The Pants and the Identity Crisis

F yeah deadlift deloads.

I like to lose. I can barely handle winning–in my world, where “wins” are having a gallery exhibit my work or doing very well at a powerlifting meet, crying after success is not unheard of. Losing feels comfortable to me, a safe zone, a place where I–

Alright, this is intensely depressing and I haven’t gotten past two sentences of it. You can perhaps see why I haven’t blogged in a while; I often feel that what I am inclined to write about is so negative or depressing that readers will recoil in disgust and/or–likely and–stop wanting to read my blog. The thing is, I don’t do particularly well with writing about who I’m not. I tend to write with a more liquid facility when I’m writing about my struggles (are we even allowed to use that phrase anymore? Every time I do it’s an automatic mental flash to a “Mien Kampf” book jacket with the mustached face glaring at me from a slightly angled head). 

There’s a lot of positivity in the sport for which I train. A lot of those little images with motivational slogans slapped across someone’s deadlift lockout or whatever are strewn all over the fitness image bank if you run a search on “strength training motivation.” “DON’T GIVE UP,” “YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF YOUR DESTINY” (this one, by the way, is oxymoronic. I am not a fan), “FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION,” “DO YOUR SOCKS SMELL LIKE COURAGE? THEY DAMN WELL BETTER,” etc. I hide from these like my snake attempts to hide from anyone and everything quite literally under a rock. At this point, I feel like I’ve turned into an anti-Yoda, which probably looks something like a mange-ridden female Chewbacca sitting at a bar ordering bad vodka and diet cokes because she can’t tell the difference between bad vodka and good vodka and no, there is nothing wrong with drinking vodka and diet. I did it all through undergrad.

I don’t drink anymore except for the times that I do, which I’d say are about once every three or four months, and only about two drinks max (usually one). I don’t do alcohol well, and I’m in favor of good training over mediocre drinking. I’m also in favor of keeping my head down right now and recoiling from the light of revealing too much about the darker aspects of my training life. That’s right, I said darker–melodramatic, but there it is. If you were to make a little bar graph of my lifting experience so far measuring clarity of purpose, the bars would be jumping up and down from month to month. One thing has remained consistent–I train. I go in and lift and it is part of my week. But I now find myself on the fringes of a sport for which I had very particula, very high ambitions. Before, I was enthused about being little and lifting big, but I have moved far away from that inclination. I believe I am heavier than I have ever been. While my lifts have all gone up appreciably, where once I was competitive enough to be ranked, now I am nowhere near it. My total from my meet in April 2012–611 at 105–currently holds the #7 ranking at that weight class in this country. My deadlift from that meet–a 304 pull at 105–is #5 in the nation. Hell, my squat from that meet is ranked somewhere in the top 20 too, but I’m too lazy to go and look it up. 

But looking at those numbers is kind of like looking over the accomplishments of another person at this point. I cut from 112 lbs to 105 in April. I now weigh about 132-134 or something–depends on the day–and this is weight I put on purposefully. I decided to put on that weight, but that 20 pounds has brought with it such conflicting issues that it has put me in a kind of double existence. One day I’ll be extremely happy with how lifting is going. The next, I’ll wear jeans that are now undeniably too small and end up in tears later on because I’ve felt the constant reminder of my corporeal expansion in restricted motion and the semi-impossibility of pealing off my jeans to pee all day. Should I just go buy new pants? Apparently, yes. But I’ve been slow to do so, slow to accept that I have another body that doesn’t fit the pants that I have literally been able to fit into–or that even have been too big for me–for over four years. 

And as I don’t really know or feel all that enthused towards the alien body I now inhabit, so too do I feel a sort of identity crisis in relation to how I feel I fit into powerlifting. If I’m slow to accept my pants size shift, I’m even slower to accept or really know myself at a higher weight class. 

I will cut this short, because I’m dancing around a downward slide towards communicating what the rhetoric REALLY sounds like in my head from day to day. And as much as I want want honesty and transparency in this blog, the language I use toward myself and my body internally right now is often corrosive, vile, deeply abusive shit. I’m highly aware of how damaging this kind of language is to myself; it is perhaps why I so fiercely defend people whose family and friends or strangers on the internet feel free to comment on their bodies in a negative (positive isn’t that great either, but that’s another story) manner. But I can’t just decide that the fat that comes with the muscle is beautiful–I can’t change my emotion, just limit the triggers that flick it into the “on” position. That said, seriously, my boobs are a lot bigger now. It’s really cool.

I’ve come a long way from the prison of anorexia. Really. But there is a spectrum upon which one’s relationship with one’s physical aesthetic sits. Hell, there are probably multiple spectrums stacked up on one another. I’ve been brave enough to put on mass to perform in a sport in which mass moves mass (although this is tempered by the fact that the sport holds relative strength as massively important). And yes, I said brave. Because weight gain hasn’t been easy, and it has major drawbacks to the strength gifts that come with it. I do what I am doing right now because I have faith that in three or four years it will pay off. YEARS. This is not your 30-day Squat Challenge. This is not your goddamn Victoria’s Secret Sexy-Up Workout. I want to be great, and I am willing to be uncomfortable to get there.