How The Light Gets In

“There is a crack in everything,” Leonard Cohen sings in Anthem.   “That’s how the light gets in.”

When things get rough, I like to focus on that line.  There will always be a crack in your everything; maybe you’ve gone too deep into yourself and are pushing out at the seams with your own air, or maybe you’ve been battered by the winds of life.

Whatever the case, here it is and here you are–cracked.  You are an assemblage of unguarded entries.  But what do you let in?  The light or the dark?

The person who says nice job and smiles at you, or the ten friends of friends whose pages you creep to mine resentment?  The sense of accomplishment at a job well done or the ways you feel you should’ve been better?  The clean or the convoluted?

Things aren’t always that simple, of course.  Sometimes there is no accounting for circumstance.  But sometimes when you don’t attend to the cracks, they become caverns.  Black, vorticious nightmares.  Those aren’t so easily remedied.

So here you are–cracked.  What do you let in?  The light or the dark?


When Once I Am Convinced

Sometimes before I close the gym, usually at night or on a Sunday morning, I stand in front of this poster and I think about what I know, what I’m convinced of, and what’s worth hanging onto so hard I never want to let go.

Unfortunately, in the fitness industry this usually leaves me feeling like Lear’s Cordelia.  (At another time we can unpack why she is the fictional character I most often identify with.)  I am unwilling to say we can change your life and fix an entirety in four weeks.  I’m sorry but it takes longer, and we would be dishonest to tell you otherwise.  We look at the long game.  It is about a lifetime of strength.

I am unwilling to say that you are brave for trying hard and making a fuss in a room where everyone else is trying hard.  I’m sorry, but cancer patients are brave.  First responders are brave.  People who fight their fears to show up every day are brave.  Working out itself is a fait accompli most of the time.  When you can’t work out and you have to move, when you have to just get off the toilet without a crowd yelling hosanna in the highest…will you show up?  Can you be brave then?  That’s the endgame.   This is a lifetime of strength.  We look at everyone who walks into our gym through those lenses–how can we help you stay active and be strong and move well for 40 years, 50 years?  It’s not about the workouts, it’s about the work.

I won’t place your success in the context of what the halest can achieve.  It matters that you get up and down, not that you back squat or front squat.  The goal is for you to load up and move your hips, not to chase someone else’s numbers.  You are strong and powerful because you show up and move and listen to your coaches.  This is a lifetime of strength.  This is something we can build upon, always.  When you allow yourself to be motivated by success and not cozened by sweat, you can win every single day.

That is what convinces me.  And that’s what we won’t ever let go.

It’s Not A Hobby

It’s something I do 3 or 4 times a week.  Sometimes 5 or 6.  Other times 2.  When things are bad, it’s bad and it’s none.  7 is a magic number but I only get there during certain, penitent seasons.

It’s a hobby.  But it’s not a hobby.   Hobbies take you to the door of the meeting hall.  They put a mint on your pillow, straighten your tie, and drive you in a well-appointed sedan to the destination of your choice.  But you need to turn the doorknob, and then it’s on like Donkey Kong.

When I stop at 4 and could have done 7 but won’t do 1 next week if I’d tried to do 6, it teaches me to value process in service of goal.  If this is a hobby, it’s a valuable one.

When I put the bar down without screaming, when I nod my head and tell myself one thing is done and now it’s the next, it teaches me to live one moment at a time.  If this is a hobby, it’s an instructive one.

When I get deep down in the guts of a thing, when I wonder if I have what it takes to do thing two, no words will suffice.  Nothing anyone else has told me about myself will carry the day.  No nicknames, no flattery.  No nothing.  It is only what I know I have done and that I know I have continued to move.  If this is a hobby, it is congruent with the idea that you keep moving.  That you stay hungry.  You don’t accept that throwing a heavy stone into an ocean is enough because it was so heavy.  You stay hungry and you figure out how to make yourself stronger and you stop talking about how heavy the rock is.

It’s not a hobby, but if it is then it’s a good one.

You’re Good With The Comments Section, But How About Real Life?

I read a post on FB recently concerning a celebrity who’s been suffering from an agorophobic type of disorder.  To read the comments section, you’d believe we are all Mother Theresas on the road to Calcutta.  (Actually Mother Theresa wasn’t Mother Theresa, thanks Hitch, but that’s a little farther afield…)  Oh my goodness, you poor thing, oh my goodness, you are so brave Celebrity A, oh my goodness Beyonce you are the Queen.  (Okay no one said that today, but they will tomorrow.)  We are all wonderful counselors in theory.

But at the risk of sounding…I don’t know…like a scold…there are people here in the actual real world who could use your support and your help.  I see people struggle every day, and they don’t call attention to themselves, so they don’t get the pats on the back and the offers of an ear.  I guess that’s on them, and I guess we all live in the world we create but goddamn, how about we up our game and treat everyone the way we say we’d treat a celebrity if he or she were magically deposited on our doorstep?  It’s a little more involved than a sad face emoji, but it’s probably worth it in the end.  You learn a lot when you humble yourself to be a helper.

