Mountains are really big.
It’s a simple statement and not utterly profound, but until you’ve been surrounded by them and stood at the foot of even small ones, it doesn’t entirely hit home. They’re huge. So big, in fact, that you can’t see the whole thing when you’re up close. Daunting. And also somehow alive, but also completely impervious to your opinion. Mountains don’t care about anything other than being mountains. They exude confidence and stand, imperfect and unique with heads that peak above the clouds. The world rolls on around them and they stand stolidly. I’ve just spent some time hiking in them, walking between them, staring up at them and standing beside them and I feel like there’s a metaphor there that I’m trying to grasp and apply but it’s just past my fingertips.
I initially intended this post to be about lifting at worlds and then realized that it wasn’t going to be, really. There’s not much to say there other than that the meet unfolded and I can probably learn something from nearly everything that happened, both good and bad. Which is really all you can ask for out of any meet.
I’m on a plane heading home and things are still whirling around in my head and most of them aren’t actually to do with the competition itself. That was one day and brought an awful lot of new experiences and lessons that seem pretty important. I’m just not sure what to do with them all yet. This competition was actually less important than all the stuff surrounding it. After I finished lifting I sat in the warmup room and cried in relief and exhaustion; there was a wave of emotions that I cannot quite identify even now that simply needed to come out. I was so damned glad it was over that the results didn’t even hit me at all until much later. And maybe they haven’t really even yet because I don’t feel particularly bothered by them. All I know is that I am more happy about it being over than I am upset about not having the greatest of days on the platform, which maybe tells me a lot. I had planned to go hiking because I knew that what I desperately needed was to complete this training cycle and competition and then to switch gears rapidly to something completely not powerlifting. To something that lets me recharge and see things rationally and be some version of the old Vicky and to feel solid again.
This has been a spring of loss and learning new things to replace losses and being excited about the new while grieving the best parts of the old and sometimes doing both simultaneously. I haven’t posted much about it all because much is quite personal. But this past six months has been ragged and challenging and exhausting. I’ve been working down into a new weight class and struggling with believing that was possible and questioning if it was even advisable and true to who I am as a person and athlete. I’ve been working with a new coach. Following a completely different style of training that has forced me to learn to look for progress in different ways. Training with some new people (as well as some old). Training an awful lot by myself and as a consequence, learning to be strong in new ways. Sometimes not being able to be strong and then having to rebuild mentally and devise workarounds to get through things that feel like brick walls and my head slamming against them. I’ve been trying on a new way of thinking about work and life and family. All of this has required that I work very hard to construct a new way of seeing myself and wondering if I was actually losing important parts of myself in the process. I’ve had to learn to modify and prioritize my own expectations of myself as well as to carefully set aside those of others. I’m on a road with no map and tripping over my own feet a lot. I lost a friend whom I valued immensely in many ways and also a set of signposts for navigating training and progress. I’m honestly no longer sure where I’m going most of the time except I have this plan with goals that I wrote over a year ago and I’m using it as a kind of a vague destination. I’m just not sure of my navigation skills some days….. I’m on a detour that doesn’t look much like the road I just left and makes me question the ultimate goals pretty often.
I have been spending so much time outside of my comfort zone that I no longer know where the edges of that lie; they have expanded beyond recognition. You get used to being scared and out of your depth, and after a point it doesn’t feel like anything because being out of your depth is now within your depth. After a point you feel like you have simply gotten so used to not knowing that it’s not until something draws to a conclusion or close where you realize precisely how stressful and exhausting that not knowing has been. When you sit and cry in the warmup room not because you are disappointed that you placed second, but because you managed to place second despite things all going haywire in your life and finally it is blessedly over and you now have a choice about what comes next. And at a later point, some days after, you realize you are hiking alone through mountains and following a lot of very fresh bear tracks and you’re not at all scared or lonely. Just once again very aware of the importance of the decisions before you and curious as to how you’re going to find the energy to implement them without any help. And that this feeling is “normal” makes you understand how very often you have stared fear and loneliness in the face in some ways for so very long.
But mountains were maybe the right choice for this past week. Something so very large and solid has a grounding effect. Exquisite beauty and solitude have ways of making you understand the power and joy of all that learning to stand alone. When you’re walking with your life on your back and map in hand, you can see choices stretching before you without the voices of other folks intruding to help guide decisions. Reducing life to simply putting one foot in front of the other and dealing with what is directly surrounding you eliminates mental clutter and lets the batteries recharge. It is important to me that I am able to do things other than powerlift and that my body be capable of remarkable things in different ways. That part is something I want to explore more and this week was a small start.
And I don’t know what comes next.
Or how I’m going to find ways to layer the old parts with the new and what parts will pull me with the greatest force. I am so very tired and the things in front of me seem so very formidable. Sometimes mountains and dreams are so large that you cannot see the summit when you’re standing right in front of them. Stepping back sometimes is the only way to see the whole thing, but even then you have to once again move closer and risk losing that large, expansive perspective. You need it to be firmly in your mind’s eye before you step forward again.
Now that the time pressure of imminent competition has been removed I have a sense that I can let things fall more into place and figure out if I’m staring up at the wrong peak, if I’m more or less still on the right track, or if I’m still climbing the same mountain with a different route.
But the thing I realized this week about mountains and dreams is that they are also very patient and that I can have faith in their endurance; once you are rested they have a funny way of still being there if they were solid to begin with.
Mountains know secrets we need to learn. That it might take time, it might be hard, but if you just hold on long enough, you will find the strength to rise up.