I have recently found myself at a Crossroads. Upon returning to work after 11 months off for biceps surgery last year, my body quickly started to break down…again. The obvious conclusion is that I am doing too much. My back is so exhausted from loading trucks that I can barely keep my shoulders back when I’m walking around much less when I try to hoist a loaded barbell. If I’m being honest, an UNLOADED barbell challenges my extension nowadays. I’m also battling the tendinitis in my good elbow that feels like a lit match under my skin when it flares up. I’m not complaining, just illuminating the path that has led me to this crossroads. Many people who care about me would love to see me back off, and honestly, I’m beginning to acknowledge the fact that I will need to do that soon. Our lives are full of these decision points and determining which path to take is never easy. Moving forward down one path will inevitably require you to sacrifice whatever rewards might wait for you down the path not taken. So how do we know which way to turn? More importantly, how do we even begin to approach the decision when we can’t see into our future down any path? For me, the answer is in balancing my pride.
Let me say first that I believe pride in moderation is a virtue, not a vice. The religious like to say “Pride goeth before the fall.” and “Give all glory to God.”. I’m sorry, but I’ve never agreed with these concepts. I believe our creator, however you define it, gave us free will and imagination so that we might solve our own problems and determine our own destiny, and upon doing so, experience pride and joy in the fruits of our labor. That kind of pride is a very good thing in my book but, like anything else in life, if it gets out of balance, it will quickly lead you astray. The key to making the right decisions at these times lies in allowing our pride in who we are to allow us to aim high and reach for those lofty goals while at the same time keeping that pride from masking our limitations. I’ve found out the hard way that when I try to ignore my limitations, I simply push myself until something breaks. Up until now, I’ve been fine with that. I love all my scars, but now I’m ready to close the book on my collection. I’m almost ready to allow myself to ease up on the throttle…a little bit…almost.
The decision I’m facing this time is how to balance the responsibilities of work and everyday life with the desire to achieve my goals in my training. This would normally be an easy decision. Life and family come first. For me though, I also have a battle to fight. Not only do I refuse to just peacefully accept what Parkinson’s is doing to me, I have charged myself with making a statement and doing something extraordinary in spite of it. There are actually three things that my life revolves around accomplishing right now and to be quite honest, something has to give. First, after nine years of doing my time at UPS, becoming a full-time driver is right around the corner. This will fix a lot of things in my life and allow me to provide so much more for my family that it is non-negotiable. There is no level of pain or discomfort that will turn me aside from this. Second, I have my new year-long commitment to both a program and a community dedicated to learning and excelling at the Olympic lifts. The Clean & Jerk and the Snatch represent the most challenging discipline in all of weightlifting and exercise science. I have talked at length about how important I have made them in my resistance to my disease. To me, they are the perfect weapon because they will re-teach me balance, coordination and flexibility, To continue with this challenging program while maintaining my career I will need to balance my pride and leave the heavy weights on the racks for a long while. I will need to take pride in small weights lifted beautifully rather than heavy weights lifted impressively. With my disease I also have to set my pride aside and realize that this may not be possible to the level that I want, but I will at the same time use that very same pride to hold me to a difficult course and battle through frustration to be there at the end of this program. I have no doubt that this will improve my quality of life and make me a better, more fluid athlete while hopefully inspiring a spirit of perseverance in those who witness my story. Finally, I come to the decision of how to approach the goals that have driven me to every success that I have had in this war with my affliction to date. I’ve talked before about my goal of a 500lb full Back Squat. I’ve also decided to not just break the USPA American Deadlift record of 568, I hope to smash it. These two things are where I will have to make sacrifices as I cannot fully pursue both them and the Flight Olympic Program. This does not mean I’m giving them up. I have no clue how to do anything like that. For my Deadlift record I am allowing myself one shot this year at the Old School Iron Classic on May 31st. This will make this extremely challenging, but I will take my pride in my efforts regardless of the outcome. This could be a once in a lifetime shot. After this event I will put away the heavy iron in exchange for empty barbells and technique plates for as long as it takes me to learn to move well again. On the other side I will be nearing 42 and starting my 4th year with Parkinson’s so there is no way to say that window will still be open for me. In other words, I may have to go through the wall.
I have to say, as much as I dreaded this sacrifice, a weight is lifted from my shoulders now that it’s made. Starting my 4th decade of life, I am still learning. Learning to balance the pride in myself to push beyond most reasonable measures with the self-confidence to acknowledge my own limitations. This is the balance of my pride. Thank you for reading, I hope this helps you find yours.