
Due to this experience, I assumed I had learned my lesson and realized that my hiding had been childish and a waste of time, I didn’t allow myself to enjoy my time off.
“Welcome to Starbucks, what can I get started for you?” A friendly voice coming from the drive-through box brought me back from my reverie.
“A hot, grande coconut milk, mocha, macchiato, please,” I answered, feeling safe behind my big, black, hide-your-face, sunglasses. The glasses pressed down on my right eye; I was too aware of the swelling. I could feel my eyelashes meet every time I blinked.
“That’ll be $5.30. Thank you.” The friendly barista said as I handed him my card. I thanked him for my drink, put my card back in my wallet and drove away. I was yearning to hide in my room and curl up in a ball while I read my “A Game of Thrones” book, by George R. R. Martin.
I parked in the driveway, grabbed my deliciously sugary drink, my bag -carefully, my foxy MacBook Air, Nymeria, was with me -and made my way into the house.
I was greeted with warm love and crazy tails. Drogo and Meta, my dog-child and my dog-nephew. There is nothing like the unconditional embrace of a dog’s love. Unequivocally pure and indisputable.
I spent the rest of the evening reading in my room, curled up with Drogo, icing my face; brewing about my bruised-up, swollen, sore face.
A tight, almost tingling sensation on the right side of my face woke me up the next morning; the ice-pack laid on the floor, melted. Drogo was curled up in a ball to my left, and I somehow managed to get my legs tangled with my white, puffy comforter. Groggy, I opened my eyes, stretched, I looked around my bedroom -saw the ice pack, -and a rush of green-cable-swollen-face caught up to me. I jumped off the bed and headed straight to the bathroom; my reflection was not as bad as I had expected it to be; my reaction to the reflection in the mirror was even more unexpected. I was upset to see my face all weird and deformed. It wasn’t until late Tuesday morning, after speaking with my mom on the phone -we talk a few times a week- that I realized how lucky I had been.
“Sweetie, that could have burst your eye! You got so lucky. Thank God.” We had a long conversation on various topics, but that line stuck with me after we hung up the phone.
In truth, I had been quite lucky. Thank you, high cheekbones! I was so concerned about what I looked like, and what people might think -undoubtedly many thought it was physical abuse -that, not once, did I think about what could have happened.
The cable, in all honesty, barely missed my eyeball. Have you ever been hit in the eye? I’m pretty sure it’d hurt a lot. And, since I was so worried about ‘looks,’ I’m sure it would have looked horrifying; bloody eyeball or worse, no eyeball.
What’s the lesson?
Besides learning that I still had vanity issues to deal with, that very well known “it’s about perception” saying became even more apparent.
Perception is our ability to experience and comprehend our every-day ups and downs; the external factors, say a swift hit in the face, that may alter your inner peace and state of mind. Often, we fall prisoners to the misleading notion that we have no power over how we perceive a particular experience. It’s easy to deal with and enjoy a positive experience: a good grade, not being rejected by your crush, getting that job, etc.; our egos don’t give us a hard time accepting and moving on from that positive experience, it influences the filter with which we perceive life. A positive experience helps us stay in a positive disposition towards life.
It’s the ‘not so’ positive experiences that stain the filter of our everyday interactions. I’ll be the first to admit that even when you think you have a positive mentality and disposition towards life, the smallest circumstance change challenging what you preach or ignore; sending you in a swirl of confusion, disorientation, and depression-prone moments.
During my early 20’s I was convinced with having dealt with my vanity, because I don’t wear make-up or do my hair, nor do I accessorize or qualify myself as a fashionista, I -quite wrongly – assumed I had no vanity issues. Having a swollen, shiny-greenish-purplish face can make you question how you view yourself.
The first-day post-cable-knock-out-incident, all I did was brew in my “why me, why the face” whirlpool of misery and bad mood. I avoided my parents and my boyfriend; my roommates were a bit more difficult to avoid. Despite how much I like writing at a Starbucks near my house, I could not get myself to leave the comfort of my room. Not once did I stop to think further than “Ugh, my face looks like a swollen-lopsided-unicorn-fish!”
Venting and complaining to my mom made me realize how petty I was behaving. I was able to outgrow my ego and change my mentality. I discovered that replacing the “why me” question with a “what can I learn from this” inquiry, indeed has a significant impact on that perception filter with which we view our experiences.
I was able to realize that I had, indeed, been quite lucky. Yes, life punches us in the face with situations that, at first, may seem like a punishment. It incites us to ask, “why is this happening to me?” It’s so easy to default to that feeling or perception. However, once we
manage to look past that first hurdle in a new situation, we can see the positive that comes with it. In my case, my face was otherwise intact, I had my full eye, and the bruises and swelling eventually go away; no scars left behind. The repeated experience, a blow in the face, brought to my attention an issue -my vanity -that I hadn’t thoroughly dealt with and it definitely humbled me. My swollen, purplish eye helped me realized how narrow-minded I was behaving; and brought me to a new chapter in my life, one where I should freely admit that I, in fact, do like my physical appearance, and I should not take it for granted.
Now, I know that being hit in the face is not the same thing as banks rejecting a loan for a house, or finding out that a loved one is sick, or being evicted from your place of residence. However, I genuinely believe that the essence of what I am trying to convey stands, whenever we encounter a negative situation, it’s essential to rewire our brains into thinking and perceiving things differently. It’s about staying in the present moment so that we can consciously make the decision on how to proceed. Will I fester and linger in low, depressive vibrations that only hinder myself growth? Or will I make the conscious effort of adjusting my perception so to view each situation clearly?
When it gets too overwhelming, take a second, deep inhale and observe. What are you capable of doing at that very moment. Embrace what you are facing, allow it to humble and quiet the ego; and search for the lesson. Be grateful for each opportunity, every situation nudges you towards growth; helping you become your better self. Overall, rewiring your brain into a more positive, accepting, and understanding one will help you feel more at ease; having inner peace is what allows us to perceive the magic in the world, regardless of what we’re facing.
An incurable passion for writing; a poet at heart. I am a writer on the road.