I walk in through those doors I’ve walked through so many times before. You’d expect the place to smell of sweat, like an old wrestling mat, but it doesn’t; it smells of cleaners and dust—dust that lays caked on the industrial beams and support wires that snake high into the building. The clanging assaults my ears for a moment before fading into a familiar jingling melody. I’m home. For the first time in almost four years, I’m back in the gym, with the intent to destroy and rebuild myself anew, like a phoenix arising from the ashes (or perhaps Prometheus regenerating his liver for the final time, after Hercules frees him); naturally, I have my wife to thank.
Regular readers may remember from my post, Body Image Issues for a Middle-Aged Man, that I was, once upon a time, a fairly regular powerlifter. While I never really got into competing, I relished the complex, solitary, mental and physical battle that is lifting, overriding the voices inside that tell you you can’t do something, or want to run away screaming at the thought of picking up something so heavy. There’s a purification and catharsis to lifting, as well; negative emotions, worries and upset, are immolated in the fiery furnace pushing the muscles through every rep, becoming my fuel and my salvation.
Sadly, lifting was one of the things I sacrificed when my kids were born. Both boys have been poor sleepers that have run my wife and I ragged at every turn, and I’ve tried to be a conscientious husband by taking as much of the burden off of my wife as I can when I’m home, knowing that her days and nights are often even harder to make it through than my own. “Extra” energy has been difficult to come by, as well; after years of sub-standard sleep, even getting out of bed in the morning seems challenging, let alone going to the gym and lifting weights.
I’d tried to start back at the gym a few times, but found that going (at best) once a week (with a record run of, I think, 2 weeks in a row) only left me more tired, more cranky, and more sore; I was paying all the costs while reaping none of the benefits. Sooner (not later), I simply gave up. The result was inaction—nearly complete inaction.
Fortunately, my wife knows me better than I know me, sometimes. I guess that happens after knowing someone for half of their life. My wife realized that I had lost something integral to me and with it my vim, verve, and vigor. I’ve never been skinny, but I had coming to loathe the body I inhabited, feeling trapped and depressed by it. Frankly, my attitude about damned near everything sucked. What I needed was a kick in the ass—and my wife finally gave it to me, ordering me back to the gym three times a week.
By the end of the first week, my smile was back, and I could sense, if not see, light in the darkness. With the first month under my belt, the old hunger has awoken, uncoiling in me. I greet my gym days with a predatory smile instead of a haunted grimace.
For I have returned to my place of worship, and the clinking bells call to my soul again, reminding me of who I am. This is the father I want my sons to know—not the tired-eyed man watching the clock and waiting for sleep, but the determined, confident dad that never has to wonder if he can keep up with his sons.
I have found my anchor again; what’s yours?