Surviving through CrossFit

A couple days after I published my last post, I got my heart broken.

It wasn’t the usual breakup because I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone as intensely. It wasn’t because the feelings weren’t mutual; and so, it completely obliterated me.

The first two weeks, I couldn’t function. To be honest, I don’t really remember much of those two weeks, but for the next month, I woke up with a nervous pain in my chest that would explode into wailing sobs throughout the day. I lost my appetite and stopped eating. I wanted to disappear. Life ceases to have meaning after you lose someone you thought was the love of your life. In a lot of ways, I still don't see the point in it.

It would be nice to say that it drove me back to the bike, but it didn’t. I threw myself into CrossFit instead.

crossfit yoyogi 1

Maybe I was doing it because I had nothing else to do, and the bike had its own share of burdens. Maybe it was a convenient distraction that I’d already paid for. Maybe, in the end, I kept going because he had gotten me into it. But I had fallen in love with CrossFit by myself, and those first few weeks, it saved me. The searing of straining muscles, the feeling of pain reduced to numbness from exhaustion and exertion, the suffocation, the sensation that I might be drowning. It all mirrored my state outside the CrossFit box but somehow, there, there was catharsis.

I started going to classes every day the box was open. I switched classes so that I could stay afterwards to practice everything I couldn’t do. When the memories ripped through whatever healing I’d managed, I practiced pull-up negatives and push-ups at home. Last weekend, I doubled up and went to two classes in one day.

It sounds crazy, I know, or at least, excessive. Overcompensation for a lost love and a directionless life. Seeking redemption from emotional trauma through physical pain. Or worse, a self-imposed punishment for a perceived general lack of worthiness. All embarrassing ways of coping with loss and projections of internal strife.

kettlebells and belts

But isn’t that how we all survive? You put yourself through solitary trials until one day you don’t wake up every day wishing you hadn’t. Until you reach a point where whatever you’re doing, day in and day out, is less of a coping mechanism, and the desire to do that thing or activity overshadows the frantic need to do it. Until that raw, open wound of true heartbreak becomes a more manageable – though lifelong – hurt.

I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m trying.

on not dying

My family has always placed a premium on living.
The big 3-0 is just about exactly two months away, but normal people continue to tell me, "oh, you're still so young!" My parents and relatives tend to underline the ephemeral nature of that belief, following those same statements with the qualifier, "but you won't be, soon." The point being, I suppose, to hurry up and get living because geriatric dementia and death are right around the corner.
The prevalence of this attitude can make family dinners incredibly depressing. As the youngest child of two youngest children who married late, until a decade ago, I was the youngest person at any family gathering. It made me easy prey. I'd get roped into seemingly innocent conversations about what I've been doing which would unravel into lectures on why I shouldn't want to get old. Putting aside the fact that I never expressed such a desire, what sort of resistance can you offer against the inevitable? "Don't worry Dad, I have it on good authority that I'm not ever going to die"?

The dispensing of that kind of advice also implies that I'm not quite living enough. But when you're racing against death, I'm not sure how you'd go about winning that one. Foregoing sleep to squeeze the seconds out of life seems to be a miserable way to live, not to mention that it sounds like a good way to work yourself into an early grave. In that respect, this game of living can be kind of like the bet you make with life insurance companies: you only win when you actually die.
The point I assume that my family is trying to make is that life is relatively short. We diverge on what exactly should be done regarding this temporal issue; my parents have always believed - with apparently my best interests in mind - that climbing the corporate ladder at all costs will eventually lead to my happiness. I can't blame them; nearly five years on and they still don't know about this blog, much less what I do in my spare time other than [literally] spinning my wheels. No surprise that they think I am wasting away precious life seconds.

Sometimes I believe it, too. I feel guilty for not killing myself, living. Other than my horrible posture, I have little to show for all those endurance miles and hours spent watching grainy feeds of pro races. The drama is - as with most things - largely internal. No one gets to see the pain involved in shoveling shit against the wave of scheduled intervals, the weird, tormented crazy resulting from self-imposed writing deadlines [and the anxiety/despair/complete panic when I come up with...nothing], or the heartbreak of seeing Lotto come in 21st on Stage 2 of the Giro. There is no tangible proof that I'm living as hard as I can, which, if you ask me, seems uniquely unfair.

But that's probably the point of signs that tell you that you're really alive; from the cross-eyed pain of voluntarily turning your legs into meaty mush on the bike to picking up the pieces of yourself after a break up to laughing so hard you can't stand up straight. It's easy to assume that if you're not doing that last one, all the time, that you're not living like you should be. But it's all the spaces in between, the theatricals that no one else gets to see, that make those moments of no-holds-barred-I'm-going-to-piss-my-pants-laughing so beautifully sweet.
It's in that negative space, too, where you might find how to follow your heart. How to live, really; to fight the good fight, one pedalstroke at a time.
Even if you're already close to 30, and nearing death's door.