A story about the stories we tell ourselves
The BOSU ball that I was balancing upon teetered to the left, and I over-corrected. Scared that I might fall, my trainer at the time grabbed my left arm and gave it a mighty jerk.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, he had just torn a key muscle in my left rear shoulder. All I knew was that it hurt like hell.
Over time, it atrophied. Healed. But weakened my left shoulder for a variety of workouts. I did them anyway.
When a doctor saw, and pointed out, the asymmetry in my shoulders some time later, I realized what had happened, and why.
So began my Story.
That lost muscle became my reason why I couldn’t do close in-pushups. Wide stance was all I could handle, I told people, because, after all, I had torn a muscle.
See? Right there.
What I ignored, and what so many of us fail to acknowledge, is the body’s remarkable ability to do a workaround. Lose a finger? Figure it out. Lose a leg? Talk to any of my veteran peeps who have lost multiple body parts who are still out doing pretty amazing things for a person with all their parts.
But that became my Story. I can’t do close-in pushups (which are harder and better form, actually) Because. The Shoulder. I was right, because I never did anything but wide stance pushups.
Recently I started working out again after some injuries. At 67 I have parts that bark and the beginnings of arthritis. That just makes me work harder, as work and the warmth of blood flow go a long way towards ameliorating that pain.
Three people recently pointed out that my posture, never very good to begin with, had suffered from far too much sitting, not enough shoulder work and being curved over my kitchen counter to write as I slowly but surely set up my living space.
Shit. They’re right. So I went to work. All three people told me to stop the wide-grip pushups, in part because they now hurt my left shoulder for some reason. Not being one to stop pushups altogether, I told my fitness trainer that I was going to give close in pushups a try.
He grinned. He’d heard my story.
BUT THE SHOULDER, I could hear my Story bark.
I grinned back at him.
I haven’t even tried close in pushups for decades. That’s the power of a Story.
This morning at the gym, I did three sets, twenty each and one of twenty-five. Close in, proper form, not a problem at all. Just building the strength the same way I did with wide-arm stance. Adding five each time, day after day.
At that rate I’ll be back up to one hundred in no time.
The ONLY reason this happened is that I chose to change my Story from I Can’t Cuz My Shoulder to Lemme Try This.
Lemme Try This turned out to be precisely the same thing I learned when I was down one arm due to rotator cuff surgery. I discovered that I could indeed do one-arm pushups.
All I said was Lemme Try This. I punched out fifteen one-armed pushups on my left arm, something I had never tried, cuz why? I believed I couldn’t.
I am just as guilty of hobbling myself with a (Lousy Excuse of a) Story as anyone else. I’m not worth loving. Fuckable, not lovable. Loser.
Some of those stories are parental sewage cascaded upon us. Others we craft ourselves, out of fear, usually. Others are velcroed to us by doctors, parents, preachers, I could go on.
What would happen if you and I regularly challenged our Stories?
- Where did this come from?
- Where is the proof that my Story is real?
- What purpose does my Story serve (risk avoidance, feeding my struggle porn story, reasons why I can’t…….fill in the blank)?
- Who wins when I operate from my Story?
- Who loses (us, invariably)?
- What would happen if I unbelieved my story?
The only other time I ever injured myself at the gym a trainer pushed me into doing a balletic move which cranked my knee. Many months later I had surgery. My orthopod at the time told me I should be happy with 80%.
I threw myself into training. But the Story had been planted.
In May of 2013, I told a friend I was heading to Tanzania. He said I needed to climb Kilimanjaro.
“But my knee…” I began.
BULLSHIT, Michael spat.
“If you don’t do it now, when you hit eighty you will always be angry you didn’t. The snows are melting.”
I heard my Story shatter on the kitchen floor.
The moment we hung up, I sent an email to ETrip Africa, put Kili on the agenda, and began a path that would change the direction of the rest of my life.
Eighteen months after my surgery I stood triumphant, at sixty, on the roof of Africa. That was just the beginning of a Whole New Story.
Can you unbelieve your Story?
What kind of life might you live if you could?
At 67, I still find deeply embedded stories that need to be unbelieved. It’s constant, lifetime work. Gets easier with practice.
We can let others’ Stories about who and what we are and could be ruin our lives, limit our potential and drag us into mediocrity. We can let Stories about our gender or race or culture or sexual identity become our prisons.
Or we can find a few to shatter on the kitchen floor.
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