Today's number is 85. This number has a dual meaning in my life. It is a juxtaposing phrase that represents my life's past ambitions and my life's current goals. It stands as a testimony to both progress and clear indications of mental and physical strength, all the while reflecting on days of agony, lost hope, false truths, and false identities.
At 85 pounds, I felt the same aches and throbs felt by an 85 year old. My bones began to brittle and my muscles diminished, leaving me to rely on a whip of my own ambition and creativity to power myself through a day burdened by academic and athletic demands. My hair began to thin and my nails weakened as my nutrition was depleted. My pace slowed, as my frailty became ever-present. Each flight of stairs was a mountain peak reached after what seemed to be hours of persistent scaling. Daily tasks were seemingly insurmountable: my breath shortened as I carried my laundry basket down the hall to be washed, I felt my body creak and moan as I climbed out of bed each morning, and showers were underpinned by unease rather than felicity, as I feared falling. Eighty-five was the number that projected back at me every time I made the long, arduous walk to the campus medical center each week. Eighty-five was the number that I feared, yet strived to surpass. A goal of eighty-five pounds quickly evolved into a goal of reaching eighty-four, eighty-three, eighty-two.
When seeing the number "85," the muted, overshadowed part of my mind would try to project images of impotence and co-dependency to me. It tried to remind me that I would always have to consider my health, just as someone nearing 85 years old would have to do, before committing to something. It would whisper to me, telling me that life was not sustainable at 85 pounds. If I could not lay in a bed without being comfortable, I could not consider the ambitious intentions I set for myself. This wise voice told me that change was necessary.
The other side of my brain, however, instilled in me that change was rooted in fear; a paralyzing, insurmountable, petrifying fear. With this domineering perspective, it was quite clear that I would never have the strength to overcome this intimidating fear of change; therefore, I should simply remain in my enclosed, controlled, secure box. In this box, challenges, possibilities of change, and risks were blockaded and I was assured that I would never have to tamper with anything I deemed unsettling. This voice promoted that the world around me was uncontrollable, yet guaranteed that with its simple rules of restriction, I would be able to hold the world in my palm. I would be in control of the unpredictable, and reign above threats of taking risks or being challenged.
Eighty-five was the number that sent me to the emergency room this October in a state of delirium, as I was prodded with IVs and asked simple questions my mind could hardly process quickly enough to respond. Eighty-five lended me hospital trays weighed down by cups of grape juice, canned and heavily buttered vegetables, and heaps of pasta ladened with unrecognizable sauces that have still yet to be named. Eighty-five was the number that spiraled me into a state of no control, a loss of freedom, and no authority for my own life's ambitions. Yet, I saw 85 as my identity. Eighty-five was for someone with tireless drive and control.
As the pendulum of the scale rose, my fear of change heightened, and my sense of identity was lost. Little to my knowledge at the time, I was distancing myself from a state of toxicity and repression, and nearing a future of prosperity and growth. I left bits of food on each of the trays that were served to me, in hopes that I would regain a sense of control by combatting those dedicating themselves to healing my damaged mind and body. I failed to realize that these morsels of food left on my trays would prolong my time spent constrained to the demand of my eating disorder, and distance me from glimpses of freedom.
Despite sentiments of chaos and a loss of a controllable identity, I was moving closer to gaining back my independence. As my weight increased and began to stabilize at an ideal, healthy number, I was able to return the activity I longed for. I began training at a gym focused not only on strengthening individuals physically, but mentally as well. The gym is devoted to centering people on their life's greatest ambitions and developing mission statements for each of their clients, in order to aid them in fulfilling their life's truths. As the mind gains strength, muscles build as well, granting clients the incomparable feeling of power, resilience, and tenacity.
My first day of training focused on upper body strength and was originally constructed around using a barbell. This notion was quickly abandoned as I struggled to hover the forty-five pound bar above my chest. The extent of my activity had been going on ten minute walks prior to beginning my workout regime at the gym, Strength for Life.
