Tag Archives: box

Neat and Tidy Little Boxes

Change comes in a lot of forms.  Sometimes it is the blinding flash of light epiphany like Saul on the road to Damascus, but I think a lot of times, it’s more of a slow build over time.  For me, the latter tends to be true much more often than the former.  It certainly was the case recently when I finally accepted for myself that powerlifting was not the draw it once was for me.

While the change was slow and over time, I can think of two more distinct moments that helped drive this path.

The first was returning to playing indoor soccer a year or two ago (before being driven off by nagging injuries).  I thought I was in fine shape – I was stronger than I had ever been, I had been working back in conditioning and I thought I was ready to roll.  Then, I hit the field and stumbled around, moving with a grace that could be described as “wooden” if we were being highly charitable about it.

The second was when I went out to EliteFTS for a training session and seminar.  I went heavier on deadlifts than I had in a long time… and in the days that followed, my training felt crushed.  My recovery was just not great and I felt beat up for the umpteenth time.

In the days that followed that, I realized that returning to my athletic roots as a focal point moving forward was what I wanted.  I thought I was always training to be a strong athlete and realized I spent a lot of time on the strong and not nearly enough on the athlete portion of that mix.  Maybe I came to this realization because I was older and wiser.  Maybe it was because my body was yelling loud and long at me “Bro…this ain’t working out like you think it is.”  Maybe age was catching up with me (although I fight this notion with every core of my being that age should ever be an acceptable excuse for not doing what you love).

Regardless of the reasoning, I knew that at 44, it was time to change course for myself and get back to what I knew would be enjoyable for me in the long term.

The funny thing about all of this is part of the reason I struggled with making this change over the last year or two was how easy it had become to be too concerned with a neat and tidy label for what I was as a lifter. I was a POWERLIFTER.  That was a distinct classification and readily identified me as part of a community of likeminded folks.  There is comfort and power in that kind of identity – we’re social creatures and community matters.

But what happens when, as the cliché states, the juice is no longer worth the squeeze?  That the enjoyment you derive from that has gone way down for what you get back from the work and sacrifice?

What if I went back to training that did not have that neat and tidy little box that had become so cozy for me?  The opportunity to provide a ready answer when people asked what kind of lifter I was? How would I answer that question?

In the days following that lifting session in Ohio, I smiled and realized exactly how I would answer that question… any damn way I really wanted.  I’m a lifter and an athlete.  No other details needed beyond that.  I lift heavy weights.  I throw things around.  I row.  I do yoga.  I play golf.  I sprint hills.  I push Prowlers.  I will, hopefully, start running again.  I may even play soccer again (if my right knee will stop being an obstinate pain in the ass and get on board with this plan).

Those boxes are tempting for everyone and often we slide into them without even realizing it’s happening – they can be lovely boxes, perhaps velvet-lined and gorgeous.  If you want to be part of that group, that’s clearly not a bad thing at all.  But when you realize it’s more convenience or comfort than conscious choice, that’s when things get interesting (and something I’ve thought about before when I wrote “Your Pathetic Little Box” a few years back).  And that’s why this Churchill quote hits home so much with me:

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I’ve chosen a new path and I must admit the details of a lifting program aren’t terribly interesting to anyone but the person writing it or training under it.  The interesting part is assessing your why and seeing if it’s what you want or just part of a sitting in your neat and tidy little box.

Because the thing about those boxes?  They are a certain shape and a certain size… and you can only grow in them just so much.

And I never want to stop growing.

Your Pathetic Little Box

It’s a place each of us knows to one extent or another.  Maybe you have been there your whole life, always struggling to peek out and hoping to find a moment to break free.  Maybe you have broken free, only to return to its dispiriting, but oddly comforting enclosure.  Or maybe you have freed yourself from it and only look back on it as a constant reminder of where you will never stay.

That place?  The place I’m thinking of is that box of expectations people try to place you in and keep you in.  You know the box I mean.  The one where your boss expects you to play the dutiful toadie, when deep-down you know you have ideas that can make a difference.  The box that your parents tucked you into when they told you that girls don’t play tough sports or get sweaty.  The box that your high school English teacher steered you into (maybe with only the best of intentions) to pursue a career in some safe, generic career that you wake up to each day, staring at the ceiling and thinking, “My God… do I really have to go in there today?”

Your all too comfortable, but still pathetic, little box

To one extent or another, most people will spend some amount of time in their lives in that box.  It’s pretty hard not to.  Very few people are completely comfortable with living 100% outside of the expectations of other people – it’s pretty much human nature.  Sure, it may be on small things such as not wearing your Marilyn Manson “Antichrist Superstar” t-shirt to Christmas dinner because, as much as you love the alter-ego of super-nerd Brian Warner, it makes Mom horribly uncomfortable and she just wants to have a nice holiday.  But that is a small concession for the greater good of family unity.

What I’m thinking of are the greater concessions… the ones that nag and claw at your conscience… the ones that, when you give into them, you feel beaten, broken, used or just flat-out fake.  The concessions to the views of others when, even if those expectations come from a good place, you personally know they are not right for you… and you still go along with them.

I hate that box… and as I sit here typing this post and looking back on all of the “you’s” I just used… that could just as easily be replaced with “I” in many of those spots.  I do it – I know I do it… but I don’t like it.

So that’s where my little epiphany came from.  It’s not exactly Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine, but this one is mine and I think it might be handy, so take it down a few notches, people.

I am going to find a cardboard box and slap my name on it with a Sharpie and then write all over it.  What will I be writing?  All of the things that other’s seek to impose upon me as their expectations that, truth be told, I either just don’t believe in or just don’t want.  The purpose of this box is twofold: (1) I want to get out in a tangible medium all of those errant expectations and (2) I find I need physical/visual reminders of things I am trying to stay mindful of.  I tend to fall a little too easily into the trap of having a good idea and maybe even writing it down, but not having it in a place of seeing it all the time to keep me on track so it becomes habit.

The 2nd step after getting the box all ready is one that can vary by person, but it’s too display the box in the most prominent place you use when you need a moment to break out of expectations.  For someone aspiring to be a writer instead of an accountant, maybe the box is at home next to the spot where she writes her short stories.  For me, it’s my home gym because I am such a firm believer in transformation of yourself in mind and spirit through pushing your body.  I want to see it to remind me all the time of the things I am looking to work past and leave very much in the dust.  Hell, I may even give that stupid box a swift kick across the room every time I set a PR.

I am doing all this because with each passing year, I have a restlessness that only increases about tolerating that damn box and I want that box nearby so I never, ever forget.  Does this all mean I am somehow getting braver? Hmm.  Not too sure… but I am definitely getting more defiant about who I am and what I want to be and the notion of not being authentic to how I truly see myself is just becoming more and more unacceptable.  I can’t be fake about who I am and I can’t just let it slide when someone is looking to force me into being something I’m not.

So I will create my box and I will set it where I will always see it.  This may work great.  This may be hokey as hell… but then again, anyone else finding this hokey is trying to put me back in that damn box… so I just don’t care anyway.