I debated whether or not to write this (because who likes admitting any sort of defeat?) then decided to go ahead and throw it out there because it fits with why I write this blog; it’s my story, my roadmap, in a sense, and I use it to sort out in my head how to cope with things as they occur. It’s also there for other people to look at and maybe take something away from, even if it’s what not to do or the knowledge that someone else has been somewhere, too.
Today I threw my squat shoes in the garbage. Then I pulled them out again.
This was a new one for me. I’ve never quite reached this point before and it actually scared me enough that and I quite literally gave myself a smack and hauled them out. I think I know more or less what’s going on now, but at the time, I was so upset and beyond frustrated and more than a little confused. I was sick and tired of trying to figure out why a lift I used to love, something that until April I used to attack unhesitatingly with joy and completely give myself over to with complete confidence and passion has been kicking me up and down the gym mentally for months in some strange sort of a thrust and parry duel that occasionally fades but never seems to really resolve itself. This week has been an eye opener in a lot of ways and Tuesday I realized with absolute clarity and stark comprehension what has stopped me from putting my best squats on the competition platform. I know now what I have to do and have started working on it. It’ll take some time, but it’s fixable, I think. And I’ve started trying to fix it.
But today sucked. Man, it just did. I got the squat work done. Maybe not exactly in the format prescribed, but I got the volume done at the right weights and without flubbing any lifts or messing any up technique-wise. I kept form solid throughout. I also think I managed to behave like a pleasant and normal human being and not let my own internal wranglings leak out too much. When I write it like this, it sounds like not such a bad time, but every single (relatively light) lift was like some elaborate mental gymnastics routine and took pretty much whatever focus and discipline I had in me. At one point, after the second-last set, I set the bar in the rack, hauled off my shoes, walked into the washroom, and threw them out. Then I slapped myself, wiped away a few tears, splashed some water on my face, and pulled the shoes out of the bin, and went back out for the last set. I’m still not sure why I didn’t just leave them there. Maybe I should have. It would have ended this fight. But not in the way it should end.
Why did I write this? Maybe so that other people know that they’re not alone, that sometimes things feel freakishly hard and unfightable, but that even then you can still choose to step forward and try rather than give up and fall. Sometimes when you’re fighting alone, without anyone to help, the fight is purer and more honest and you can see things about yourself reflected in your adversary that you either didn’t know or chose not to see. Then it’s up to you to decide. Do you give up and find a new fight and start from the beginning, carrying that knowledge that you were beaten, or do you use this new information to build something stronger, to come back harder, to grow? The bar is a powerful and reliable mirror and it’ll always show you what you’re made of and where you lack. Today the symbolic significance of the bar hit home hard (over and over and over and over and over and over until I wasn’t sure I would be able to get it back up again) and I learned a whole bunch of things about myself and what I have to do that I really don’t want to deal with, but will, and I hope I’ll be the better for it.
Maybe I also wrote it to remind myself that it’s okay to look at yourself frankly in the mirror, splash water on your face, and say, “Today, this thing that I am about to give is the absolute best I can do and that is enough,” and try again with whatever you have and accept that. And maybe today I didn’t feel particularly strong, or confident, or even worth all that much as a lifter at some point, but that very act of stepping into the rack again made me realize that strength isn’t always about moving the weight, it’s about being able to face it when you don’t know what it will do to you.
And maybe I wrote this because it’s one of those things that sounds like it’s about squats, but it’s really about life and heavy things that press down on you. And that’s life, right? Standing up again and getting stronger each time. It never really gets easier, you just tackle heavier things.