“JEEEEZZUZ CHRIIIIIIST!” I screamed as I was thrown with the force and speed of a freight train (and yet somehow also in slow motion) to the ground by Jack*, a teenage black belt who is normally self-deprecating and gentle but surprised me with his sudden brutality. Immediately I felt remorse for taking the Lord’s name in vain and being disrespectful to the others so I quickly apologized to my partners and my instructor after I had recovered.

My other partner was Noah, a giant man with the disposition of a lamb and the strength of an ox. I was still recovering from the bruises he left on my arm during last week’s sparring class. When Noah threw me I didn’t hit my head, but I was definitely shaken, like a cartoon character who walks smack into a gong and then shudders around like a human pogo stick. “I’m glad I have some junk in my trunk!” I snapped after I landed on my hip with a splat.

Pain. It comes in many forms. It comes in the aching back I nursed all weekend. It comes from being thrown to the ground by male partners who don’t know their own strength. It comes from the disappointments and cruelties, big or small, that we inflict on each other. It comes from fear.

When I am under serious stress, which I am facing right now, I often manifest it in physical pain or discomfort. All day at work the right side of my neck burned with an ominous tickle. My head felt flushed and light with the pressure of a ghost headache. I trembled and stumbled over my words in a staff meeting like a drunk. And finally, I knew my discomfort and pain had moved beyond the I-just-need-chocolate-and-I’ll-be-fine phase to the threat-of-major-change-or-loss phase when I felt what I only feel in very dire straits: a tiny squeeze in my chest. The telltale sign of my telltale heart on the verge of breaking.

I trust my partners even though they are idiot brutes at times. I know how to fall and I know how to dodge and block. I know in the end it will be okay. I’ve experienced this creepy chest pain before. What I didn’t have in my toolbox in past instances was trust in myself and faith that things will be okay. I’ve learned that pain or loss or even change aren’t reflections of me as a “good” or “bad” person. I’ll be okay no matter what. Bruises heal, tears dry, and words fade over time.¬†Things will be okay no matter the outcome.

*Names changed

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