I am not a good card player. Many times I have sat in proximity to my brother at a table filled with friends or family and lit by an overhead light and listened to his incredulous outbursts of “Janis, I LITERALLY just saw your card.” And Joel could see the card I was about to play not because I was physically incapable of keeping it close but more because I just didn’t really care about whether or not someone knew my hand. And this was probably sourced in the fact that card games do not hold my attention. So too does the world of competitive powerlifting have a limited ability to hold my attention or me hostage. Any time I have felt the creeping sense that I am under too much control by external forces that without a doubt do not have more than a very passing interest in my actions in this sport, I change course.
So let me show and/or play my cards now, to the very few who have an interest in my actions. In five days as of this writing I was scheduled to do a meet. Over a series of weeks from when I signed up for this meet to now, I “entered” and withdrew from the meet several times, at least mentally. Physically, I am in okay shape to compete. Mentally, as usual, as with all people who are not robots, I identified cracks in my intent. Where the body is ready to be piloted, the mind is usually far less pliant. As is no secret because, again, I don’t really keep my cards very close, the last year and a half has not been all that easy for me, and the last eight or so months in particular have not. So while I was convinced of my ability to go and physically do a meet, I knew mentally was probably another story. And so I chose not to, and I only bring my official withdrawal from a meet into this blog post because it is an important precursor to where I will be trying to go from here.
And I want to write a blog post about that because I feel like what I am thinking about and how I am thinking about it–I just don’t see discussion of this that often. I also see a lot of people who are so entrapped by “supposed to” and “should” that they are unable to write their own rules within the boundaries of an activity that isn’t going to serve them that well if they don’t take on more responsibility for understanding how it functions in their lives. So, here we go, here’s me talking MORE about my quest to figure out what is best for my body in context of this sport. Oh my god I KNOW, I ALWAYS talk about this, man do I have issues. Except the body is never static, and my navigation of this sport and my body and my body image and my physical health is far different than it was four years ago, four months ago, whatever. The less I stop and ask myself what I’m actually doing, the more autopilot I try to keep myself in so I can execute this number in this weight class, the worse things tend to go. So, here we go, let’s talk about where I’m at with things right now and what it might mean for what I do in this sport.
I am the leanest I have ever been at about 140 pounds at the moment. If I take an honest look at my frame and where I am filled out and where I am not and consider average height ranges within the various weight classes, a lot is coming together that suggests to me that I probably am going to stay the healthiest and sanest and happiest the longest by allowing myself to compete in the 148 weight class. Now, let’s take a look at the word I just used, and did not edit–allowed. It speaks of someone critically aware of standards and rules and established norms, someone whose very rhetoric is colored by these guides. What I will tell you is that I, like many women around my size, sit in this uncomfortable no man’s land that is the “between 132 and 148” classes. I will also tell you that I am VASTLY undersized as a “competitive” 148. But here’s what’s more critical, and can be looked at a weakness if someone is inclined to see things this way: I am extremely aware of my history as someone with eating disorders and living the kind of life that asks me to be aware of my weight in the way the 132 class would ask me to is something I am both unwilling to do as well as don’t believe will best serve me physically in the sport in the long run. Do we even need to go into how mentally problematic it would be? That of all the issues suppressing my weight for 132 would raise, that it would be nearly stupid for me to dangle my past addictions on a wire before me, their glitter impossible to ignore and not enough of a warning against the sharp edge hidden beneath that diamond glow–do I need to flesh that out further? At this point, if you’ve followed me long enough, I sort of hope not. I do not fit myself inside of someone else’s box or standard or ideal. Mine are painful enough to get in and out of.
And so I just let go. Not of training, which is all I care about. All I care about is that I can train. All I care about is that I get better. I could not live without this, not easily. But I don’t give a fuck about how well I do in this sport. I can compete sometimes but what I’ve learned by being in multiple top rankings in multiple weight classes, having two totals on Soong’s list, having broken two all time world records, is that no one gives a FUCK about any of what you do with that. I have said it over and over and over. I will say it again. It gets you NOTHING. And so I am, in a sense, back at a sort of start. Because I am so undersized and poorly developed as a 148 lifter, I really don’t know when I will be competitive in that class. Where I had some thin, dry laurels to rest on before, now I have nothing but a field of dirt mixed with some fertilizer. I am nothing, I have no hidden cards, there is no pressure on me. All I have are my instincts, which have done pretty well for me so far. Looks like it’s about to be the season of the witch.