I went running in a nearby park over the weekend resulting in a monumental allergy attack. My face swelled to balloon-like proportions, I was crying though not sad, and sneezing like I’d snorted a fistful of black pepper. I have allergies that have their own allergies. The attack was so severe I opted out of dinner plans and laid on the couch in a self-induced Benadryl coma covered by a blanket of self-pity, and detest for the unfairness of the world.
The next day, mid-recovery, eyes puffy, still sneezing, I fell into my usual pattern of self-loathing. Why me? Why am I the unlucky one allergic to the natural world? Languishing in self-pity is anything but productive. Laying there, I shifted my gaze to the bay window in my living room that opens up onto the street. I watched as a mother and son rode bikes. They were laughing and the mother was showing her son how to ride with no hands.
The son, no more than six or seven, tried to mimic the demonstration only to fall and scrape his knees (I, of course, laughing uproariously through swollen eyelids). There was a moment where he was shaken, but eventually, he stood, brushed himself off, and continued to ride.
There’s a line in Whitman’s Song of Myself about how “all truths wait in all things,” and sitting there witnessing another’s triumph over suffering while I labored away in my snot-covered decrepitude, nothing had ever seemed truer.
Who was I to let something as menial and base as allergies get me down? The very reason I was hiding inside was out of fear of showing my purplish face in public, but more than anything it was out of fear of appearing different; fear of hiding the truth that I’m one of the unlucky ones who has to fight through the spring-time pollen storms. But really, fear that others would deem me as somehow lesser of a man because of something entirely out of my control.
Fear is ridiculous. I am who I am, purplish-swollen eyes and all.
There’s truth in action; truth behind the simplicity of falling, shaking off, and moving on. Conceptually, we see truth as something akin to the tooth fairy. Maybe we’ll catch a glimpse when we’re little, but otherwise, it’s nonexistent. When in actuality, truth is the undercurrent of life. It is pervasive and ubiquitous like energy or light.
What Whitman nailed so wonderfully is the fact that truth isn’t always pleasing, nor is it entirely beautiful–it is all-encompassing. Keats, God love him, missed the mark in writing that the two are one in the same. The truth can oftentimes be as ugly and purple as my face when I inhale pollen.
Real beauty, however resides is wearing one’s imperfections on their sleeve, no matter what the flaw.