So, back in the day when I was a high school English teacher, I taught The Crucible. My students and I were always fascinated by the consummate badass Giles Corey.
The quick and dirty on old Giles is that his wife was hanged for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. And then he was accused…and as you probably know, once you were accused of being a witch in Salem during that time, you were basically screwed. So Giles refused to plead at all; he just kept his mouth shut. The Puritan law stated that a person who didn’t plead couldn’t be tried, so their “just” solution to this was to press the person.
In case you haven’t been pressed lately, this meant they would lay you down, completely naked, place a board over your body, and proceed to pile up a bunch of heavy ass rocks on you until you entered a plea. Or died, I guess. Um…yeah. It’s horrible.
Giles was in his seventies. This old dude suffered the pressing torture for over 2 days, and every time they asked him to enter a plea, he only replied “More weight.” In fact, in true badass Braveheart fashion, he yelled out those two words one final time just before he died.
As in, “Suck on that, Puritan douchebags!”
In The Crucible‘s fictionalized historical account of the witch trials, Giles is emotionally weighted down long before his untimely pressing. He is burdened by guilt after mentioning his wife reading strange books during her “trial” for witchcraft. Not surprisingly, she was hanged, and he feels responsible.
This may be one of those times when you ask yourself, “Where the hell is she going with this?”
Here’s the thing: I think of Giles often when I’m in the gym. As I’m loading up the bar for my next lift, I’ll say to myself, “More weight.” There’s something totally empowering about it. (I also like to imagine I have a really badass gaze going when I’m thinking this…but in reality, I’m probably lucky there’s no mirrors in that part of the gym.)
But there’s way more to this than badassery. I imagine Giles feeling freed with every additional pound of rock they dropped on him. The physical burden of all those rocks might have lightened the emotional burden of what he was going through, somehow lessening his sadness and guilt. At least, I like to think that when I lift.
Of course I’m not fighting against the injustices of Puritan society in one last act of defiance like he was. I’m just working out.
But still…when life’s burdens get heavy, it helps to duck under that bar, put something tangibly heavy on my back and make it my bitch.
It’s hard to explain, but it’s one of the most important reasons I love lifting so much.
You will laugh at my Buddy the Elf reference.
No matter what kind of burden I’m carrying in my heart when I walk into the gym, loading up the bar and lifting the crap out of some heavy weights makes a world of difference. It takes away the powerlessness I sometimes feel in the face of sadness, disappointment, fear or anger.
So right now, some people I care about are struggling with some majorly heavy emotional burdens. One of them is my friend and workout partner, who is dealing with serious health issues that have kept her out of the gym for a couple of weeks.
The first day that I showed up knowing 1) that she wouldn’t be there and 2) why she wouldn’t be there, I realized almost immediately that I had radically underestimated the power of a lifting partner as awesome as her. I had taken for granted the strength I drew from having her there next to me, working the same lifts, encouraging me when I struggled and congratulating me when I had a win. I missed her and her general awesomeness, and I felt weak.
I faced the bar alone on this particular morning, and again I was glad there was no mirror because yeah, I cried a little. I cried at the sheer powerlessness I felt. My friend wasn’t there and there was nothing I could to help her. There was nothing I could say that would ease her burden or change what she was going through.
I wanted my partner back so we could get into our regular workout groove and her life would be just as it had been, with all that hard stuff having just been a bad dream she had before the alarm clock went off.
More than anything, I wished that I could duck under the metaphorical bar next to her and help her shoulder the hefty weight of all she was dealing with.
But yeah, there was no “metaphorical bar.” This is life, and the only bar I had was the actual one in front of me at the gym that morning. And it looked really friggin heavy. Like, too heavy for me in my sad and somewhat pathetic state.
So I did what I usually do in these kinds of situations. I told myself to shut up. I put on my badass face (I think) and said to myself, “More weight.”
And I lifted the crap out of it.
Yes, my friend’s burden is still heavy, and that weighs on me, too, as someone who cares about her. We all have our emotional weight to carry around, and some days it is almost too much to bear.
But the act of lifting that heavy physical burden, of fighting through the weakness and powerlessness and pushing that iron up high…well, it helps. In some way, it lightens the load on my heart, and makes me stronger inside and out.
More weight? Bring it on.