It Is Well

“It’s okay if you’re scared about endings and new beginnings. But remember, you do it every single day. All will be well.” ~Nanea Hoffman

Four years ago today I walked into a private gym to meet with a personal trainer for the very first time. I was absolutely scared that day. Stepping into a gym was like landing in a foreign country where nobody speaks English and the food is unrecognizable. I felt awkward and out of place. So far outside of my comfort zone. My only real hope was that I might finally lose some of my excess weight, but even then I was doubtful.

The journey of the past four years has been incredible and life-changing. I am not the same person today as I was then. The road has not always been easy or free from potholes and roadblocks. There have been ups and downs, triumphs and disappointments. I have reached goals that far surpass my original goal to lose 20-25 pounds, goals that I could never have even anticipated setting for myself. I went from someone who was finally beginning to consider herself a runner to a competitive powerlifter. Four years ago, I hadn’t even heard of powerlifting. I changed jobs. I found myself.

As I reflect on the past four years and where I am today, I can see the road before me disappearing into a shimmer on the horizon. It is very true that every day is a new beginning and you cannot always see what is coming your way. The path of my journey veered slightly this summer with a change in training venue and coaching. Dealing with injury made the road bumpy for most of the year. My husband had major surgery and an ongoing heart issue. Changes at work. Relationship trials. The day-to-day stuff of life. I’ve continued to do it every single day.

 

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Choosing Hope

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” ~Nelson Mandela

About this time last year I was in the midst of an unexpected choice to leave the job I had held for 12 years. I hadn’t sought out this opportunity, but I couldn’t help but feel optimism and hope when the possibility was dangled in front of me. Such a decision could not be made lightly, no matter how sweet. As frustrated as I was in my job, there was still fear in leaving and losing all that was familiar and comfortable in my position there. I could have allowed that fear to paralyze me. I could have simply remained where I was, feeling stuck and frustrated, but I chose differently.

Although my official 1 year anniversary at my current job isn’t until September 1st, today is the anniversary of two out of three interviews. I remember the nervousness I felt going into each interview and the growing excitement I felt over the very real possibility of making a career change. There was a measure of anxiety and sadness mixed with the excitement knowing that I might need to give notice and disappoint my co-workers. Still, the hope and excitement outweighed the potential negatives, and I have never looked back.

I am definitely more comfortable in my “new” job after 11 months, but I am very much aware that there is still, and always, more to learn! Sometimes I feel frustrated that I don’t know everything by now…until I remember that I had 12 years to learn and grow comfortable in my previous job. It isn’t often that I walk into my old stomping grounds, but when I do I am quickly reminded of all of the reasons why leaving was so desirable and easy. I know that I made the right choice at the right time. Is my new job perfect? Of course not! However, I am happy to be where I am now, and I am proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone and fear to make a choice based on hope.

Love Lifts

“Our heart can never overindulge, for our capacity to love grows as we do it. The heart is a muscle that wants to lift heavy things, so, love-and keep loving.” ~B. Oakman

Recently I was told that my relationship with someone I considered a good friend was unhealthy. That declaration came out of nowhere, and it hit me with all of the force of a category 5 hurricane. I didn’t understand then. I still don’t understand. My first response was absolute horror that I might have done something to hurt or offend, then I was filled with a crushing sense of hurt and shame. The hurt comes from the belief that I have lost a friend, and I honestly don’t know how else to feel about it. The shame flows out of a sense that I’ve done something wrong or that there must be some inherent flaw within me that makes me unlovable and worthless, because it doesn’t really matter how much one sugar-coats the words, my heart takes rejection personally.

Roughly two weeks later, I still don’t understand what happened or why. It still hurts, and I still feel as if I did something wrong or just wasn’t enough of…I don’t even know what. Perhaps a braver person would push a confrontation and defend herself, but I am not that brave. I am a non-confrontational kind of person and, while I will defend myself when appropriate, there are times when the best course of action is simply to do nothing. I don’t agree with the pronouncement that this friendship is unhealthy, but I also don’t feel like I can express my disagreement with my friend. At least not right now.

