CrossFit and The Human Condition

Its been a crappy week in our house.  Oscar was in the hospital with yet another bout of croup.  This was different, though. He really couldn’t breathe.  With each attempt I could count his ribs the retractions were so severe.  Off to Yale we went, and at Yale we stayed for three days, and back to Yale we will go Tuesday for a bronchoscopy (camera down his throat to see what the issue in his airway could be).  Another surgery for my three year old, the fourth of his short life.

 

He will be fine.  I know this.  But I have moments where I feel sick to death of proving my mettle.  I know in my heart when people describe me as a tough they mean it in the kindest, most supportive way.  I am tough.  I’m also tired though.  I’m in the wake of the contact low that is a hospital stay.  I’ve done too many.  I don’t want to see my kid go through something painful again.  I just don’t.

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Oscar day 1.  I have no memory of this moment.

In these moments of despair the best comfort to me is the camaraderie of those who understand.  Who know that I will get through it but that I am pissed to have to.

I am rich in these type of friends, I am happy to say.

One in particular, who endured something so terrible I can’t even fathom it, shared with me her own take on this.  She said “I am no tougher than anyone.  I have just had to prove it more.  Any mother would do that same as I did, you just get through it.  You have no choice.”

She went on to say that when she comes across photos of herself prior to her world shattering she feels envy.  I get that.  There are two lives when you have suffered real loss.  The one before, where you enjoyed an innocence, a belief that things would always be ok, and the one after.  When you know the truth, deep in your bones.  It changes you.  Hardens you.  You know things that others don’t yet.  My sun split the day my mother died.  The old me died with her.

I took great solace in my friend’s words.

When things are hard you want to know that you aren’t alone.  Its the human condition.

Enter CrossFit.

Its been three years now for me.  Three years that I have known what it is to be part of a shared struggle.  Now, it’s only exercise, this I know.  I am not delusional.  But there is some magic in choosing to enter a dark place and to do so in the company of people who have pledged to see you through it if you show up.  This darkness is not thrust upon me, like the other times.  This is my bootcamp.  My daily routine of preparing myself for the unforeseen valleys ahead.  There is power in choice.

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(most of) my 8:30 crew

I used to exercise a lot.  My twenties were an experiment in nutrition, supplementation, nicotine, alcohol, and lots and lots of exercise.

Losing my mother at 22 rendered my body far less precious to me.  She had been the picture of health, a vegetarian distance runner with a penchant for knowing what the future in fitness and wellbeing held.  Yogis came to our house.  Kretschmer Wheat Germ was omnipresent in our pantry.  She just knew how to take care of herself, often the only woman in the free weights corner of the gym cracking jokes with the bros.  And yet in five months she went from this vision of soundness to my sweetest memory.  All that hard work for nothing.

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Mom on her 50th birthday, three years before she died.

She would hate to hear me say that.

During all the experimentation of my twenties I never once thought of asking my body to perform something hard to see if it could.  I just wanted it to oblige me, to look a certain way.  Bend for me.  Do as I say for as long as I had it.  Tolerate toxins of my choosing, never complain about too little food.

Now, I have a completely different relationship with my body.  I am proud of its capacity to lift heavy shit.  To run (relatively) fast, to jump high.  I love it from within.  It is such a gift to quietly know that.  After years of hating it regardless of how it looked to everyone else, of feeling betrayed by it for not being good enough to see my third son to a live birth, of feeling again betrayed by it for expelling Oscar 11 weeks too soon and putting him through immense physical hardship, of thinking it was gross because I was overweight and nursing after 18+ months of bedrest and pregnancy, I finally found the respect and love for myself I was missing.

 

I think a lot of people are curious about CrossFit because of how it makes its participants appear.  You can see one coming a mile away if you know the body type.  It’s impressive, I think.  When I look at the best crossfitters I know I see the sum total of countless hours of asking a body to do the impossible.  I am in awe.  But what you can’t know until you surrender to it is that its external manifestation is the least compelling reason to go.

I have a tribe.  They wish me well.  They are not afraid of a strong woman.  They do not mistake my toughness for an innate quality.  They know how hard I work for it, and they do the same.  It’s that shared human condition, of struggling in concert, that binds us.  I am grateful.  I feel understood and it is an elixir in my moment of need.

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The community doesn’t end when you walk out the door at CrossFit Norwalk.  The tribe exists at all times for me, and for my family.  My beloved coach Mike Sabato was among those watching Colton get his black belt last week.  7:30 on a Friday night, he was there.  It was everything.  If I had to summarize what CrossFit means to me with one illustrative story that would be it.  My tribe showed up.

 

For all future challenges I feel better armed than ever.  I have physical strength, I have mental acuity and resolve, and I have a tribe of people who have seen me dig out from the worst pain cave I have willingly put myself in.  They helped me prevail.

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The exercise of setting daily goals for yourself that you would have never dreamed possible and reaching them (most times) is a profound experience.  It has become part of the fabric of who I am.  CrossFit has brought me so many wonderful things, but it is sharing that aspect with other like-minded people that I value more than all others.  It galvanizes me.

Now I look at pictures of myself before February 1, 2013, when I first walked into our old box on Broad St and think that that was a different life too.  I didn’t know what I was capable of.  How strong I really was.  When the shit hits the fan now most times you’ll find me with a heavy barbell across my collarbones in short order.   You can bet I’ll be at the box Monday morning, getting after it with all I have.  Because Tuesday I have another test.

Don’t worry, I say to myself. I’ve practiced. I’m ready.

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16 comments

  1. Amazing reading. You are besides a great person a gifted writer. My thoughts and prayers to you and your beautiful family. Anything you need please don t hesitate to ask pleaseeeeee.

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  2. As always, eloquently written. You do truly have a gift. I’m sorry to hear of Oscar’s troubles and his recent illness. I’ll be keeping him, and all your family, in my thoughts. I hope his procedure goes smoothly and that he doesn’t have any more difficulties like this in the future. Thank you for worrying abs sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am sorry to hear about Oscar. He is made up of you (and Matt), strong and ready to take it on. I will be thinking of you all on Tuesday x

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  4. Amy – This was so moving and eloquently written. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your writing is as powerful as you are strong. Matt and your boys are lucky to have you. Rooting for Oscar – he couldn’t have any more support than I’m sure you, Matt and your entire family shower him with. Sending wishes of strength to All of you – David

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  5. Beautifully bad ass in every way Amy. You are a true warrior mama goddess and it is lovely to see your powerful transformation, growth and refinement through your words. I am so happy for the insights your journey has brought and I want you to know that I am praying for your sweet oscar and your whole family during what must be a very challenging time. Sending you tons of support for Tuesday. One mama to another. (And, if I may be so bold, I bet your mama is smiling so brightly as she watches your path of motherhood and womanhood)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That means a lot to me Christy, thank you. Each prayer helps and the solidarity of mothers is very dear to my heart. Kiss your little one and I will keep you posted on our progress. xx

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