Sometimes darkness can show you the light

You can’t see the sign, but the building in the foreground is a coffee shop. Because coffee.

It’s November 20 and the thing I’m noticing is how short the days are becoming as this year draws to its close. It’s dark so early lately and each day the night gets a little larger. This weekend we dug out Christmas lights and started sprinkling the house with their glow in an effort to bring in the light a little and focus on the brightness and warmth that it brings.

I used to be a “shouldn’t put lights up before December 1st” person, but in the past year or so I’ve changed my mindset on that. I understand that the lights are not for everyone and that many choose to leave them until December 1st or later, but I love the lights. I love our home at Christmas. I love the warmth and joy that we share as a family and that connection makes me stronger. I have learned a few things from lifting and one of them is to look more closely and with greater interest at things that make you happy or stronger because those are the real keys to success and life.

I have also learned, through trial and error, that there is no “should”; there is only what works for you and yours (or me and mine) and what does not. I have also learned over the years that my choices will not necessarily work for anyone else and that’s absolutely okay. More than okay.

“Should” is applying an external standard to a situation. “Should” is a judgement. “Should” is an expectation. “Should” is a demand for one person to do a certain thing, act in a certain way, live in a certain place, have a family arrangement of a specific sort, or, well, anything really.

And when it comes right down to it, “should” is irrelevant.

I think lifting taught me a lot more about this in real depth in the past year. I’ve been watching many of the top lifters in the world and reading about them to understand what makes them tick. Success leaves clues, as my coach reminded me time and again, so I study success, looking for clues and ideas of how to get stronger.

I read about one athlete who trains the big lifts once every eight days, another athlete who rarely goes above 60% intensity in training, other athletes who train three days, four days, five days, or ten times a week. Some people squat daily. Others twice a week. There are some who succeed as vegans, others who live on potatoes and meat, still more who track macros and still others who just eat all sorts of things. Some people do more accessory exercises than main lifts. Others almost never do accessories. Some train in commercial gyms. Others in their basement. The variety is endless.

They all have one fundamental thing in common.

All of the top athletes that truly succeed at their sport, love their lives, and are happy people have made it their mission to discover and do what works for them.

They don’t follow other peoples’ programs. They don’t eat exactly what other people eat. They set up a training situation that they can live with and don’t worry about what the rest of the world thinks.

They learn continuously, by trial and error, what makes them stronger, happier, healthier, and they pursue that relentlessly without being distracted by those running alongside on a parallel but different path.

They look at other athletes and nod in appreciation at the success of that athlete’s path, but they don’t abandon their own.

They test new ideas, notice how things work and when they don’t, but they don’t program hop incessantly.

They confer with experts and share what they think they see with those who have both an external perspective and greater knowledge.

They decide how to balance lifting with the other parts of their lives and they make no apologies about how they do it.

They keep what works and sweep away what doesn’t. And they continue to learn a little at a time and to improve in small and manageable increments so as not to disturb the trajectory on which they have placed themselves.

None of this is easy. It comes over time, through building confidence in your own judgment. It comes from letting yourself make mistakes and being okay with those, but also looking at things that didn’t go as planned, trying to learn how to see the “why” of it, and learning to understand yourself better. It comes with seeing what works brilliantly and doing more of that until you exhaust its possibilities. It comes with accepting change and flowing with it.

It comes of following your own path deliberately and with eyes wide open to the glimmering brightness of opportunities that look like obstacles, possibilities that seem to be failures, and adventures that have no boundaries or end in sight.

I think I’ll put up some more lights tonight…..


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dianne Rabkin says:

    Ah, per your usual uplifting words,
    Tremendous piece,

  2. Alice M. Close says:


    You are a superb writer. Perhaps, someday, you will put it all in a book which will be a fascinating read of your life.

    Love, Alice

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