But this blog post isn’t actually about my friend. It is about what happened to me after being told that my friendship wasn’t healthy. I cried. A lot. I didn’t sleep well at all. My appetite vanished, and the food that I forced myself to eat tasted like sawdust. I’ve been anxious, nearly sick to my stomach. My mind replayed past conversations and second-guessed every word or action I’ve made over the past year. I read through every blog post going back at least a year. Every time I’d close my eyes I would visualize old scenes and analyze them for something, anything that could have been misconstrued. I kept coming up with blanks, but that didn’t stop me from obsessing over what I could have done so horribly wrong. Self-care became a struggle. Housework was limited to the absolute necessities, so a load of laundry when I needed clean clothes for work. At home, I was grumpy and emotional. As much as my emotions were frayed and fragile, I was numb inside. This is the truth of my humanness. I feel deeply. I hold my friendships in high regard, although I have never before been accused of any inappropriateness within those friendships. The implication that I’ve been too much or too wrong hurts. It hurts a lot and deeply.

Now it is no secret that I am a Star Wars girl, so forgive me for the upcoming Star Trek reference. The previous paragraph illustrates my humanness, but this paragraph is going to reveal my Vulcan side. Why Vulcan? Because I am not only an emotional being. I am also quite logical. As much as I am confused and hurting in this situation, there is a part of me that recognizes that this whole thing probably really isn’t about me at all. There are other things at play, which I cannot and will not delve into in my blog; however, I know of those things, at least some of them, and such knowledge makes it easy for me to extend grace when my heart has been broken into a thousand pieces. There is a quote somewhere about not truly knowing what is going on inside of another person. I don’t have the energy to search for that quote right now, but the essence of it applies here. This person has been my friend. I know some of this friend’s story but not all of it. I know enough to realize that this probably isn’t about me…that is, of course, unless I am ever given a specific reason or explanation for the how and why my friendship is unhealthy.

My belief that this isn’t about me doesn’t stop me from being confused, nor does it erase the hurt and sense of loss. The comments just don’t make any sense, but I could drive myself mad trying to figure them out. My friend wants space, so I will give it, even if doing so leaves me hanging in limbo.

I have been in a somewhat similar situation before…similar yet different. Many years ago now, a close friendship ended, one that was much deeper and longer than this current friendship. That relationship ended because I wasn’t willing to compromise my principles in order to condone her attitude and behaviour. The loss of that friendship hurt deeply, and it took me a long time to find my way out of the black hole that I got sucked into, to realize that I wasn’t a horrible person, an uncaring friend, worthless and flawed.

The one major difference between this situation and the previous one is that I am not the same person as I used to be. I am stronger now, more sure of who I am and what I am not. One thing I will always be is a sensitive soul with feelings that run deep; however, I no longer want to be one who retreats behind high walls when the storms rage outside. Although hiding away is easier at times, I was created to care and love, and I’ve learned that I feel better when I am true to myself. As such, I have allowed my heart to lift heavy things, to love and love some more. If that is my only crime, then so be it! I am guilty of loving, but I am determined to keep on loving those within my circle and those outside of it.

Confidently Stubborn

Okay, so this week without training hasn’t been too bad, but I am definitely looking forward to walking into the gym in the morning. I have no idea what my coach is going to have in store for me, although I can be fairly confident that my training will be designed to make me stronger and work on weaknesses. I’m ready.

“You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through.” ~ Rosalynn Carter

It would be easy to let my experience at Provincials shake my self-confidence. Although I have grown quite confident in my abilities, I am still humanly prone to stumbling along in the darkness of doubt. Whatever it was that happened in my back on my second squat, it flooded me with fear, uncertainty, frustration, and doubt. I still knew what I was capable of when healthy, but I was suddenly afraid that I might have done more damage to my body. I knew that I have determination and toughness, but are those qualities enough when you’ve been thrown into the fire? In all honesty, as much as I knew that I wasn’t about to throw in the towel and quit, in the midst of the pain and volatile emotions I wasn’t giving much thought to being tough enough to follow through. I just wanted to survive the day as best I could. Earlier this week my coach complimented me on being a person with strong character by pushing through when it was emotionally and physically tough. It’s not always easy for me to accept a compliment, but I’m trying.

Perhaps the biggest knock against my confidence was my failed bench press attempt. My competition bench press has been stuck at 60 kilograms since October 2015, yet I have only attempted a heavier press while competing twice, at Westerns last August and at Provincials last week. Having pressed more than 60 kilos in the gym means that I know I am capable, but my string of failures also plays with that confidence like a cat toying with a mouse. I will keep striving though.

