I am going to take you back to 2021. Nothing in particular happened that was going to change the course of the world. At least, I am not aiming at an event that was too famous nor newsworthy when it happened. The date is June 8, 2021. The second lockdown in France was finally lifted, making it possible for us to go dine in with friends again, to stay in bars, and go party in nightclubs. As important as those things were in order to get back to a certain form of normalcy, the aspect that mattered the most to me was that gyms were open again.
Although I spent my lockdowns working out at home and going out on runs, having the possibility to go to the gym again felt like a massive relief as I saw it as an opportunity to get in shape again and take my workouts to a better level. Mind you, I have always hated going to the gym, and to a certain extent, I still do to this day. For some reason, I never found the motivation nor the purpose in going to a confined space, where men would be constantly flexing in front of mirrors whilst trying to pick up women, along with women trying to pose in tight clothes for their social media platforms. Of course, not all gym members fit these descriptions, yet such were the experiences which I had been dealt with to this day. Nevertheless, when gyms reopened, I decided to get a membership and hit the weights.
Fast forward seventeen months, I am working out almost on a daily basis. There are days I would combine a workout with playing football or even doing two workouts a day. It is important to note that I still dislike the gym, yet I could not argue with the results I was getting. I started to feel fitter, more comfortable in my skin, and stronger. Well, at least physically.
My body felt capable whenever I would ask it to endure physical pain, may it be during a football game, carrying stuff for myself or for others and whatnot. However, the struggle would become more real when the pain was not physical. It felt as if it was, since you would feel your heart sinking, your shoulders getting weary, your chest aching and your legs crumbling from underneath. The end result was physical pain, yet the cause seemed to be deriving from something else. Something psychological. Psychologists would call this the Case of Hurt Feelings.
“Lift with your knees, Atlas. The heavens are a burden but in the starlit ink you have written: Endure.”
Physical pain is tolerable and in some ways easy to manage whenever we are faced with this challenge. Is that not how we are taught as children growing up? To always perceive the pain we are going through as a form of growth? As something that will make us stronger and help us take on the world once we turn into adults? Unfortunately, through constant physical effort, our inner endurance slowly runs out. Like a sports car with an almost empty tank: it can only go so far until it will have to slow down, go into a pit stop and fill up that tank again. Psychologically, our body works in similar ways. At some point, the fatigue and pain gathered from a cumulation of physical efforts is going to take their toll on our mental and emotional strength. At that point, the risks of injuries are also present, under the forms of depression, atelophobia, suicidal thoughts, loss of interest in hobbies, social anxiety and burnouts.
We constantly try to be like Atlas, a titan in Greek mythology. For the ones we love, for appearances, for pride, we would carry the weight of the world, on our shoulders, by ourselves, for all of eternity if we had to. We would do our best to lighten the burden of those around us whom we care deeply about, yet how often would we ask for others to help us with our own challenges and problems?
“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
I agree that it is noble and selfless to put others first and do our best for them. Every religion, every wiseman encourages this approach, claiming it to be the way to fulfill ourselves spiritually. In truth, there is no greater feeling than helping others push forward. For them to come back to you one day and say: “Because of you, I did not give up”. Once again, it is important to take care of ourselves as well and listen to our bodies. It is not an easy task, and I find this to be our greatest achievement as humans.
We refuse to give up on others. We always want to protect those we care about from the darkness of this world. May it be the cold world filled with social judgements, the soul breaking aspects of depression and more, if those we truly care about are involved, there is nothing in this world we would not do in order to shield them from such atrocities. We are warriors. Not just physically. Our mental strength can take us so far, to mountain tops none of us ever thought could be attained.
During the 2016 YTOL International Meeting, a friend from Spain gave me the following note, which I still hold dear to this day (translated from Spanish):
“Being strong is about trying to forgive someone who does not deserve forgiveness.
Being strong is about displaying happiness even if you do not feel happy.
Being strong is about making someone happy despite feeling your heart in pieces.
Being strong is about laughing when you just want to cry.
Being strong is about being calm when the ideal would be to scream.
Being strong is about comforting others when you need to be comforted.
For all of these, NEVER stop being STRONG.”