Punk, Passion and the Pit

It is not for the faint of heart.

As soon as the music starts, it commences. Right in front of the stage, they start to circle, predominantly men, some young enough to be my sons, others obviously of my own generation. A few actually skip and march to the music, (it’s rather charming) gradually building speed, while some burst into the crowd with a decisive, airborne body slam. It is the mosh pit at a punk rock show in a gritty downtown Seattle nightclub. There’s a palpable sense of losing control in the melee, of trusting others to push your body back into the fold, a kind of chaotic give-and-take. And I am there, in my black leather jacket and Amanda Palmer-esque-knee-high-lace-up boots, standing just on the periphery of the pit, smiling.

There’s something about punk rock I’ve always loved. It’s visceral and raw–pure, unadulterated emotion expressed in high-octane guitar chords and turbo-charged drum beats. It is loud and not at all politically correct. I feel it in my chest, in my throat, in my gut. It lands in me like a musical face-plant. That part of me that craves physicality, that loves the intensity of a vigorous, sweaty yoga practice, a lung-wrenching uphill sprint or the burn of pushing out one last leg press is the part of me that understands punk rock. It’s not pretty, but it is unmistakably real.

I am at the show with my friend, Punk Rock Boy. He, decidedly in his element; me, learning to soften and relax just outside of mine. At one point, I turn and ask him if there’s a part of him that wants to be in there, in the fray, in the frenzied soup of bodies colliding. He smiles and his eyes take on a far-away glaze, obviously remembering. “Yeah,” he says. “I do. But that would mean I’d have to take off my glasses and figure out where to put them. And then be prepared for an elbow to the face.” And what at first sounds hard to imagine as being pleasurable, I completely understand.

Ever since I was a young girl, I understood that my body has a need to discharge, to release pent-up stress from muscles and tissues. The first time I experienced this was as a tennis-playing adolescent. Fed up with my (what I believed to be at the time) idiotic family, I would furiously pedal my bike up to the elementary school, my racket balanced across the handlebars, and spend hours hitting tennis balls against the wall. Over and over and over again. Forehand, forehand, backhand, lob. The satisfying “plunk” of the ball hitting the sweet spot on the strings, the resounding “thwack” of the ball against the bricks. I’d return home afterwards, spent, calm, and centered. My solitary tennis rallies saved my teenage years.

I became a runner not long after. The meditative rhythm of my breath, the burn in my quadriceps, the familiar and lovely tingle and twitch in my muscles afterwards. The feeling as if I had discovered how to access my own personal pressure valve, turned the screw, and released the steam. And then later, with yoga. Remembering how I fell head over heels in love with the intensity of a heated power yoga class. I craved the sweat that would run like rivers from every pore on my body. I loved the intimacy of practicing mat-to-mat with perfect strangers, sharing our breath, our energy, our heat. Yoga became my punk rock mosh pit.

Love it or hate it, punk rock is filled with passion. Pure, physical passion. I love that.

Many years ago I attended a neighborhood Pampered Chef party where the host asked the question, “What is your passion?” The question made it’s way around the group of about 20 women, most of us with young families and predictably busy lives. I was frantically compiling my list in my head (yoga, art, writing, music, etc.) while I saw one woman after another shrug their shoulders and say “I dunno…my family? My children?” When it came my turn to speak, the words on my list tumbled out of my mouth. I was a little breathless when I stopped and saw everyone staring at me, dumbfounded and speechless. “What?” I asked. “Did I forget my children? My husband? Because obviously I love my family, but there’s just so much more.” Afterwards, one of the women told me what I had shared had made her stop and think about her life. Somewhere in the midst of creating a life and a family, she had forgotten herself.

I have a feeling that happens a lot. No, I know it does. Losing sight of passion, of what brings us to life.

As spring has sprung, I find myself in the midst of my own personal re-birth. For me, it’s about music and art and writing and expression. It’s about surrounding myself with people and artists who aren’t afraid. Being present for someone’s bare-assed nekkidness, be it in the form of music or writing, or even in a simple shared conversation, is sometimes startling. My first instinct is to react. And then I watch myself soften around those edges, those edges right outside my comfort zone. Witnessing another person’s passion, seeing another’s (metaphorical) nekkidness inspires my own. It gives me permission and courage. It is intoxicating.

Surprisingly, the show ends way before I am ready. Honestly, I don’t want to leave. The crowd files out on to the sidewalk, Seattle’s skyline twinkling in the background, the smell of sweat and smoke and spring all mingling into a potent, thick potpourri. It’s 1:00AM, far past my bedtime and my energy is buzzing. Punk Rock Boy and I make our way to our cars, discussing the music, the band, the experience. “Thanks for coming out,” he tells me. He knows this was outside my comfort zone. It was not for the faint of heart. I’m still smiling.

Let spring bring you anew. What fires you up? What makes your body and spirit feel alive?

Tell me, what does your personal punk rock mosh pit look like?

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