“My goggles. Have you seen my special prescription goggles? I don’t think I packed them!”
I was standing in the middle of the living room, surrounded by mountains of clothing, kayaking gear, food bags, blankets and assorted miscellany that was yet to be packaged into boxes and bags and then two small cars, looking around wildly for something goggle-shaped belonging to my husband. To no avail.
“No fucking clue,” I mumbled to myself. “How the hell am I supposed to find one pair of goggles in all this shit? Damn. I need coffee.”
I wandered to the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee and then, by instinct, quietly stepped out onto the back deck. And breathed. The sun was gently warming the day; I watched the oil patterns on the surface of my drink dance in the light and felt my blood pressure drop. Bees were humming in the flowers of July and there was a softness to the air that foretold heat and humidity, but that was also the portent of a vacation ahead.
After several moments of grace, I walked back into the house.
The goggles were on the top of the pile at which I had been directly staring moments before.
How could a thing so plainly visible be so hard to see? I grabbed the elusive eyewear and popped it into the swimming gear bag and the rest of the packing proceeded as smoothly as such things ever do.
By the time we reached the island we were all ready to switch gears and fall into “Island time”. For those who don’t go on these sorts of vacations, “Island Time” means getting up when you’re rested, eating when you’re hungry, paddling when the winds drop, lighting the wood stove and baking when it’s cold or you want cookies, going to bed when you’re tired, having a bonfire if you feel the need for flames, reading when your brain craves a journey, creating or making things when your hands twitch, and puttering away at projects around the property as the spirit moves you and the weather allows. It’s a reset button for the soul and a chance to stop looking at the piles of clutter than life can sometimes create and to breathe deeply enough to see things more clearly.
Heading into this vacation I knew two things very clearly.
- I knew that I loved lifting and that it had become a permanent part of me. It is my second marriage and a best friend through thick and thin. It’s not something I do, it’s a part of who I am and I love that part very much. Even when it’s being an asshole.
- I wasn’t sure where I was going in terms of working with a coach or what the next big goals really were and the more I thought about it the less I had answers and the fewer answers I came up with the more I worried about it.
Instinctively I knew that this combination meant I needed a break from trying to figure that out. I needed to step back from the mental intensity of it taking primacy in life, both in order to be in a position to make good decisions about what would come next and also to be hungry for whatever that was. I needed to metaphorically walk onto the back deck so I could come back inside and find the goggles, and then with my sight clear, find my path again.
I still needed for lifting to be there, but not to be at the forefront of my life for a few weeks and to just relax and not constantly look at it analytically. Just to go through the motions of that part of my day and enjoy the grace that a familiar habit brings. To let that part of my life blur and go out of focus a little and to put energy into other parts. Like a koan, that is used to arrive at greater enlightenment, focusing on other things would allow the lifting component to gel.
I also needed to prove to myself that I could trust my own judgement about what I needed. And that I could trust in the strength of what I had built. What that judgement said I needed this August was to take my foot of the powerlifting gas. To lift only when it was what I really wanted to do and even then, to stop before I was tired and before it stopped feeling fun. I somehow felt very deep down that this would make me stronger, even if it appeared to be a contradictory approach. I also had a sense that years of lifting wouldn’t vanish in three short weeks. And that stepping away would ultimately make me want to come back more and to become more than before.
It felt like the right choice, just kind of scary because it involved *not* pushing harder or working at something.
“He could not remember, ever before, choosing not to act.” – Harry Potter “The Deathly Hallows”
It’s a weird sensation, deliberately shutting down something that usually you promote and do at full speed. People kept asking me the usual questions, “when’s your next meet? have you made a short list of coaches? what are you doing in September? have you sent out emails to potential coaches? are you even training at all?” And I said “I’m leaving that until the end of August.” This downtime just felt right for me, even if it flew in the face of my usual inclination to actively tackle a problem.
And August went magnificently. Whereas last summer I wrote about training consistently throughout my vacation and how much I enjoyed that, this summer I took a different tack and didn’t train so much. What we need at different points in our athletic careers changes. It has to. We are growing as lifters and humans and as we grow, we require different tools to move us from one point in our journey to the next. This summer I needed something different than last summer. Next summer will undoubtedly be yet another adventure.
And by that same token, I started to open my mind to what I needed to get from where I stood in the summer of 2018 to where I wanted to go over the next couple of years. What had gotten me from 2013 to winter of 2018 worked rather splendidly in many ways. The step from winter to summer was also what I needed at that time. But the next step? I had to let myself see what had been in front of me for some time; the next step was a different part of the journey and I was going to need to learn and do different and very challenging things along that route to become a different version of me.
It worked. For two weeks I pushed down any feelings of guilt and told myself that doing nothing WAS doing something. It was resting for the next big push. And at the end of those two weeks I had gained both clarity of purpose and a hunger to resume the journey and to push my boundaries in new ways.
One morning I woke up and it was just time.
I could feel the calmness and decisiveness of that moment as I walked downstairs to a rich summer’s morning, took my coffee out on the front deck of the cabin, and watched the oil patterns swirl on the surface once again while the dawn light traced the treetops across the harbour. This time the patterns in my coffee seemed to take on coherent shapes and shimmered with a beauty that said I was able to see clearly again. I knew what came next and precisely what I needed. I got out my phone and in the warmth of the light of a new day, quietly, contentedly, and with a deep sense of being on the right path, sent the messages needed to move forward and approach the bar with a real sense of purpose once again.