through hardships to the stars

Per aspera ad astra.

walking we are caught, by tiny hooks that hold our hope
our skin may be scratched, but nothing holds us back
i will be brave, my body may change
but my spirit will stay, i will be brave

Today, I went to the gym. Today, the programmed workout was 5 rounds of the bear complex, a series of movements with the barbell (clean, front squat, push press, back squat, push press). For each round, we were to complete 7 repetitions of the complex, and then add weight for each subsequent round.

So I did what I do. I look at the white board and peg the people I chase. I decide what my last round will be, do some mental math, and figure out the weight I’ll need for each of the 5 rounds.

I get set up on a platform, and I get through three rounds with little fanfare. Lindsay is sitting on a box in front of me, and on my last repetition, she says, “That’s not heavy enough.”

I look at my little white board, where I’ve written my original planned weights and rounds. I inwardly grimace. I know that I can finish the last round at the weight I’ve chosen. Her proposed revisions sound scary; I’m afraid to get too close to the limits of my push press; I fear with an increase that I won’t be able to get the bar over my head — especially on the last reps of the last round.

But she says to me, “You can do it. It’s all in here.” She pokes one manicured finger to her forehead.

I have posted about this before. I have written about how when people have expectations of me, when *other people* think I can do stuff, then I feel like I can have faith in myself. But it’s very difficult for me to muster this on my own.

I loaded up the bar with 15 more pounds than I originally had planned. And I finished the last round. It was ugly; a few of the presses were sloppy, slow, and probably technically no-reps.

I did it because Lindsay did her job as a trainer. She knows me; she knows what I respond to (high expectations). She knows that I need a small nudge, a little bit of personal encouragement. She was gentle but firm. She didn’t let me cheat myself.

***

I had another small victory today: an email from a woman I don’t know, but whom I’d like to kiss. She wrote:

Congratulations. Your submission, 10380, has cleared all of the necessary checks and will soon be delivered to ProQuest/UMI for publishing.

The submission she refers to is, for those of you blessed to be outside academia, my dissertation. Writing that dissertation was like getting through a million bear complexes, y’all. Fortunately, I had a lot of people who sat in Lindsay’s place while I cried at the barbell, balancing their high expectations of me with loving encouragement.

If you’ve shown me kindness and encouragement over the past 10 years; if you’ve been compassionate and you’ve believed in me; if you’ve loved me through my inability to be a reliable friend, sister, daughter, wife, mom; if you’ve read my writing with generosity; if you’ve told me I could do it… thank you. None of you let me cheat myself.

Aspera

i’m in shambles
blown to bits by our troubles
these brambles
our stumblings our struggles

aspera! per aspera! per ardua! ad astra!

it’s a forced march
and i’m parched in denial
it’s a struggle
of faith and of fire

aspera! per aspera! per ardua! ad astra!

walking we are caught, by tiny hooks that hold our hope
our skin may be scratched, but nothing holds us back
i will be brave, my body may change
but my spirit will stay, i will be brave

aspera! per aspera! per ardua! ad astra!

i’m in shambles
blown to bits by our troubles
these brambles
our stumblings our struggles

aspera! per aspera! per ardua! ad astra!
thorns! over thorns! through this trouble, we are born!

© 2005 Erin McKeown

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5 thoughts on “through hardships to the stars

      1. Tonight was my first real session. We did 800m run, 15-12-9-6-3 deadlifts, and 5-4-3-2-1 muscle ups (or, in my case, the “equivalent” in weenie chin ups and dips. Rubber bands, ahoy!). It took me a LOOOOONNNNNGGGG time (20:58). But I finished! Wheeee! The trainer is really good and super nice. He gives everyone a high 5 when they finish. Then, I walked home. The 1.5 miles seemed a lot longer after the workout, lemme tell ya.

      2. So, I went tonight (because I wasn’t quite sore enough after yesterday), and I found out that Friday evenings at our location are “endurance” nights. On the agenda: 30 rounds of: 5 wall ball/3 HSPU/1 power clean. He told us to complete this in 30 minutes or less.

        The trainer took me aside and helped me to accommodate it to my n00b status (8lb ball instead of 14; regular pushups; lighter weight on the clean), and he told me to “do no more than 20 rounds”. I sneaked in a few more than 20 (I wasn’t going to quit before time was up). I’m not sure that I will be able to lift my arms tomorrow.

        There are some awesomely fit people there. One woman finished in under 20 minutes with legitimate weight. Another works out in a bikini top because she is so freaking lean that there’s no point in wearing an actual shirt. And then there’s me. I bring levity to the group with my messy hair and stanky, decades old workout clothes 🙂 Dorks gotta represent.

        This stuff is pretty fun.

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