Monday, July 24, 2017

Tickling the Strong Man


"Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength."

~Arnold Schwarzenegger

We are strong.  You cannot walk through the valley of depression—and keep walking—and not be considered strong.  For those of us who don’t give in to addiction, or despair, or the all too easy pattern of self destruction that plagues so many and permeates our culture there is the easy habit of feeling weak and helpless.  But the mere fact that we get up, clean ourselves off, fix breakfast for a loved one, and get on with our day is a testament to the stone under our foundations.

If you don’t feel strong that’s okay.  Strength is there when you need it and lies silent until.  Strength is subtle and provides the unseen bones of your daily endurance.  That deep inner strength that sustains you is like bone.  You can exhaust muscles to the point of failure and injury, but the bones within you do not falter at the end of the day.  That is the strength that you have that others may not.
Feeling weak is not a sign of weakness.  It’s a symptom of self-doubt.  It’s the same with physical weakness as with mental and spiritual.  I can’t count on both hands the number of times I’ve gone for a run, or a bike ride, or a hike and felt like it was pointless to even leave the house because I felt so tired or lethargic, and once I got warmed up and moving discovered that I felt better than normal and pulled down some incredible pace or time or distance.  When I’ve felt the weakest I have been strong.
That time I rode toward Rollins Pass from the plains in Denver…the weekend before I had failed to do a similar but shorter ride to the summit of Kingston Peak; a mere 80 miles round trip.  I had no especial hope to reach Rollins Pass that day.  It was 50+ miles from where we lived in the suburbs.  And I failed to reach the pass, but still managed to enjoy the best performance on the bike of my life to date. 
Tolland Road looking toward the Continental Divide
 
I managed the physical feat I wanted to replicate a couple of weeks later in Leadville: 103 miles on the mountain bike in less than ten hours.  I failed there chasing the dream, but still had the memory of Rollins Pass to convince me it was possible for me to achieve my goal.  The story of Rollins kept repeating in my head over the next year as I tried to get back into and return to race at Leadville.  If I hadn’t had Rollins I may have given up after my crushing failure.  Sometimes you reach goals you didn’t know you had or needed.
Perspective is important.  Physically I’ve done more than the average person.  I’ve climbed big mountains alone.  I’ve ridden my bike beyond the unknown and into great adventures.  I’ve ridden my bike to big mountains and then climbed them.  So, when I feel weak now I know it’s temporary, or at least if what I’m trying to do is ultimately possible or not.  Mentally and emotionally I’ve had similar tests of my strength and I keep coming back to the conclusion that if I were not a strong person I’d be dead, or walking around destroyed inside, or miserable seeking company.  I’m none of these things. 
On my way to Guanella Pass and Squaretop Mountain for an overnight trip in 2011
 
I don’t say any of this to disparage or incite despair in people who have devolved into addiction or other self-destructive behaviors.  Even if you let the demons wrestle you down the fight isn’t over.  The battle is still worth fighting. 
Know that there is strength in you.  Know that others can see it too.
Strength and energy are not a function of youth.  Dispel that myth from your head right now.  At 43 years old I now feel better than I have for most of the last ten years of my life.  It was hard to get to the root of my decrepitude, but I knew eventually I would, and I kept at it until I did.  I’m trying oh so hard to make the lifestyle changes that will maintain these feeling in my body. 
Life is to be lived not mourned.  For those of us fortunate enough not to have been born into war and turmoil we should take every day, grab its face, and kiss it square on the lips.  And maybe more so those who have been born into strife. 
If you don’t feel strong take a moment to think about when things in the past were the worst and you walked out of that darkness.  If you keep walking I promise you’ll come out on the other end into the light.

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