I lost my path recently. To be more accurate, I intentionally detoured myself from this writing and sharing endeavor. I let myself become too focused on my training because honestly, putting all of this experience out there is a challenge to say the least. Polishing it up and putting a positive spin on it is sometimes just something that I can’t do. My fellow PwPs* will understand. It’s a dark future and sometimes it weighs heavy. There are excuses. I lost my Dad. I was training for a huge goal. I’m lonely and getting tired already. Truthfully, this has happened before and will happen again. The difference now is that I’m no longer going to be upset with myself about it. When I need a break, I will break.
I do, however, have a job to do. It’s time to return to this story and maybe to remind readers and even myself why it is that I’ve decided to tell it. In the days leading up to my final diagnosis I was desperately thinking one thing. Don’t let this be Parkinson’s. When Dr. Hope gave the confirmation of what I already knew DESPAIR was the emotion of the day. Let me correct that. It was the emotion of the next thirty minutes. In that time I thought about all I was going to lose and everything I wouldn’t be able to do. I thought about my Grandpa Bob and what this disease had done to him. The thought that I would no longer be an athlete quickly put an end to that attitude. I realized that not only could I still be an athlete if I trained my body to work around it’s new challenges but if I could do something big in spite of this thing, I could potentially help a lot of people who are feeling the way that I had felt moments before. Flash forward a bit more than two years and I’ve found a certain amount of hope again thanks to our recent heat wave.
I had recently been struggling with frustration at my inability to perform the Olympic lifts again. After failing once again to Clean or Jerk any real weight thanks to how stiff my right side has become, my Flight workout had me finishing up with a complex of ring dips and ring rows, not fun for those of us in the higher weight classes. My shirt was soaked, so I struggled to peel it off and grabbed my phone so I could time the 30 second rest intervals between the exercises. I found the rings in our gym’s new bodybuilding room, where the walls had recently been covered with floor to ceiling mirrors to benefit our “aesthetics athletes”. (Don’t read anything into that bodybuilders, I really respect the discipline of what you do.) Halfway through the complex I was laboring heavily and sweating a pound a minute but I was also having a lot more success than I had previously had up on those shaky rings. Those mirrors confirmed that what I thought I would never see again was actually starting to happen. I was starting to look and feel like an athlete again.
I finished the complex strong and had my training partner take a picture so I could remember that this version of myself was still in there. I had been in great shape at other times since my diagnosis, but not since my surgery last year and my switch to Powerlifting. I had become big, stiff and slow. Partly due to age and injuries, but in large part due to Parkinson’s.
The most important part of that day was those mirrors and how they made me see myself from the outside. From the inside, all I had seen were my failures. I spend a lot of time talking to others about the power of perception and not a lot of time practicing it on myself apparently. Well, knucklehead, as you so often preach focus on what you can DO not on what you CAN”T. I am frustrated at losing the ability to Clean or Snatch, but the truth is I am making progress. I’m running behind in the program finishing week 12 and week 20 just became printable today. The end of week 20 is a milestone for the Flight program: our first 1 rep maxes in the Clean and Jerk, the Snatch and the Squat. Over the next eight weeks my job is to keep that positive image in my mind and chip away at those “disabilities” until I can actually perform the most difficult lifts in all of weightlifting when it’s my turn to wrap up week 20. If I don’t succeed, I will continue to chip away until I finish the program in March, conveniently marking my three year anniversary with Parkinson’s.
My job is also to tell the story of these efforts, whether they succeed or fail. I know I may never be able to Snatch my bodyweight. I know I may not be able to be the first person with Parkinson’s to hold records in Powerlifting, but the effort will be there. No matter how bad things get, I will always have that picture to remind me “do what you CAN”.
In the future, things will be a bit different for this blog. I hope to have more posts, but not all will be inspired or have some grand life lesson attached. Some will be simple updates filling you in on the story that I hope this life is turning into. I will try to make each one motivational, educational or at least entertaining. Thank you for coming along and I hope you continue. As always, feel free to like, follow and/or share.
*PwP: Person with Parkinson’s