Thursday, August 9, 2012

Patience: It's MORE than a Virtue...your life depends on it

There are so many cliches in the world that we many times take for granted the weight that some of these statements have...until we're slapped in the face with them. In my case, I was recently actually punched in the face for my lack of patience. I am now compelled to break down this cliche in a way that I pray will resonate with you some way.
This past Monday, like so many Mondays before, I was headed downtown on the Bruckner Expressway, towards the west village to go sing at a jam. I usually take the FDR and then head across town to the west village because 95 South is always a parking lot, no matter what time of day. (Here's the first part where I demonstrate a lack of patience.) I was having some car issues as my rear brakes were almost completely bare and I hadn't had the time or the money to go replace them. Allow me to acknowledge the danger of not repairing my vehicle and reflect that this is the first point when I should have realized patience would have kept me off the road and safer than driving on bare brakes. (Case 2 of lack of patience.)
But since I don't dwell in the past, I'll just hope that you take heed to the danger of driving with car problems and pray that you maintain your vehicle to the best of your ability. I'll also note that, since this incident, I've replaced my brakes.
Ok, so back to the Bruckner. Unlike every other night as I use this route to avoid traffic, the Bruckner was just was just as much of a parking lot as 95 usually is. In a hurry to get downtown and sing, I moved into the left hand lane, which was flowing freely, until the split for 87 north, where I slowed down and made my approach  to cut into traffic. In my peripheral vision, I could see the woman in the car next to me and her jerky motions in her car to leave absolutely no room between her and the car in front of her. I noticed it and yet disregarded it. Confident about my ability to get my car into pretty much any space, I waited until the car in front of her moved into the next lane and stealthily slipped my car directly in front of hers. Before I could even have a chance to realize what was happening, the woman in the car behind me had jumped out of her car. My window was down and as I reached for the button to put my window up as she screamed in my face, she put her hand down to stop me and reached out with a closed fist, which made impact directly above my right eye. I sat there in shock as she continued screaming at me, asking me if I was crazy, threatening me. She walked back to her car after a shouting a few more things in my face. Not thinking straight, I got out of my car, shaking like a leaf, so I could write down the make/ model of her car, along with the license plate number. She and her friends continued screaming at me out their windows, telling me to go ahead and call the cops as the passenger in the front seat pulled out what appeared to be a union card. She was saying her cousin was a cop and that it was useless for me to call the police. I was still shaking as I got back into my truck and fumbled to dial the 3 numbers to call for help.
It seemed to take an eternity for me to successfully dial the numbers. When the woman's voice finally answered on the other end, I was overcome and started sobbing as I tried to relay what my emergency was through gasps of air. My head started to throb as she kept asking me to repeat my location. I repeated it over and over again and she still misunderstood where I was saying, which only made my head throb more. I knew I needed to take a deep breath and focus if I was ever going to be able to communicate my location. Finally, I was able to get it across to her and I made my next phone call to Jeff, a man who has been so many things to me in the last few months that to give him one title would serve as a dis-justice. Again I found myself totally hysterical as he answered the phone. I blurted out as much of what happened as possible again through gasps of air. He asked me where I was and I felt my head throbbing again as I tried to explain my location. My frustration grew as I struggled to relay my location once again and my head felt as if it had a heartbeat all its own.
The driver and her friends had made their way out of the traffic and took off in the direction of the Triboro Bridge, still screaming at me as they drove off. I felt helpless and totally out of my element.
The only other thing I could think to do was use social networking to report what had happened in hopes that someone would spot the car. I tweeted about the incident, sharing the info about the car and license plate to over 3,500 people not knowing what else to do. My phone started going off repeatedly with phone calls and text messages from concerned friends who had seen the status update. The police kept calling me trying to pinpoint my exact location, which only further upset me and hurt my head. Finally, I heard the sirens and saw the flashing lights in my rear view mirror.
The officer approached my car and I rolled down my window for the first time since the woman had reached into my car with her fist. He asked me to re-count what had happened and took down all the information I had. He asked if I needed an ambulance and I couldn't figure out how to answer the question. Upon realizing the fact that I have no insurance, all I could think of was the hospital bill and I declined, my head still pounding .