“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” ~ James Michener

With my next competition not until November, I have lots of time to heal and train and focus. I definitely have goals for November’s competition, although I am not going to say too much about them for now, partly since a lot can happen between now and then but also because I don’t really have specific targets yet. So far my goals are general. I know I am capable. I just need to be tough enough to push through and to keep trying. Or maybe I am just that kind of stubborn.

Exposure

At one point yesterday, I logged onto Facebook and received notification that I had been tagged in a post by my chiropractor/friend. I clicked on the notification to see what I had been tagged in and quickly found my eyes bugging out and my jaw dropped to the floor. My chiropractor had shared a blog post of mine and offered up a little commentary of his own to go with it. I was caught off guard, surprised, and instantly uncomfortable in the spotlight. Isn’t that a funny reaction! I’ve had a public blog for years, so why should I react in such a manner when someone else shares it?

I can answer that question easily enough. For all that I am perfectly okay with exposing myself on my blog, I still tend to assume that virtually no one reads it. The blog hosting site has tracking features which allow me to see how many people actually do read my blog and the countries they are from, so I know that any given day will have been seen by anywhere from 1 to 60+ people. What I don’t know is who these people actually are. Are they people I know in real life, or are they complete strangers? I think I can be confident in knowing that a viewer from Romania is NOT someone I know in real life; however, the typical bunch of American/Canadian viewers could potentially be people I know. I just never assume that they do. I’m not sure why I assume that. Maybe it’s just easier that way. Maybe I just don’t get a lot of feedback from those who do know me, so I assume they don’t read my blog. Whatever the case…it doesn’t matter. I don’t blog for the sole purpose of being read and commented on. I do this for myself, like a journal, one that just so happens to be laid out for others to read if they choose.

And yet, for all that I assume no one I know reads my blog, I still feel a moment of embarrassment or panic when I realize that someone I know actually has read it. This is what I experienced yesterday, when I realized that Ben had shared my post. Ben has far more Facebook friends than I do, which means that the potential exposure was slightly overwhelming. Ben is infinitely smarter and more educated than I am. Why would he ever share my little post? Quite honestly, when I shared my blog post with Ben, I wasn’t even sure that he would read it. He promptly disabused me of that belief, but I’m still half-surprised that he read it. My blog is not anything special. It is just me, revealing myself, trying to be honest and real in a world that isn’t fond of either quality.

This is not the first time that my chiropractor has done something similar to me. Indeed, nearly two years ago, he made a Facebook post congratulating me on my success at a competition and the journey I had made thus far to change myself. His post made me cry, and I appreciated his kind words. However, a day or two later I received a message from a local television station about being interviewed for a segment. That was both an intensely petrifying and oddly empowering experience, and I blame it all on Ben. But can I really blame him?

He might be more than a decade younger than me, but I’d be proud to grow up to be half the person he is! I admire him, because he is a real person. I am drawn to honest, real people like moths to a flame. I value realness. I want to be seen as a real person. Known as a real person. I’ve lived a lifetime wearing masks to make others happy and comfortable, all the while I’ve chafed under the mask and afraid of being revealed as a fraud. I am no longer content to be someone I am not. Becoming Angela means that I am striving to be myself without hiding behind masks. Sometimes I still hide behind a mask, for my own comfort or yours, but I am trying to keep the masks off.

“In a world where everyone wears a mask, it’s a privilege to see a soul.” ~?

Today, I am not freaked out about the fact my chiropractor shared my post. There’s been a small increase in viewings of that particular post, but so what. Why should I feel fear or embarrassment or anxiety over the fact that someone thought my blog post was worth sharing? Wouldn’t the more natural response be a measure of pride? Or at least a sense of validation or encouragement? Okay, so I won’t likely ever feel pride in such a situation, but there’s no reason for me to react negatively. I am just me. I can only be me!

Future Me

“There’s a future version of me who’s proud I was strong enough.” ~Khanos

Five days post-competition finds me emotionally balanced and rational, maybe even beginning to resemble the future version of me who can be proud of what I did do on that day. I haven’t been spending a great deal of time actively thinking about Provincials, but my brain is always ticking and grinding away even when I am busy with other thoughts and tasks.

A few months ago, I began to prepare myself mentally for a lesser performance at this competition. I am the sort of person who always wants to improve and do more, which can be both a positive and a negative trait. Positively, I am not content with stagnation. I want to learn and grow and push myself. However, when failure comes, and it always does at some point, the desire to always improve can blow even the smallest failure into an apocalyptic event. All my efforts to prepare myself seemed to crumble into dust at the moment I felt my back give on my second squat. I was prepared for lesser numbers, but I wasn’t prepared for that unexpected happening.

