Whenever somebody visits my apartment in North Minneapolis, I always make it a point to mention that my end of the neighborhood is relatively quiet and calm. I hear emergency sirens irregularly and then only faintly. The occasional loud car passes by–muffler spouting or stereo pumping. My neighbor’s dog will bark from time to time (which is almost always followed up by a louder shout for the dog to be quiet.) For the inner-city–and this close to downtown Minneapolis, at that–it’s relatively calm and quiet.
Well, I was woefully proven wrong last night. A very loud thud startled me awake at 4:38 in the morning. My mind instantly jumped to the worst possible scenarios: what fell and broke? Is Heidi okay? Who or what broke into the house? My panic is replaced with frustration as I listen a little closer and hear not footsteps or shattered glass, but R&B music. I’m not talking R&B played at a normal, every day volume. No, the noise which woke me up is the loudest music I think I’ve ever heard. The bass alone was enough to cause ripples in the glass of water next to my bed.
After trying very unsuccessfully to first ignore the music and then cover my ears with a pillow, I trudged out of bed and peaked out the window. Sure enough, a car was parked outside my house–headlights shining–and this absurdly loud music gushing out of all four doors. A couple of people were leaning up against the car and others were chatting in the middle of the street. Assuming that they were dropping off or picking somebody up, I padded across the house to refill my water glass and use the bathroom. When I got back, the music was even louder. I contemplated calling the police, but I chickened out and crawled back in bed, hoping once more to either ignore or muffle the sound.
Lying in bed–a pillow wrapped tightly around my ears–I realized just how very angry I was at these people parked outside my house, blaring their music at 4:30 in the morning. I was not just peeved, ticked off, or even pissed off. I was angry–profoundly angry. I live in a building with two mothers, a contractor, and the teacher with whom I share an apartment. I live near working people–folks who don’t have the luxury of sleeping in during the week (as I accidentally did, when I slept through my alarm–new and with a sound I’m not used to hearing yet.) These people parked outside my house were the most selfish people I had encountered, placing their fun and frivolity ahead of the hard working people who live in this neighborhood. I thought all kinds of bad thoughts–wishing I could just open the window and give them a piece of my mind. I even picked up my phone to vent to a friend, texting her “There’s a car outside my house playing SUPER loud music with a SUPER obnoxious base. I’m sorry, but if you’re playing music that loud at 4:45 in the morning, you’re probably up to no good and are in fact a bad person.” Let me tell you, I was angry.
Tuesday was the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary and I remembered from Mass that morning the Sisters and others discussing their rosary-related practices. One used it to meditate, one used it while on walks, and yet another used it to recount her list of gratitude for the day. A few mentioned praying it at night and falling asleep in the middle of it (letting “the angels finish praying it for you”, as they said.) So with sleep still impossible at 5:00am, I got out of bed and withdrew my rosary from the desk drawer.
I set out around the decades, fingering the small beads as I went along. At first, I tried to zone out, to let the repetitiveness of the prayers take me off to sleep. Well, that didn’t work at all–the music still blaring as it was–so I changed tactics midway through the second decade. I instead decided to focus on these people occupying the street. I offered my prayers for them–for safety and peace, for responsibility and health, for happiness and wholeness.
They didn’t become better people because of those prayers, but I think I did. It was about 6:00 before they rolled out and I finally fell back asleep. While I’m still profoundly upset that our neighborhood was used, that I couldn’t sleep, that I woke up late, that I missed Mass, and that I have a headache now, I’m no longer quite so angry. Or rather, I’m still angry at all those things, but I’m no longer filled with anger.
At the risk of sounding cliched, life is far too precious to be consumed by anger. I’m not at all excusing the various causes of anger, nor am I repudiating righteous anger (a feeling with which I am well acquainted, for better or worse.) I’m simply suggesting that allowing anger to take hold of your reins, to affect your relationships (however hypothetical or intangible they be, as in my relationship with the people last night.) While I could have stewed in bed, consumed with anger, thinking of every insult in the book, wishing I could stick my head out the window and really rip those such-and-such-es a new one, that would not have accomplished anything productive, nor would it have made me feel better. It would have perpetuated anger, really allowing anger to take control of my life. Instead of festering in rage, I prayed for those people. In doing so, I redirected my life away from negativity and toward wholeness.
While I’m grateful to have learned this lesson (albeit the hard way), I’m hoping fervently that another lesson does not pop up again tonight.
And now…for another cup of coffee.
From the northside,