Another officer approached my car and we started talking about the incident. I told him that I was on my way to sing downtown and that I'm a singer and song writer. Before he knew what hit him, he had my CD and my promo flyer in his hand. Without hesitation, I used the opportunity to turn the situation around. I told him about how I use my platform as an artist to encourage other people to live their lives striving for greatness in a healthy way, to educate and empower themselves, and to make the right choices. He started telling me about his weight gain since joining the force and the lifestyle decisions that he had made, which had led him to daily headaches. I started to talk to him about the impact his food choices and lack of exercise had and how he could help himself just by changing some small things to begin with. He told me that he had daughters and had moved out of the Bronx because of incidents like what had happened to me, along with other countless experiences from his service. It made me sad to think about the negative connotations of the Bronx. I reminded him that the crime and negativity was only perpetuated by the fact that people simply accepted it as "the way it is" and that change has to start somewhere. I also reminded him of the importance of his life and his health in the context of his daughters. At this point, my head was still hurting, but I was so grateful for the opportunity to turn something bad into something good...or at least plant a seed of something good. As he returned to his car to assist his partner with the report, Jeff pulled up in front of my car. He had been in the middle of an important meeting, but left as soon as he received my phone call to come to my aid.
As he got out of his car to check on me, the officers returned with the report, and we were all back in our cars making our way through the traffic. Jeff and I pulled off the highway into a gas station to sit and talk about what happened. He said that he was worried about me and the situations I put myself in. I was automatically defensive, even as the pounding in my head should have led me to be calmer and more receptive to his thoughtfulness. Even as he spoke, all I could think of was getting downtown to still make it to a jam.
He advised me that maybe all this was a sign to not go downtown and to lay low for the night. Frustrated even further, I explained that music was the only thing that really offered me any kind of peace, and that allowing the events of the evening to deter me was simply giving in to evil stopping me from my pursuit of my dream. I had re-counted the night after my apartment had gotten broken into and how the people running the show had been surprised that I showed up to perform less than 24 hours after it had happened. I found myself feeling just as I had then...that the show must go on. Reluctantly, he let me get out of his truck, back into mine and I made my way downtown.
I parked my car, fixed the makeup that I had cried off, and made my way into the Village Underground. It was packed and I was eager to get on the list. But the mishaps of the evening had led me to arriving too late so I made my way to The Bitter End, a place I consider to be my home away from home on Monday nights, filled with some of the most talented musicians in our country, but more importantly at that moment in particular, some of the best friends I've made during this journey.
I walked in and told them what happened and was immediately given ice to put on my head and a club soda. I  already started feeling better just knowing the love they had for me. And though my head was still pounding, it felt better to be around great music and amazing people. I went up and performed my song, "Back With You"   and I was grateful that after everything that happened, I was still able to perform and share my gift.
I've done a lot of reflecting since Monday night. I even had to stay in the following night due to the pain in my head, which is something I don't frequently do in this relentless pursuit of my dream. In all the recent reflecting, I realized that patience is one of my biggest challenges. It's something I've realized in the past, but this week, it was put in my face (literally) more than ever. I thank God that the woman only punched me. I realize that she could have had a gun and there's a chance I wouldn't have been alive to share this lesson with you.
"Be still and know that I am God..." Psalm 46:10 For those of you that know even just a little about me, you know that I'm a woman of faith. This scripture has been a reoccurring theme in my life. I push so hard everyday towards the fruition of my dream. Sometimes I push so hard that I forget the importance of being patient and realizing how much danger I can put myself in if I'm not cognizant of that fact. I put my faith and trust in God every single day. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God did not bring me this far to leave me now. But just as that's true, something that Jeff reminds me of on a regular basis, is that God helps those that help themselves. Accordingly, I pray that this incident inspires you to put a healthy dose of patience in your life. With the advent of technology and the seeming necessity for everything to be NOW NOW NOW, remember that patience is MORE than a virtue...your life could very well depend on it. 
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