your life as a badass

This is the scary basement where I work out.

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It is full, totally full, of spiderwebs. And spiders. It’s lucky I hate snakes and have a strange affinity for spiders, and not the other way around.

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The ceiling is 7 feet off the ground at best. The floor is uneven, so I have to find the right level-enough spot for whatever lunge or plank or squat jump I’m doing. I took my yoga mat down there, and I’ve accepted that it’s become part of the scary basement now. Composed partially of dirt and only borrowed from the spiders.

No one forces me to work out down there. I could probably make it happen in my living room; or I could just skip it, except I’ve discovered that getting a sweat on is essential to my winter mental health. Plus WEDDING: I’m much more vain about all those photos than I ever thought I’d be. But still. The scary basement is pretty repellent.

Here is the main way I get myself into the scary basement and through the lunge jumps: I pretend I’m one of those people in a movie who is unjustly thrown into prison, but spends their time plotting revenge/getting super ripped.

I guess I think of this as a genre of movie character, but the only one I can really think of is Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises. So, yeah. I pretend to be Batman. Except I haven’t been imprisoned by a mysterious ally of the warped, brutish demagogue who plans to destroy everything I love and protect. I’m just a victim of extreme cold and my own vanity/desire to eat french fries.

Even so, after a while, having to work out in the scary basement can kind of be its own motivator. Once I had done it a couple of times without dying by spider bite or ankle twist or the wrath of the skeleton-ghost who could very well live its eerie half-dead life in the nether reaches of the darkness— once I got through it a couple of times, I felt free to consider myself A TOTAL BADASS. Sometimes I let myself feel secretly superior to my coworkers when they’re talking about their fancy gyms. “My gym is free,” I don’t say to them. “Lots of people would pay to not go there.”

I think the same thing is one part of the appeal of CrossFit, too. I’ve never been, but I get the impression there’s something people like about the no-frills, no-excuses, objectively and plainly miserable workouts: they feel like you’re getting stronger, and they feel like what you’re doing matters. You are honest about the sacrifice you have to make to get where you’re going. And your circumstances help you recognize your inner badass.

Working out is somehow easier when you feel like you’re allowed to frame your quest for greater strength as an epic battle. I wish we gave ourselves more license to understand all of our struggles that way.

Whether you’re resolved to finish a degree, to get out of debt, to be more patient with your family, to get through a day without alcohol, to keep up with your Lenten practice even though you’ve already failed multiple times, to learn a musical instrument, to care for an aging parent, to learn to love your body, or just to get out of bed again tomorrow, sometimes the most discouraging thought is that this isn’t worth it. That decay wins eventually, so why bother with growth? That you are not the kind of person who does these things. That you are making a mockery of yourself by struggling through to the end.

I don’t know if I believe in a red pointy Devil, but I believe in an Enemy. And that Enemy is those lies. Here is the truth: that thing you do wouldn’t be worth doing if it were easy. And it wouldn’t be yours to do if you weren’t up to the task. And if it weren’t worth the effort, you wouldn’t have started. You wouldn’t have stared this huge thing in the face and said, bring it on. Maybe you didn’t know just how hard it would be, just how weary you would feel. But that weariness isn’t a sign that you are too small or your problems too petty. It is a sign that you are in the midst of a great battle. It is in the daily decisions, the uncertain hours, the thousandth resolution that the warrior quietly, finally wins.

Of course there is a time in all of our lives when we must face a reality that forces us to quit on some great fight, and there is no shame in that. But I mean to talk about those things, big and small, that you know (or once knew) God has somehow placed before you for this time; those things that, in your best moments, you believe are making the world a better place. Cling to that belief. Let it compel you to go on. Even if there will never be a musical montage of your struggle, even if the darkness against which you strain is not apparent to anyone else, know that it is a great thing you do to hold once more your candle against it.

When a person is baptized in the Episcopal church, he or she is asked to assent to all sorts of absurd projects.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Will you persevere in resisting evil?

These are daunting, audacious, overwhelming goals, to say the least.

The person replies: I will, with God’s help.

It is such a simple answer. We use such a humble and honest five words to make such outrageous claims. But it is enough to face down demons; even, and especially, those who tell us we are small and our struggles unimportant. It says that is no matter. It is God’s help that matters. He is the one who calls, who provides, who is sufficient.

I will, with God’s help. This is enough for one day.

One day in your life as a total badass.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Lyndsey, this is just wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Reply

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