It was a rainy day in Osaka. Not extraordinary, for most of my days in Osaka were of the wet variety. The sun was at base camp, preparing for that long journey to its zenith. I had just escaped 12 hours in the tomb which housed Japan’s own nuclear accelerator, watching a screen show the track of lithiums mercilessly bombarding silicons. Discovering the secrets of the universe is painfully dull at times.
The fresh air, the rain, and the morning light cleansed my stale skin, refreshed my exhausted soul. My eyes wanted to be open, and my body wanted to move. Suffering jetlag and back to back shifts, I was past exhaustion and craving life, so I made myself lively. I set out on a run through campus, in and out of neighborhoods, up hills and down them again. Past children on their way to school, clad in sweet uniforms with brightly colored rucksacks and caps I raced; pacing garbage trucks making their Wednesday rounds and paper boys flinging their stories into the gardens of wilderness tamed in poetic miniature. My legs burned, my lungs screamed, and I was lost and alone and free. I was wholly myself.
I came to a park with a path. I followed the path to what seemed a rec center. The doors were unlocked, and I entered on tiptoe. To my right was the entrance to a 25 meter pool. Empty but pristine. To my left, three basketball courts with floors as reflecting as the water to my right. In front of me were stacked plates of different colors. Iron bars hung on the wall. I continued on my way, puzzled at the immaculate vacancy and the mysterious multicolored weights.
It was four years before I learned the utility of those plates and bars. When I discovered their magic, I fell into addiction. I was spellbound by Olympic lifts, infatuated with strength and power and the potential of well-trained muscle. I enjoyed a brief period of undivided commitment. My love for being fast, for flying down metropolitan avenues and prancing through wooded trails, was replaced by a love for lifting cleanly, heavily, weighted barbells from the ground to overhead. I craved the strength. I craved the technique. I craved the weightlessness that comes in that split second the bar is between the ground and its destination.
There was nothing to stop me from chasing it. I was my own person, and I decided to do what I wanted, when I wanted.
My life is unrecognizable from what it was fifteen weeks ago. Though pregnant, I still moved on my own time, I still worked to exhaustion and I even outdid my non-pregnant self in power lifts. Predicting life with bean in the outside world, in my naïveté I entertained visions of hours dedicated to becoming an athlete: mobile, fast, strong, with impeccable technique and an undying engine. I was sure my will would take me there.
My reality unfolds in stark relief. I am slow, I am weak, I am sloppy in my half-hearted attempts and I give up more often than not. Sometimes I give up before I’ve even started. It’s true, I am tired. My days are filled with the penultimate gift of drawing smiles from my baby’s sweet mouth. I have no excuse. Women, mothers, much busier than I balance their lives to incorporate training or whatever their specific goals might be.
My weariness brings me to tears sometimes. In Japan I used it to fuel me on a run I’ll forever remember as one of my best, one which coincidentally gave me a glimpse into an entire aspect of my life yet undiscovered. Now my lassitude does its due, allowing me to feed and clean and laugh at my babe and not much else. Those allowances are blessings; they’ve brought me closer to God, they’ve brought me a love I’ve never known, they’ve made me a relational person I am proud to be.
My relational identity of “mother” is, at the moment, my full identity. It leaves room for hardly anything else. But soon, very soon for my boy is growing at remarkable speed, I must recoup some individuality. The knowledge gnaws at me, for my attempts to turn fact into action are so poor. I yawn during my workouts, I rub my eyes after the simple act of chalking my hands, and I run too quickly to the little bean even when he’s safe in someone else’s arms.
Worse than my ennui is my disappointment. I suffer comparisons and should-haves and even should-bes. I look at weights once easy and shrink away. I cannot even move an empty bar with grace. I’ve almost quit in the middle of workouts. My mile time stands at 10 and a half minutes. It was under 6.
But I cannot fall apart, and I cannot give up. What example would I be setting for my son? I know that I must be the best I can be, I know that I must always strive to be better; then he can have a simpler time learning to do this same.
So, even though I might need to wait for my dear baby boy to be a bit more independent (he is growing faster than my heart can handle, so I know I won’t have to wait long), even though I might need to wait for my body to accept it’s current lack of sleep (for which it seems I’ll have to wait an eternity, even though that perception is manifestly warped), I must carry on with what I can do.
I am in a small way. I squatted 145×20 yesterday. Four weeks ago I couldn’t get through 115 so I know I am getting stronger. I might not be fast right now but I was also the slowest kid in school when I was in seventh grade. And it was a PreK-12 school. I changed that. I can touch my toes, finally. And I can stand on one foot. So things are looking up.
p.s. I know, I know, bad form.