“Fit means we can fight.”
A while back I got this comment from a firefighter to the north of us, in Mountie Country:
I love this line. Six years ago I had a heart attack the morning after leading a fire attack in my position as Fire Chief at the time. Smoke inhalation and resulting CO in my blood clotted a unknown blockage in an arterial artery. Long story short, I made it after two defib restarts over that week. I credit my fitness level for that. I’m now in my mid sixties, and work out daily.
I love reading your work. You are an inspiration to those of us in our generation that refuse to give up and hang out at Tim Hortons (Canadian reference).
Kevin’s comment is the reason I write about working on our bodies.
While I don’t argue that there are lovely ego benefits to being in shape, that’s not the point. The point is options, not bragging rights. The point is having a body that can fight off a variety of insults and enemies, bacteria and bad boys. The point is to be able to not only hang on but hang out with our families and friends. Whether that’s Tim Horton’s or any other spot, the point is to be able show up and keep hanging in there. With options.
As I have written rather extensively elsewhere in my body of work on Medium, the point is that no matter what body we have there is usually- and the key word here is usually- something we can do to develop, strengthen and challenge it. Not always.
Look, I’m disabled. I am not an ableist, a word that a commenter tossed at me this past week in response to a story she clearly did not understand. That’s fine, not everybody wants to play at a high level. And those that don’t, often do everything in their power to drag down those who do. Have at it. The world is full of ankle-biters. If that feeds the soul, be my guest.
I often write for and about the folks who are disabled, and many far worse than I am, but who find ways to exercise anyway. Sometimes all they can exercise is their minds. As I continue to watch the cascade of comments, I’m reminded that my work is not for folks who have appointed themselves as Justice Warriors. Said JWs often don’t bother to do the research to find out anything about the writer, which might put things into context.
Kindly, that also takes work. Discipline. Self-control. Personal responsibility. Just like keeping ourselves fit, body-mind-spirit takes work.
Work gives us the body and the life we deserve. Transformational work gets extraordinary results. That has nothing whatsoever to do with having the perfect body of a fitness trainer. It has everything to do with being well enough to deal with life’s vicissitudes, to be able to play with the grandkids, to engage in life with as many of its options as we possibly can, given the limitations of our physical forms.
Years ago there was a story about a young man who found himself in a body cast after a horrible accident. Encased for months, he did his entire workout anyway every single day. He closed his eyes, envisioned his workout, and used isometrics to push himself inside the cast.
When the cast was removed he was in terrific shape. Because he kept working out despite the situation he was in. The mind is a simply remarkable tool. So is the body. When we team them up, when we ask ourselves for work, it is simply beyond comprehension what we can do despite our circumstances.
The point people miss is that often those very circumstances are the catalyst to make us more serious about taking care of business.
Those conditions aren’t just available for those in perfect shape. Not at all. In fact, as a disabled veteran, I see and am privy to extraordinary stories all the time about resilience and folks missing multiple limbs who take on the immense challenge of finding ways to work themselves. But the mind has to make the first step.
This is not the path of the victim.
The more people I meet who have survived simply awful circumstances, the more strongly I hold the belief that the body we have is the body we deserve. I am well aware that people choose to read that in a very particular way, and no explanation on my part will change that POV. The point is that we get what we have worked for. No matter what disability we may carry, and I carry my share, the sheer will and determination of people who choose to think differently, who choose to do whatever they can to develop mental, emotional and spiritual skills which give them options continue to inspire me deeply.
Those who work with disabled people who see them as victims keep them in prison. Those who work with disabled people who look for excellence and ability not only inspire that, but encourage it, and invite it from those folks.
If I might make the obvious and terrible analogy, for years Black kids were considered retarded because they were Black, not because they actually had a learning disability.
Dyslexic kids were considered retarded. Not at all. Minor learning issue. Easily solved. I wonder how many savants we savaged because we didn’t expect and encourage excellence.
If I may make another reference, the great Helen Keller didn’t become Helen Keller alone. She had a teacher who demanded excellence, expected excellence, who would not and did not treat Keller like a victim.
The key is our expectations. When we expect excellence, it’s astounding how often it shows up. If you and I expect excellence from ourselves, we will likely get it, especially if we’re not comparing ourselves to others or to ludicrous and impossible standards. Simply, the constant demand of betterment of who and what you and I are, right here, right now. That’s Deep Work. It’s meant to be hard. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.
In about three minutes I am off to run the rocky, slippery trails of Green Mountain. I have crappy knees, bad hips, and lousy balance. I have an aging, injured body to train. That’s why I bloody well force myself to run the trails. Because it’s hard.
That’s why people who are disabled, challenged, damaged excel. We don’t need saviors. We are too busy doing what’s hard. We want as many options as we can carve out for ourselves.
My thanks and respect to the Kevins of the world, the Josephs and Warren Nelsons the Katie Andrews of the world, all the good people whose challenging journeys inspire me. You keep me on the trails, guys.
We are fit because we fight.
Now I gotta go run.
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