The Unbeatable Beat

I had a really great night tonight. You could say it started getting good when I went to see The Mechanic with a friend: a predictable yes, but still rockin’ action film starring the current king of kick-ass, Jason Statham. These movies always manage to put me in a good mood, and as always, I left the theater feeling invincible, like I could take on anything!
But I guess in retrospect, I’d say the night is really more memorable because of what happened later, and what it taught me about myself.
So first, I’d like to start by telling you about anger. All my life I’ve suffered from intense frustration and a very violent temper. I inherited this from my father, which believe me doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. And just like my father, something unsettling happens to me and I just snap. This monster rises up in me with the smallest incident, the tiniest encouragement, one little pinprick. And suddenly, I am overtaken by an uncontrollable urge to hit something, hurt something, destroy something. I just want to rip and punch and yell and curse.
Now as I’ve grown up, I have learned to control this considerably. At the very least, I’ve learned to tear and scream and smash in private, and so not subject anyone else to this temper. But I pay a price to hold it in. And while it’s been better for those around me, it still hasn’t helped me heal at all. It still often gets the better of me. And through it all, I’ve always been ashamed of it. My whole life I’ve been ashamed of my temper, ashamed of the power anger has over me.
You must understand, I am a very passionate person. I know this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It’s pretty obvious to anyone who’s ever known me, met me, or probably even just observed me passing by. I do have a fire to me – at the core of me, driving me – which in a nutshell describes my personality, and explains why I have the word tattooed on my back. And this temper of mine, this thing that takes such a hold of me… this is what happens when the fire is at it’s worst. And when it’s burning that hot, it’s hard for anyone to see me because they either don’t understand it or they’re intimidated by it, or both.
But what’s worse, it’s been even harder for me to understand it, and see through the haze of it. In that moment, it’s all I can do not to punch a wall, or dent my car’s roof, or scream loud enough to shatter glass and pierce the world. And in that moment, I want to pierce the world. I want to hurt what has dared hurt me, regardless of what it is, and whether it will make any difference, or matter at all.
Because that’s the thing isn’t it? It usually doesn’t matter. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. Lives will go on living, and weeks or days or even minutes from then, it won’t matter that this one thing happened, that some guy cut me off, or that woman insulted me, or my grandmother made me feel small and insignificant again. But why does it matter so much in the moment? Why is it so hard for me to let go, even when knowing in the long run it won’t make a difference?
Well of course, even throughout this most recent and tumultuous journey of my life, that message never did sink in. I have been trying so hard to work at this anguish within, and gain some footing against the beast. But I never felt like I was getting anywhere. Sure I’ll go through periods where I feel a little more at peace, or it’s a little easier to hold it back, but the monster would still be lying dormant underneath, just waiting for the right time to pounce.
And as if to prove so, this last weekend in Tahoe, it found opportunity to rear its ugly head again. It rose up in all its fury, and nearly destroyed me. I got out on that mountain first thing Saturday morning, and immediately I got stuck in a tree ditch. It was so icy that I couldn’t dig my edge in enough to stop the inevitable painfully-slow slide down into that ridiculous ditch. And as I sunk further and further down, my pride went down with it. So by the time I managed to awkwardly crab crawl my way out and catch up to everyone (who of course were all sitting there waiting for me), I felt about as big as an ant, and totally unworthy of anyone’s respect.
And I swear I’m better than this. Normally, I am a fairly decent snowboarder. This was so not the kind of first impression I wanted to give these guys. But the fact that I got stuck in a ditch for so long, and made everybody wait on my clumsy ass, before we even got to go down one measly run… well it didn’t exactly paint the most impressive picture of me. And more importantly, it didn’t exactly start me off in the greatest mood that day. As we took the first lift up, I proceeded to curse and swear like a sailor for being so foolish, which I’m sure only made me seem that much more awesome. I couldn’t decide which made me angrier: the fact that I failed so spectacularly as a snowboarder, or that my ego had been so bruised in the process.
I remained relatively pissed off for the remainder of the day, but it did slowly improve with each successful carve and that glorious feeling that only a truly solid smooth run can give you. So that by the end of the day, I’d managed to regain some of my pride, and was feeling pretty confident when the guys suggested we head back down the front side to the lodge. We knew this would take some traversing over to the Kirkwood’s longest run, which would take us all the way to the bottom. What we didn’t realize was that the path to get to this nice long run included navigating a very steep and very icy section. Well that’s also largely because we all foolishly decided to follow Jon. And as I later learned, the first rule of Jon is that you never follow Jon. But of course, we all followed Jon. And what with my newly repaired pride, and my eagerness to be done with the day, I guess I wasn’t being terribly cautious as we started down the icy slope. So yes, I ate it… really bad.
