Today's Reading

Part of this delayed "trauma" is because I come from a privileged home situation and background. But also because, in terms of personality type, I was a pretty low-key kid. I eagerly avoided conflict and reprimand. Even now, I get stressed about something as dumb as walking into Target through the exit door because I assume a Red Shirt is going to swoop in and reprimand me for it. My default is simply to avoid conflict.

The exception has always been sports. In the arena of athletic contests, I transformed into a Tasmanian devil of jerky-ness. You take someone who is hypercompetitive, petty, and sensitive, then add a healthy dose of the male ego and, boy oh boy, do you have a potent gumbo of emotional instability on your hands.

But outside of sports, I was very reserved, and I remain so to this day. And to be honest, I don't mind this aspect of myself. But not so much after experiencing my first face punch.

I was stunned with the knowledge that a punch-taking Rocky Balboa I was not. But even more affecting was my response—or lack thereof. Daniel just walking away with my football and face-punching virginity and me taking no recourse was just not the narrative I had anticipated for myself. I'd assumed I would be like, if not Rocky, Arnold Schwarzenegger from the Terminator movies. I would have expected to handle the situation with Daniel like this:

There I am, shirtless, ripped, and wearing sunglasses despite it being night. Around me, trash cans billow with fire. Daniel refuses to throw me the football, so I activate my Terminator eye and confront him. He tries to sass me, then lands a punch, but it doesn't even hurt despite drawing a little blood.

I slowly wipe the blood from my nose with the back of my hand and say something awesome that sounds part hiss, part threat, and part Voltaire . . .

No one makes me bleed my own blood.

. . . before counterpunching Daniel into infinity and retrieving the football as he flies into an endless vortex of regret for having ever stepped to me.

But I did none of these things. There was no infinity punching and there weren't even trash cans billowing with fire because that would have been so against the HOA of Blake's neighborhood.

As you can tell, getting punched in the face was a formative experience for me. As is getting hit with the revelation that expectation isn't reality. My expectation of how I would react to conflict had been influenced by pop culture; and, as I would find out, life didn't always go down like that.

Even at age ten, many aspects of my life—including my faith—showed the influence of pop culture. My first visualized manifestation of God was George Burns. Somehow, around age six, I came into contact with his performance as God in Oh, God!, and I internalized it. Why, I have no idea. But it stuck. He's still my default avatar for God to this day.

I can only imagine that by this same logic, there are generations of kids who, when they think about God, might visualize Morgan Freeman from Bruce Almighty or the disembodied face from Monty Python. If this is true, I'm very jealous of those kids. Specifically the Morgan-Freeman-as-God kids. My vision of God is a guy who is like a million years old and looks like he smells like the Great Depression. Their vision is the guy who narrated March of the Penguins and who helps Bruce Wayne gear up for awesome Batman missions. Advantage: not me.

Of course, if we consider the inverse of this idea, that also suggests there may be a generation of kids who think of Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate as Satan. For me, seeing Al Pacino depict Beelzebub didn't really stick, mostly because I was fourteen when The Devil's Advocate came out in theaters. And because it was rated R, I totally did not watch it (wink) when it came to TV a few years later. But primarily, I'd already imagined Satan's physical essence as vaguely red, pitchforky, and low-key snarly.

This feels like a good spot to emphasize something important to know about me: I'm addicted to analogies. They're my go-to hack for making sense of the world. I just take the thing I don't understand and hold it up against things I do understand until I find some sort of clarity (thus God as George Burns).

But when you always need other examples to explain the immediate thing you're trying to understand, this has the potential for intellectual disaster.

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