Down and Halfway Up: Thoughts on Strength

Mar 12 2013


The problem with strength is that we have to break down first to acquire it. And then, when it comes, it sneaks into us in minuscule, microscopic measure, so teeny and so tiny it’s impossible to see for a very long time. And the problem with needing strength, of course, is that we’re terribly weak when we’re the most desperate for it.

FYI, this is not the system I would create if I were elected God. Then again, I insist most days on being reclusive and introverty and I’m usually no good to anyone after 8pm or before 7am so I’ve decided not to run for God at this time, and we’ll just have to put up with the crappy way of acquiring strength a little longer.

I have two pairs of workout pants, neither of which holds my stretch marks to my satisfaction. I lift my arms above my head in weight lifting class, and the pants shift down a smidge with every lift. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position — physical or financial — to justify new pants yet, and so we endure, my pants and I. We are what we are; a little immodest, occasionally inappropriate, and socially questionable.

I’m the new girl in class, and, traditionally, as a matter of deep conviction, am not a fan of lifting weights. We sometimes go through periods of significant doubt and questioning, though, and I’m in transition now. I think… I think I might be starting to like it.

It’s just that every time I go to class, it’s a spiritual experience. Always at the same point. Always when I’m starting to sweat just a little. Always when I begin to breathe with an edge of panic. The class becomes harder than I can handle. Harder than what I’m accustomed to doing. And then my instructor, Bryanna, with her pants that never shift, has us hold our weights down, arms extended, and lift them halfway up. And push them down. And lift them halfway up. And push them down. And lift them halfway up. It’s impossible, and through it all, to the rhythm of the music, she says, “Down and halfway up. Down and halfway up. Down and halfway up.” And I think this is just like life.

This is just like life, this down and halfway up. And just like parenting. And being married. And being human. And muddling through. And making magic out of madness. And building things that matter.

We spend a good part of our time down and halfway up. And then down and halfway up. And then down and halfway up. We think when we’re down that we’re failing. We think when we’re halfway up that we’re not quite enough. But we’re wrong which we learned yesterday is an awesome thing to be. WE ARE WRONG about the downs and the halfways. We are wrong AND AWESOME because when we’re down and halfway up, we’re doing the hard work. We’re doing the barely breathing work. We’re doing the sweaty work. We are breaking down. And it’s OK. We’re right where we’re supposed to be. Down and halfway up is both exhausting and necessary.

If you’re down today, friend, or if you’re struggling to make it halfway up, barely hanging in there, know this: you are building strength. You are. You are building strength the only way possible… in minuscule, microscopic measure. And it’s OK.


image credit “Old Dumbbell Fitness Equipment” by Kittikun Atsawintarangkul via