The whole sequence went something like a bad joke. What’s black and white and black and white and black and white and black and white and really bruised all over? Answer: a Rebecca somersaulting and slamming and sliding 50 feet down a sheer sheet of ice. I yard sale-d every loose piece of clothing on me (though thankfully not my board), and finally ended up lying face up and stunned dumb, barely able to speak but for whimpering in pain.
And of course, once I shakily righted myself and collected my things, and made it slowly down the rest of the ice, there was everyone sitting and waiting for me all over again. And once again, I felt unequivocally embarrassed. And then I felt angry. I mean, I was pissed, both at the mountain and at myself. I was pissed at the mountain for kicking my ass, and at myself for having let it. So that the only thing more agonizing than the pain searing through my entire body was the feeling of my pride being crushed all over again.
I don’t know how I managed to get the rest of the way down the mountain that day. Or how I was able to hold my head high and assure everyone that I would be just fine on my own. Or for that matter, how I was able to get back out on the slopes again the next day for even more abuse. Thank you sir, may I have another? I didn’t last long that next day either, and I literally had nothing left by the end of it, but I did get back out there. I tried until I could go no further. And then, finally beaten into submission, I hung up my board, settled in front of a beer and bowl of chili, and just let the aches and shame wash over me.
And that shame and anger stuck with me well beyond the weekend. It hung persistently above me like one of those cartoon rain clouds. So that even today I could feel its simultaneously comforting and depressing presence as I met Kim Elisha at the 5Rhythms dance event.
Now I know you’ve been waiting for this story to start looking up. So here it is. It was here that something beautiful and beautifully ironic happened. See the 5Rhythms class has been experimenting lately with the idea of tying an emotion to the evening’s exercise. And tonight, the chosen emotion to explore through dance was – you guessed it – anger. Boy, someone up there must really love me. Though regardless of how timely last weekend’s events were, this still would have been an incredibly appropriate emotion for me to focus on, given my volatile history with it. So I found myself equally intrigued and terrified at what the night’s dance might reveal.
We were asked to select one recent experience with anger to focus on in this exercise, which of course immediately triggered that very perfect recent event just described. Then with that in mind, we all got started as the instructor indicated, moving around in a circular motion, letting the anger start brewing and working its way up into our consciousness. And as I danced, I started allowing myself to explore this emotion that has gotten the better of me all my life.
I felt it ignite and invigorate me, but for all the power it has over me, it didn’t really feel any better in this supposedly controlled setting. I just got angrier and angrier, soaking in the anger until I got good and pruney. But I understood this was supposed to be healthy for me, and I was hopeful that something productive would come out of it, so I just kept exploring and indulging the anger.
And then almost as if completely randomly, mid-brew and at the peak of my pruney-ness, it finally hit me – that realization that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that I’m angry, or that the mountain beat me up, or that I appeared a less competent snowboarder. And I finally understand why it doesn’t matter! Because you know what? I’m dancing! I’m actually dancing, and moving my body – this body that just two days ago was given the beating of a lifetime; this body that really ought to be immensely more crippled and weak.
I mean, how do I even have this much energy now? The fact that I am even here doing this proves that I won! The mountain tried to take me down, but I’m still here. I’m still going strong; my body has not been broken; I have not been beaten. The mountain pushed my limits, but it didn’t break me. And that means I won. I realized that’s what matters in the end. It doesn’t matter if something pisses me off, or someone cuts me off, or something tries to take me down. Because in the end, I’m still going to be here, still dancing, still kicking ass like Jason Statham.
You see, I think this is why they call me ‘Beat.’ This is the true meaning of my name ‘Beat’. It’s not just because I’m a dancer, and always dancing to the beat of the music – that’s part of it sure, but it’s not the core of it. The true essence of the name is more about the beat within me. It says that no matter how much of a beating I may take, and how angry I may get about it, my heart is still going to keep beating, and I’m going to keep beating strong. There will still be a beat in me.
And in the end, that’s all that matters. In the end, nothing else matters but the Beat in me, the Beat that will never be beaten.

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