Up Your Game.

I’ve been training a young kid for the past couple of weeks.  Like many kids of his age, he’s self-conscious about his appearance, despite being of perfectly normal size, shape, and whatever.   A great kid.

And I wish I could tell him that people stop talking about the way you look as you walk further on down the road, start a family, build a business, do things that you’re proud of.  But they don’t.

I have a beard, a belly, and I lift weights.  Over the last three months, I’ve heard the following things about my appearance, unbidden:
“most people think child molesters look like you”
“old, haggard.”
“scary”–this is an all time favorite.
“someone kids wouldn’t want to play with”
“ugly”–I didn’t think that old chestnut would make a comeback but hey, it’s 2017.

This isn’t to make anyone feel sorry for me.  First because I’m awesome.  And second because I dust that stuff off and I laugh about it because most of it comes from people who have very strict rules about what government and social media should do but apparently ignore the very real ways you can actually just intend to be a nicer person to the actual people you encounter every day in your actual real life.

But it does piss me off.  I don’t want to hear bromides about kids being mean to other kids from adults who spend their lives talking shit about other people.  Fucking up your game.  The stuff the kids say doesn’t come out of a vacuum.  When a perfectly awesome kid tells me he’s worried about the way he looks, I wonder where the fuck that shit comes from.  And then I remember…we’re all really good about making speeches, not as good at actually putting the cotton in our mouths when it comes to the way people look.

Here’s To The Triers

Today I read something on Facebook that, admittedly, was poorly written.  The subject matter was difficult, pretty personal, and the writer didn’t handle it as well as it could have been handled.  The bloodbath in the comments section (yeah, don’t read the comments) was as predictable as it was depressing.

The easiest thing to do is nothing.  To not try.  To never put yourself out on a limb and show your ass.

From that vantage, you get to proctor life.  You and your monocle.  Nothing’s cooler than the dude who sits at the back of class and doesn’t do anything but take shots at others.  No thought, no kindness, no nothing.  No risk.  Just scorn.  You get to be a hero in the comments section of life.  You and your monocle.  That’s the thing about looking at life from thirty degrees–when you don’t care, you’re in third dimension and the people coming at you on the level might as well be Ward and June Cleaver.

The flip side of the coin is that you get to play the victim if you want to.  Everything anyone else tries and is brave enough to care for at length, well, that’s a personal shot at Y-O-U, and you should cluck your tongue accordingly.  You don’t have to try because everything is an attack.  There is this weird thing in American culture where someone else’s success and happiness or even their fucking opinion, all of which have nothing to do with you…well, they’re actually all about you.   I’m in the gym business and I see this all the time. Workout plan does wonders for someone else?  It was written and enacted to spite you.  Couple of simple diet tricks that help people get closer to their goals?  If they don’t work for you, they’re daggers.  Take cover.

My screen is turning pink so I should stop typing.  Every now and again this shit really gets to me and I wonder what sort of a world I’m sending my kids into where everyday sincerity is mocked and feared more often than not.  And now my screen is really turning pink.  Anyhow, here’s to the people who try.  Keep trying.

Stop and Mop

Scene 1: Dude is tired but doesn’t want to go to bed yet and has a thought that pleases him.

Scene 2: This is scene 2, dude writing about it for five minutes:
Today I mopped the gym.  This is no big deal–I do it, most of our coaches have done it, some of our members have.   Usually I put on some music and feel good about doing the kind of work most of us did when we were in school.  My first job in 8th grade was helping the custodian at our church.  Think about that for a second…you don’t want to fuck up or goof off too overtly when you are, like, CLEANING A CHURCH.  So you learn to dig into the process on its own merits.

But today felt different.  I’m not sure why.  Today was the first time I mopped the gym where I felt like what I was doing was actually a privilege.  This won’t be some hooey phony oh my God I’m lucky I don’t live in East Wherever so you should eat all your green beans deal, I promise.  Plus it’s late and I want to go to sleep.

The privilege was that tomorrow there will be 50-60 people over the course of the day coming in and out of that place with intention to make lives a little bit better over the course of an hour.  To help with a little dab of Pine Sol on the periphery of so many awesome and beautiful life projects is Fuck Yeah This Feels Good Territory. You don’t get to feel this good when you scratch out a couple of Holiday Hundred Thousands, so…I don’t really know how to end this.  Not something I just wanted to do, mopping; now something I feel lucky to do.

Scene 3: Still don’t know how to end this but will post to Facebook nonetheless.

Scene 4: There will be days when I totally don’t want to mop but I will never write about them because then this post just sounds dumb and a guy’s got to have some secrets.