You stand over the barbell and you hear only her name in your head. Stuck there, her name pushing ahead of the rep counts and the rest plan you will abandon as soon as your lungs announce they have no air. You have no air anyway, even just standing or sitting. Even just being. Your world, so orderly and planned, is in disarray. You wonder how you even managed to drive here, to sleep, to eat, to function.
The coach starts with the countdown, and by the time you hear “Go” and the tinny beep of the clock, there is nothing anymore, no names, no words, no thoughts, no feelings, only the freefall into pain, like you just stepped off the 13th floor and the wind is pushing upward on your feet but you are still plummeting downward. Unexpectedly, you welcome the descent, and then you tuck and roll …
Why is it that we are able to go hardest when we are in pain already?
At least some of us. Others can’t, or don’t. (Perhaps these are the softer souls of our world: the ones upon whose kindness we depend.) But some of us, when the world is crumbling and the pillars of life are shaking a bit, we head to the gym. Like the workout could not just distract us, but save us. Transport us. You were HERE, at this uncomfortable spot in life. Boom. Now you’re there. Easy peasy. Pain over. Have a great weekend!
But we know life is not like that, neat with only boxy corners and pretty colors.
Life is a mess. One big mess, that continues onward, no matter how you try to straighten and clean and organize. Life is messy. People are messier. They leave emotions everywhere, like teenage boys trailing clothing and food and socks (always socks) all over your living room and house. No amount of chiding or scolding (or gentle instruction) will ever change that. People refuse to be boxed and put on a shelf. Good for them. Bad for you.
Yet you have this workout. This time. These moments with the barbell and the kettlebell and you, your heaving sweating swearing you.
In these times that your life feels out of control, you can control THIS. The freefall into pain. You accepted it, you planned for it, you plunged into it. And you cannot stop plunging. Deeper, like the more you can lose yourself in the pain, the better. You often talk of going into the pain and coming out the other side, but these times? It’s like you don’t want to come out the other side. (You know you will.) The more you can hurt yourself, the less the world can hurt you. (You wish that was true, but somewhere deep inside you know it isn’t.)
And life, as cheery and fun and sexy and bright as it can be, is a world of hurt. No getting around that. Not even for the folks with the big grins and the big hugs. The darkness lives in them too. But there is light. Always light. You have to remember that, and you have to find it any which way that you can. Maybe, you find it in the gym. Maybe this is the only way the freefall ends.
You push into the last thruster, the last swing, the last whatever, and you put it down. The barbell, the kettlebell, the pain. That burden. You suck air into your chest and, for a moment, life seems so sweet. The other burdens are sitting there, in your mind, and you will pick them up now. But, somehow, they are lighter. It’s stupid and true all at the same time.
Suddenly, you have too much saliva in your mouth and you know what that means, so you pull to your feet and stumble through the door, out into the cold morning light.
The world is just waking up. Beyond the quarry and the cars and the homeless man still sleeping under the awning of the tile shop, there are glorious streaks of red and yellow in a sky that is just starting to turn blue. No matter what is going on, you have another day. Another chance. You have a life. Springsteen jumps into your head, “Rain and storm and dark skies, they don’t mean a thing … Mr. Trouble, we’ll make it through you somehow.”
Your coach walks up and puts one arm around you, and flings his other arm in the direction of the sky. “See? No matter how bad the workout is, you walk out here and wow, it’s a beautiful new day.”
Indeed it is. Indeed it is …