The bar just sits there. Inert, dumb with steel. It is semaphore without meaning.
The belt is cinched tight. My hands are chalked. I am not thinking, not until the announcer says my name. Then I am angry. Someone doubted me, someone said something shitty about the gym, someone had it easier. And them. They won’t care what I lift, it will be a joke, they will be effulgent in praise of the other one in the room. Maybe I will get a nod. It’s okay. It is my turn to lift and I am human, frail, petty. I carry grudges. I am vindictive. The bar is a dash between stops now. It is a space between plates.
I shake my head and my neck cracks. It is an uncoiling of tension. That is done. I am a husband and a father now. My chest cavity will fill with love, a breathing into the lungs. I don’t push out against the belt but instead put my wife and boys’ names into my gut. When I breathe out, a name comes with it. This is private. I say the name over and over again. I look at the bar and I keep my head very still and I say the name. The bar is something we will talk about someday, our family.
I walk towards the platform and I hear my teammates yelling my name. I wish I did not have rabbit ears, but alas. I let myself be happy, so very happy for a second or two. How good it is to be part of a team. I see these men and women bear their own bars week in and week out. We are there for each other. Sometimes we drive each other crazy, sometimes we trail off wordless into the bottoms of our coffee cups, but we would do just about anything for each other because we recognize our own. This thing, contending with a barbell…it is its own signifier.
And then…the stillness. No noise except for the blood whirring through my ears. I am out on an island, unmoving. I think of my training these last few months. I think of the days I wanted to lift more, to train longer, to do more. I think of forcing myself to ignore the lifter beside me, on Facebook, in a video, making his attempts at weights I haven’t let myself touch. I think of my plan. I think that the best thing I had those training days was my own word, that I would do what I told myself I was going to do. I found truth in that. I find truth in that feeling now. I am who I practiced I would be. This is who I am, and what I do with the bar now is nearly immaterial…so long as I do two things: stay with the lift, and let it teach me what it’s going to teach me. My eyes are open, my head is calm in the middle of a whirlpool, and I am within my own stillness.
Now: on the bar.