Strength is a high priority on my list. We only get one life so we might as well treat our bodies with kindness and discipline. However, the outside is not the only piece of the puzzle I hold in high regard, emotional and mental strength mean just as much if not more. Strength is right up there with faith, honestly and loyalty in terms of what I value most in myself and other people.
What I’m seeing these days, with myself, since it’s important to put yourself under the microscope before anyone else, as I wrote in Listen, is that I value strength possibly to a fault. Something in me questions if there is balance with what I value. Why am I so in love with resilience and ferocity? If I’m good at being strong then what am I bad at? I would have to say being weak. I just don’t have that mentality. Weakness is a word I would define as; indecisive, immature, pitiful. If you read Where Are All the Men? Then you know how I feel about weakness. To me, Larry is the epitome of it. As much as I despise weakness, it is still a part of me. I will be built like a brick house one day but I myself, am not a brick wall. There are cracks in the mortar and no matter how much I cringe when I see them, they remain.
In high school, I remember a teacher telling me about image, three images actually. How we see our selves, how others see us and how we want to be seen by others. I don’t know about you but my three images don’t overlap. My life is not a stack of poker chips, where the circles of self-image, projected image and perceived image are perfectly aligned. My images are more like the trinity, three very different attributes of the same God.
The public doesn’t see me the way I see me but that’s understandable because they don’t know my backstory. Often times, it’s just me making an appearance in the lives of others for a moment and they feel bad for me or they are inspired by me or my dog makes them happy. I went to the health food store the other day to pick up some vitamin D. I eventually made it to the register after browsing the aisles for about half an hour. “Do you have FITAID here?” I asked, the woman working the register is a well-known nutritionist who I had gone to myself a few years earlier. When I first arrived, she said she remembered me.
“No, what is that?” She asked
“It’s a recovery drink” I said, leaning an arm on the counter. “It has vitamins and BCAA’s.”
“Oh I bet that makes you feel good.” I agreed, feeling the soreness from the workout that would surely hit me later. “Since you use so much muscle,” she added. Her tone let me know she was referencing my disability and not my physique. There it is, the box I never wanted to be in. My perceived image misaligned with my personal one.
“Oh I drink it after I do Crossfit” I said, feeling the need to clarify in order for the twinge of offense I felt in my gut to subside.
“You crazy girl” she said, smiling with a slight shake of her head.
“Yeah,” I said, laughing a little, “this time with a cause though.”
Having a disability is not my favorite physical feature, my eyebrows are my favorite physical feature but that doesn’t mean I can’t make peace with it. I’m learning that, if I face my insecurities rather than avoid them, they don’t make me weak. Instead, it is the power they have over me that becomes weak. Maybe, if I choose being vulnerable as opposed to being as sharp and as cold as an icicle when sensitive subjects come up, it’ll make me stronger. Maybe our flaws only equal weakness if we let them. Maybe contentment in life has to with bringing the parts of ourselves that we would prefer to leave in the dark out into the light. Maybe being weak is not the real issue, it’s just a symptom of the actual problem, which not allowing vulnerability. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Confronting weakness, weakens the weakness meaning, strength increases. It takes great strength to be upfront about weakness. Being an adaptive athlete allows me to transform my weakness into vulnerability. In this area of my life, my disability fits. Ironically, I believe fitness is the only area of my life where Cerebral Palsy has a place. It allows me to think about it and talk about it in an open and honest manner that does not make me nauseous. For once, I don’t mind talking about my least favorite feature. It’s still not my favorite but I do hate it less when it comes to being a CP athlete. Perhaps, it is our greatest weakness that is meant to be our greatest strength.