You are not a blank.

There was this dream.

I entered a house–wood frame, a bit tumbledown–built halfway into the side of a hill.  People I did not know milled about the front room, then organized themselves to queue up in front of a desk with a large ledger.  I waited patiently in the line for my turn, then took up the pen.

(This is how registrars dream, I suppose.)

Write my name–that was my intention. Register my presence.  Simple enough–done it millions of times before.  In my family, I’m the designated form-filler-outer (another job-related weirdness–I love filling out forms), so this was just the necessary business of getting to whatever was in the house, right?

But what came out of the pen–over and over again, I watched my hand write it as though it belonged to someone else–was not my name.

I am a blank.

I am a blank.

I am a blank.

Oh, my counselor had a field day with this one.

10 years ago, I was in a year of deep mourning for our mother, who had just passed from her final battle with cancer.  In my grieving, I had struck out at people I loved, the acid splash of long-suppressed “issues” boiling up and burning all around me.  I began meeting with a pastoral counselor in northern Virginia once a week; as a result of that inward work, my dreams had become vivid, powerful, shake-you-awake monstrosities to which, I was ordered, I must pay careful attention.  These inward voices and images would speak truth.

And here, with perfect calm and clarity–in my own handwriting–was mine:

I am a blank.

I did not recognize until I spoke it out loud to my counselor, the full-force horror of what I wrote, what I was saying.  Children of alcoholics and PTSD sufferers will recognize the pattern:  so many years of walking on eggshells, trying to stay as small and still as possible–to become invisible.  To become a blank.  If I didn’t, I might be the target of whatever rage, or worse, was shaking the house at that moment.  In blankness was safety–but I had drawn the safe zone too wide, too deep.

I am a blank.

I am remembering this dream now, because 10 years later–40 years after that message came to be embedded in my soul–I still struggle with the fears that surround and feed this part of me.  In my career, my relationships, my hobbies–every part of my life–my pattern is to withdraw from potential conflict and failure, to find the safest, quietest path to walk.  To stay “under the radar”, in calm waters where I can control and extend my safe zone.  It’s how I kayak.  It’s how I train with kettlebells: know my safe limits, and stay there.  No danger. No pushing the edges. No possibility of failure.

And then Cruel Jamie shows up.  She’s not putting up with any of it.

In my training prep for the HKC workshop in Pittsburgh in September, Jamie has focused not just on technique, but on developing my strength as well–in particular to knock down those fears, one by one, that tell me I cannot, no way, never in a million years pick up that 16k kettlebell and snatch it over my head. Or deadlift 30 lbs more than my bodyweight? Are you crazy? Do you know how OLD I am?  I amazed that she has not lost patience with me, but that’s what makes her so good.

She doesn’t mince words, though:  “Oh shut up. You can do it.  Pick up the bell and get busy.” (I might be paraphrasing.)

So, this past weekend, I did.  Picked up these impossibly heavy weights, and just like she said–I did it, just like that.

Tangible evidence that this old voice, this old message–it’s beyond outdated.  It holds me back and shrinks me down so that I can see only my limitations, my safe edges.  We internalize those old messages, and we receive and nod assent to other messages–my faith, my family and their love, my various successes at work, when I have them.  But I needed to have that message embodied–incarnated, in my own flesh and blood.  

(Sounds like a thing some crazy desert god would do, doesn’t it–put into flesh, into the body the most important Message He could send us so that we would finally, finally, get it?  Because sometimes we don’t see the truth any other way.)

This is why this stuff has become so important to me.

I’m learning to get strong.  I’m learning to trust my strength.  I’m learning to listen to the voices that say, “You matter. You are sufficient to the task. You are not a blank.”

I’m learning.


1 Comment

Filed under Kettlebells, strength training, Spirituality, Writing

One response to “You are not a blank.

  1. KDA

    You are fierce and fabulous. Hooray for (pro)claiming yourself.

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