Showing Up

It’s taken me awhile, probably a year, to realize that I was grieving the loss of…a trainer. That sounds so country club, which makes me laugh because the situation couldn’t have been more opposite. The reality was, and I’ve talked about it before here, that my trainer Marques reappeared at a time in which I didn’t know I needed him, but I did. And he brought me to Crossfit which I loved, for the heavy weights only really…Crossfit will kill you if you give it a chance. But when the pandemic struck in March 2020 and I left Chicago for awhile and gyms closed and then he moved to be with his mom and dad and family, I didn’t realize the loss I would feel. What I discovered further was that the loss wasn’t about the workouts or talking about Crossfit with him (which as a spectator of the sport, I’m absolutely hooked. I can’t get enough.). I miss those.

What I grieve is that I felt like he was on my “team” unapologetically. Marques was never one to underestimate me because of my weight or body. Part of what I always deeply appreciated about his approach was, “yeah so you’re going to do it.” I knew he saw me as a capable athlete. I’ll never forget, he put his weight vest on me for a jumping workout. What? Despite my already heavy bodyweight and the fact that the vest itself wouldn’t buckle bc it was too small, he found extenders, put it on me, and was like, “yeah you’re going to do it…because you can.” I always felt like he saw me, and frankly pushed me, to see some of my biggest faults in training and mindset…and we crossed them together. He never made me feel less than. In fact, he was like, “yeah, you’re selling yourself too short…stop telling yourself you can’t.” He was right. So when he was gone, there was a real hole there. It was like my safety net was yanked away while I was…while I am…still on the high wire.

I did find a new Crossfit gym and they were great but I realized very quickly that training with Marques was only about 20% workout. The other 80% was really the support. At a tenuous time, I knew he was on my team and so I’d show up for the workout…and then shock myself by doing things I didn’t realize were possible. Going to a Crossfit class is 80% workout. I did it…but that’s not what I needed. It’s not what I need.

Realizing that my motivation for working out was zero after a year of COVID, I just happened to stumble across a virtual training platform–it’s more a distance platform–because the trainer you meet with is real–they’re a person. They create and manage your program and you do the workouts. “This is perfect,” I thought. Training support AND I don’t have to go into a gym which continues to feel very tenuous. But, in hindsight, I see something different appealed to me initially.

One of the realizations, perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve realized is that I profoundly distrust people who say they’re on my team. Why? Because I cannot believe that I, myself, am worth investing in. Why? Because they always go. Time has taught me I’m on my team. Time has proven I am a team of one. But this is complicated and you’re about to find out why.

I’m sure there are other, better ways to say it, but I had a “come to Jesus” call with my trainer after skipping, like, a week’s worth of workouts for no real reason. In hindsight, I was sniffing something in the air…something close. I asked for the call because I felt like I was failing and I didn’t want to do that. But something he said and my reaction to it, took me aback. He said, “I am on your team, Katie. I’m here because I want you to do this and I know you can. And I’m here if we’re winning and I’m here if we’re losing. I want us to succeed.”

I immediately wanted to run away.

It was the fact he kept saying “us.” I could feel claustrophobia setting in. I started to panic. I got angry. In that moment, I realized the virtual trainer appealed to me because of distance. There would be no “us.” And now there was “us.” And what was I supposed to do with that?

Now we have to leave.

This is an incredibly clear pattern in my life, the flee response. I got wise to it in therapy years ago, before I left because my therapist freaked me out by telling me this was a clear pattern in my life. He knew me too well, so it was time to head for the hills. I think the explanation for it is pretty simple: in my early, formative years and continuing until now, I’ve been shamed, neglected, or mistreated emotionally (I was never physically abused) particularly by males, to the point that I’ve built up protective flee response. To protect my inner child, the orphan, adult me gathers her up and moves quickly at the sign of any potential repeat of that destructive behavior. I get it and I’m sad for me for that reason. I’m comfortable alone because I don’t have to flee. We’re just fine alone. But are we? Obviously not, especially when I’m in the predicament of needing support. “No man, woman, or orphan, is an island,” Thomas Merton would’ve said if he knew me. So I know this is something that is inherently problematic.

Here’s what I also know: the dickens of this problem is how to rewrite it, because data usually does not support the foregone conclusion in the present. This is behavior I experienced that changed me when I was young. It’s not something I often overtly find in the present. What I’ve realized in hindsight is that there have been a lot of people–good, caring, supportive people–who have tried to be on my team. Tried. And I ran because the circumstances looked prime for that kind of pain. In reality, though, I’m an adult and can engage with the circumstances differently. I’ve made progress on this front a little. Age and wisdom has taught me to sit with the discomfort at least for awhile. My closest friend and confidant made the mistake of saying in the midst of a disagreement, “I know you, Katie.” It set us back years. But I’m still here. He’s still my closest friend and confidant. Have I forgotten he said it? No. Do I think about him saying that every day since he’s said it? Yes. But I’m still here.

In an interesting turn, once I backed up my panic and returned to the conversation, the result of the phone call with Trainer was the agreement that all I had to do for now with these workouts is, “show up.” If I tried, then that was the win and everything beyond that is gravy. That might be the next step in the lesson of writing a new way forward.

Keep showing up. Give it a try. Just get started.

I can do that. For now.

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