This evening I had my bellybutton ring removed. Maybe it was the rising full moon. Maybe it was the realization that my 33rd birthday is nine days away. I had been contemplating removing it permanently for some time. The only issue…it was stuck. When I walked by a nearly empty tattoo and piercing shop with three employees idly standing at the front counter I thought, this is my chance. I walked in. Five minutes and $10 later I walked out with a sealed baggy containing a piece of jewelry that had been with me for 15 years. And suddenly I was walking through the Village crying hysterically. The NYU kids were staring at me because they have not lived enough life to understand this pain. The beautiful middle-aged gay men strolling down the narrow sidewalks in pairs were staring at me because they have lived too much life to understand this pain. My stomach started to hurt. It hurt so bad I was convinced something was seriously wrong. And then, I vomited. It was almost exclusively water because I had been at a new employee orientation, one I assumed would last no more than an hour, for two hours. I spent the last hour chugging water to quiet my rumbling, underfed belly.
I was grieving the loss of my granny. I was crying the way I should have almost 17 years ago on the night she passed away, but I was too busy being a self-absorbed teenager back then. Instead of crying I pierced my bellybutton with a safety-pin. I simultaneously felt the awful pain of slowly jamming a needle through my own skin millimeter by millimeter while being so numb it did not matter. Two years later, when I was 18, I had my bellybutton professionally pierced with the ring I had just gotten removed. What would my life be like if my granny were still alive? I should have been grieving a much more recent loss. I should have been tending to those feelings. Instead, I just wanted my granny the way I did when I was a small child.
My past has been creeping into my present a lot lately. Twice a week, on my way to physical therapy, I walk by the apartment I lived in when I moved back to NYC to start graduate school. I am now teaching at a school right around the corner from the apartment I lived in when I moved to NYC immediately following undergrad school. Baggage I thought I had unpacked, worked through, and gotten rid of is surfacing. Where the hell did that scarf and old underwear come from? I thought I had gotten rid of that suitcase and all of its contents. Baggage I know I still tote around, bits and pieces tucked into the side pockets of duffel bags, no big deal really, seem to be causing tension in current relationships and making new relationships difficult to sustain. What is happening to my life? As I write this a man on a fire escape across the street plays the trumpet. I remember one of my dorm mates in undergrad teaching himself to play the trumpet in our too-small-for-that-level-of-noise dorm.
With a full moon hanging in the sky above me, a birthday a week away, and far more personal upheaval than this little blog post can contain, I realize how far I have come and how much work I have yet to do as I journey toward being my most authentic self. My past still has many lessons to teach me. I still have a lot of letting go to do. The future feels more frighteningly unknown that it has in a long time. In the present I find solace that I am okay, no matter how painful or difficult to acknowledge my feelings or thoughts may be…they will not last forever.