Monday, May 16, 2011

What Compels You?

Last week Libby, a new athlete at CrossFit Central, told me that she had written something for me. I looked at her a little bit of puzzled and asked what it was about. She explained it would let me know why she acted the way she did in class and why she sometimes got emotional.
Ya see, Libby is somewhat of a perfectionist and was a ballet dancer. She also teaches ballet, so I believe she is pretty critical of herself and thinks that she should already be a master of all the technical things we do in CrossFit. I'm sharing this with you all because I see how many of you could feel like her. Also, she is very eloquent in the way that she writes so I wanted to highlight that about her. Let me know what you think.

What compels you to lift something ridiculously heavy over your head, over and over again? Is there momentary satisfaction, victory over gravity, your mind, your muscles? Is there a sense of accomplishment in knowing you coerced muscle and bone into synergistic cooperation? I used to have similar feelings when I danced, a fleeting ability to conquer myself and the space around me, the knowledge of temporary weightlessness, the understanding of force, strength and speed. Now I tend to have the desire to wrestle words into shape and form rather than my body!

I wish I could perform with more of a Just Do It mentality. Just run, just jump, just squat. Instead, unwelcome companions creep out of their hiding places, the raw, gritty places. Insecurity runs alongside me, tripping up my feet, throwing insults with a well-metered rhythm of assault. You’re the slowest one, Libby. Your lungs in that little birdcage you call a chest aren’t strong enough to work this hard. Maybe you should bring your inhaler with you. You can’t trust that right knee and hip anymore, you know. Determination stirs and opens a weary eye. Shut up, Shut up, Shut up! Roused, determination fights back. I finish the first 400 meters, dead last, still alive, but not done.

I step up to a box, and although it’s only knee-height, I find myself staring into Fear. I don’t know why He is here, it’s just a box sitting on the pavement under the May sun, but my heart quivers. I’m a little kid again. I’m ten years old standing in the baseball dugout, waiting for Grant Evans, one of the team captains, to pick between me and Lauren Jones, the two scrawniest girls in the class, the last two for the team. Please don’t let me be last. A silent prayer goes mercilessly unanswered. With chin to chest and eyes lowered, I trudge towards the other team, unwanted. I’m twelve and my seventh grade gym teacher is yelling at me to keep up. My lungs are burning as the other girls run past me. I can see the disappointment on my teacher’s face. I’m twenty-two and the ballet master mocks my attempts in class. Why do you work so hard? It’s so easy. I’m twenty-eight and the ballet director tells me I will never be good enough. Never good enough. A devastating lie that sticks to the skin of me.

I hear words of encouragement. You can do this, Libby. My eyes can’t focus on anything other than the invisible face of fear, but I let the words loosen my pinned down will. I’m supposed to be counting, but I’ve lost track of time and space. I’m breathing hard, hefty puffs of air mimic the thump of my feet, the thump, thump of my heart. Twenty-one times. But I am still not done.

I bend down to pick up the metal bar, trying to remember how to lift it up, over, up again. I sway under the weight. Zach looks at me. He brings another bar, smaller, bright orange, lighter. We make the exchange, and though I am grateful, hot tears converge in the corner of my eyes, drain down my nose, plummet to the floor. I can feel my shoulders pinch, my stomach contract, my legs shake. My knees bend but I press my focus out, ironed flat, unbent. Three. Three more. Isn’t three supposed to be a holy number? Holy God, what did I sign myself up for?

I find myself outside again, running down Burnet, past Diego – Morning, Libby! – and back into the box, a round trip, completed. We stretch – finally something that doesn’t torment me! – and then, our workout is done. For today. I am not satisfied. I know I will come back again. I know Fear and Insecurity may show up again, too. But I don’t plan on letting them keep me company for long.



Ingrid K. said...

libby's writing is amazing.
"i don't plan on keeping them company for long..." such an awesome spirit.

thanks for sharing libby and zach!

Zachary Thiel said...

It's a pleasure Ingrid.

Jo Welch said...

Every time I read something like this it reminds me that I'm not alone when I'm struggling to complete that next step on the run or that next lift of the bar. Thanks for sharing! I'll be thinking about this as I push through my own insecurities with Carey and the class tonight.