In the past, I would have deemed my inability to lift the bar as a failure. I craved immediate gratification, and resorted to extreme methods in order to achieve it, rather than enduring the patient journey of advancing. This ideal of immediate gratification was not just cemented in my athletic ambitions, it was rooted in my academic and social life as well. My black and white mindset shielded me from risk-taking and avoided the idea of patience. In school, I either did everything in my power to earn an A, or viewed myself as a failure when receiving anything less. My joke was not funny to my friends? In this case, my black and white rooted mind told me to stay quiet in droll situations. "You're in control this way," it would tell me, "Don't do anything reaching beyond your neat, composed identity," it would command me.
I have quickly learned that strength training relies primarily on trusting a process, rather than expecting immediate gratification. Black and white thought patterns must be abandoned in order to strive for ambitious goals, and tolerance must be adopted. Adjusting my thought pattern to tailor to my physical goals, proved to be one of the most beneficial tactics for progressing through my recovery journey.
Four days per week, I wake up to my alarm at 6:15, and finish at the gym before my breakfast is served at 8:00. At the gym, I work with my trainer to gain back my strength. Small, attainable goals are set each week, and each week victories are won.
My goal for week two: bench press the forty-five bar more than just a hover above my chest, even if it is for only one repetition. When this goal was set, my mind immediately encumbered me with guilt for setting such a dismal goal. It screamed at me, telling me that everyone else could lift far beyond what I strived for-- In fact, they could probably lift me and the bar together. My stringent mind forgot to mention that these people have been training for much longer than I have. It forgot to include that many of these people were not just released from the hospital after recovering from an acute illness. My mind condemned this idea of patience and loathed small victories. Yet, I kept proving my brain wrong, as small victories propelled me further away from toxic, controlling thoughts and drove me closer to goals that seemed insurmountable before.
During my second week of training, I gazed up at the forty-five pound bar overhead, and placed my hands shoulder-width apart on the cold metal. With apprehension, I lifted the bar above the rack and held it above my chest. I swiftly lowered the bar to a hover, and pushed it with might until it returned to be level with the rack. That day, I pressed the forty-five pound bar above my chest for ten repetitions, tiring after doing this for three rounds. I leaped beyond the goal I had set for myself, and, for the first time, began to appreciate this idea of patience. The following week, I would lift fifty-five pounds, staying there for a few weeks before pushing sixty-five pounds above my chest. After a few weeks, sixty-five pounds proved to be effortless, and I surpassed my goal of lifting seventy-five pounds. Last week, I soared my old body weight, eighty-five pounds, high above my chest with ease. Last week, I pushed the doubts I held for myself at eighty-five pounds high above my chest. It was quite literally, as if I was lifting a huge weight off of my chest, as I channeled power to rid myself of any apprehension or skepticism that would have depleted me before. Last week, I racked away frailty and a falsely projected identity that drove me into the depths of mental and physical turmoil. Last week, I trusted a process, and most importantly, trusted myself to press my old body weight. I relied solely upon my own strength to do the heavy lifting, rather than resorting to extreme methods to reach my goals. Last week I pushed away memories of collapsing after a long run feeling powerless and inert.
I walked out of the gym last week overwhelmed with newfound self-assurance, poise, and determination. Next week, I would aim to lift more than my old body weight. With this new goal came acceptance. Accepting myself even if ninety pounds could not be lifted above my head, acceptance if I was having an off-day because off-days are normal for everyone, and acceptance if my body was in dire need of rest.
Strength training has been a transcendent practice in my path towards a fulfilling life of abundance. It has embellished my life with newfound fortitude, and has awoken me to a life of vigor, determination, and temperance. One day I will confidently bench press my new body weight above my head, and reflect on the peaks I scaled to to achieve this astounding goal. Until that day, here is to the small victories that have propelled me towards goals that previously seemed unconquerable, and will continue to launch me into a bountiful, richly abundant life.