I still cannot explain what happened in that squat. I cannot explain why I failed on my final bench attempt. Watching the videos a dozen or more times hasn’t helped me to figure out either situation. Does it even matter? Something wasn’t right in my back on that squat. I failed that bench press. I know what I am capable of, what I have done before and will do again.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~Winston Churchill

I have something else going for me…the ability to pick myself up, shake off the dust, and continue on. I am not afraid of starting over or hard work. Emotions might choke me up for a moment, but I have the ability to re-group and re-focus. There is no point in wallowing in my Provincials disappointment. Instead, I am choosing to enjoy this week of rest and casting my gaze forward to November when I will compete again. A lot can happen between now and then, but I’ve got my eyes set on a few goals. These past several months have been dark and gloomy, but I’m growing through it.

“Sometimes when you’re in a dark place you think you’ve been buried, but actually you’ve been planted.” ~Christine Caine

“Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That’s what little girls are made of; the heck with sugar and spice.” ~Bethany Hamilton

Wax & Clay

“What if I fail? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?” ~Erin Hanson

That’s a great quote, isn’t it! I love it for the hope and courage it inspires for the simple act of trying. But about when you actually do fail? Sure, it’s great to think about soaring with the eagles, proud and victorious, but reality isn’t always like that. Sometimes we crash and burn. We choke on the ashes of our hopes and dreams and feel searing pain. Quite often we suffer alone. Even when others may be sympathetic to our pain, very few can actually see the depths of our disappointment and suffering. They mean well, and I appreciate their efforts to sympathize and encourage. I know it isn’t always easy to wholly know another person’s innermost hopes and dreams.

Going into my competition, I had thought that I was mentally ready for disappointment, because I had months to prepare and come to an understanding of what I would or would not be capable of on the day thanks to my back troubles. And yet, for all that I was truly ready for a lesser performance, I was still blind-sided by the the struggles of the day. It certainly didn’t feel like I was flying…I had crashed and burned.

Processing the results of a competition, for me, can be a lengthy process. Perhaps that is due in part to the fact that there can be months of physical and mental preparation leading up to a competition. Then the day of competition is often long and somehow still a blur. It takes time to work through my thoughts and emotions, even when the results are positive. I’ve competed enough now to know that this is a process that cannot be rushed or forced; it happens in bits and pieces that push their way to the surface in their own time. Usually I have the opportunity to rehash details with my coach, which is part of the process and often helps, but since I’m not allowed to train this week that step in the process is missing. For now.

Perspective is also an important piece of the process, although it isn’t something that I can always just pull out of my pocket and apply to my situation. Obviously when the emotions were still raw, I had no perspective. Now that the emotions are once again under control, I can find perspective.

This was not my best competition in so many ways. I failed on the one lift I wanted most of all, and I didn’t even bother attempting one lift that might have caused me more injury or pain. It is easy to focus on those disappointments. The squat that hurt my back again…that was a scary moment that I have never experienced before. It took a great deal of focus and determination to not give up on that squat at the moment I felt my back give. Once I got the bar off my back and myself off the platform, I was assailed by a storm of emotions: fear, frustration, anger. I could have quit. Maybe the smart decision would have been to quit, but I was determined to finish.

It’s easy for me to look at my numbers from the competition and be frustrated, knowing I am capable of so much more; however, perspective properly applied creates a new outlook. Although I am capable of more, I still moved a lot of weight that day. In fact, I moved more than 1300 pounds over the course of the competition, and that isn’t including my warm-ups! My final deadlift was only 248 pounds. It’s a far cry from what I can pull, but that is still as much or more than picking up a large man. My competition bench press seems permanently stuck, but I still pressed the equivalent or more than the body weight of a Victoria’s Secret model. As I talk about that unlucky squat, I am quick to point out that the weight was easy for me, because 220 pounds is typically an easy weight for me to squat. But 220 pounds is still a lot of weight! It is still a large man or a couple of models! Those lifts might not have equaled my best weights, but I wasn’t on the platform using fake weights. I still worked hard, even if most of my lifts were not too physically taxing.

It’s all about perspective!

“The same sun that melts the wax can harden clay
And the same rain that drowns the rat will grow the hay
And the mighty wind that knocks us down
If we lean into it
Will drive our fears away”