I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. About commitment, about choosing to continue pursuing something in the face of obstacles, about why we continue to flail at things that repeatedly kick us square in the soul, and what is is that makes it not only possible, but almost inevitable that we will get back up and try again. What is the difference between someone who continues to pursue something and someone who walks away and finds another goal? What makes a master versus a dabbler?
I’ve been married a long time for someone 41 years old. 20 years, 22 if you measure the romantic relationship from the beginning. Longer if you measure the friendship that came first. A lot happens to two people in that time. The people who stand together after twenty years aren’t the same ones who went in, whatever their plans or expectations. People change, lives change, and plans change; the world changes around us and we change in response.
I think the ones that work are the ones where two distinct souls marry each other not because of who they are, but because of who they see that person determined to become. You don’t marry a fixed point in a person’s life, you marry the trajectory of their future existence. You marry being able to see that their focus and direction mesh well enough with yours that together you can go further, better.
I’m not sure lifting is any different, but maybe I didn’t realize that at first.
I haven’t been lifting a very long time at all, but I have been at it long enough to see that it has the same ebbs and flows as marriage. In each lift (and in the pursuit as a whole) there are mundane patches of chugging along amicably, periods of contented smooth-sailing that younger people mistake for boredom, but time shows you are really the calms between storms. There are periods of being head-over-heels in love again (yes, even after twenty years you can fall in love with the same person in a new way), where everything seems miraculous and also times where you are so completely frustrated or disillusioned that you question your choices from start to finish and toy with the prospect of changing roads completely. Then there are days where you simply nod acknowledgement to each other and chalk up individually for the next challenges because other parts of life need your energy.
What makes a relationship work? I think it’s the continued ability to see the potential in it; it works when both parties have ability to envision travelling within it to somewhere appealing and both have a gut feeling that still more potential lies just beyond the current line of sight. Then both people decide that they will continue to put one foot in front of the other, side-by-side, and go after that shared sight-line. They concentrate their power on that conjoined trajectory.
What marriage has taught me over the past few years is that a strong Potential Factor is worth any amount of patience and hard work to sort out all manner of practical difficulties. While some folks stay in a marriage because of what has been invested (time, money, kids, a house, et cetera), what’s actually worth working for for me is not the past, but the future. What lies down the road, those untapped experiences and years, are in fact more valuable to me than what has gone before. Don’t get me wrong, achievements are wonderful things. A twentieth anniversary or a world championship is no small event and both are replete with meaning, but what draws you home or back to the gym is not a past, but a future. You don’t work for what you’ve already gotten or to become what you already are. You work for something further down the road, a belief that you’ve not yet reached the final goal, no matter where you are in life.
Lifting is like this too. The people who stick with it are the ones who see it as something that can make them more, something that will continue to get them to where they want to go and something that they can continue to give to; they see an ability to grow in the same direction. That’s what keeps us coming back for more, even on the days that truly suck. Especially on the days that truly suck. We see that embracing those challenges can transform us and we deeply and desperately want to be transformed. We are happy with who we and how far we’ve come, but aren’t prepared to stop there. So we get up and try again. And again. Because we finally understand that it is the trying that is the point of it all; the lesson and potential lies in the journey not the destination.
Where am I going with this? I’m not entirely sure. Mostly just taking stock of my own foundations and reflecting. My husband and I were talking last night about how so many relationships among our peers and friends have petered out and drifted apart recently and I think I needed to figure out what we were doing right and maybe think about how that carries over into other parts of my life. And to look at what’s going right or wrong in lifting and how I can adjust my focus to get more out of the adventure.
All the parts are connected, aren’t they? The characteristics that make you stronger or more resilient don’t vaporize at the gym door and the qualities that are needed to envision, build, and shape a marriage carry into other parts of your life. I’ve said before that I believe what I do outside of the gym makes me a better lifter, but the truth of it is that what I do inside the gym also makes me a better wife, mother, and person.