After giving the same answer to a second person who asked if I competed over the weekend, I thought, Well now, that's about what it is, isn't it?
That's about the point where I am in life and not just the deadlift, am I seeing this right?
No, I didn't compete, I said. I'm reworking my form, which means back to basics, lifting 135 instead of 200. Getting it right with the lower weights until my body memorizes what to do, and is ready for the stress of more.
(Oh, and the shins. They're killing me. It's one thing to rule out the option of wearing a skirt the day after deadlifting, to hide the streaks of purple, but it's another to scrape yourself silly while also maneuvering a heavy bar. Eventually, I give up not because the weight's too heavy, but because my shins hurt.)
There's some fear with perfecting form--fear of pain but also of taking too long to get things right, which also becomes a problem of pride, because people seeing me lift light might think that's all I can do, and we can't have that.
Fear of failure, too. That's one aspect of boxing I miss--the constant reinforcement of the natural cycle of things. Hit, get hit. Succeed, fail.
That first time they secured my gloves, vaselined my cheeks, tightened my headgear at the crown, I knew just one thing: I could conquer the world. Not that I dominated in my first sparring session, but that I stepped in that ring, took punches and gave them. Nothing, nothing I would ever face in my life could be more difficult than what I just did.
It's a posture of strength but also of analysis, overcoming obstacles, facing obstacles--that glove coming at your head. And of taking risks. Only in taking risks--letting your hand go for a punch, which simultaneously opens up a spot for your opponent to hit--do we have a chance at winning.
"I hope you'll make mistakes," writer Neil Gaiman told the graduating class of Philadelphia's University of the Arts, in 2012. "If you're making mistakes, it means you're out there doing something."
At the deadlift, I'm rehearsing my form and making a mess of my legs. I humbly play with fewer plates.
And life? I'm trying something new--personal training--that's also an expanded, intense, intimate version of what I've been doing for nearly three years. I'm back to start but still on the same gameboard, and I'm a little afraid. Of failure, of taking too long to get it down...of success, even, to be honest.
"Make interesting, amazing, glorious, fantastic mistakes," Gaiman had said. "Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here."
Risky, isn't it? I'm afraid. Are you taking enough risks to be afraid?
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