My empire of dirt


My Empire of Dirt

If you have a sporting injury, does that make you a true athlete? I pondered this today as my neck, shoulders and back were pummelled and prodded by a pleasant but ultimately sadistic masseur. If you have ever had a sports massage, then you will know what I am talking about. Forget candles, lovely aromas and soothing music. This fucking hurts. After an hour of pain, I told him so, as I paid my fee. ‘You’re welcome’ he replied, with a smile.

When this pain started a few months ago, there was no sudden movement that caused jarring pain; an instant recognition that something was up, with an easy pin point to the problem. I simply woke up one morning with what some people might call a frozen shoulder. Getting my coat on proved tricky, as did holding my arm above my head. This is still the case, although to a lesser extent. Over the course of days, it did improve, so being the natural stoic I am, I ignored it for some time. I continued at the gym, but just avoided things that caused pain and scaled my exercise. Some may think this foolish, but I was careful not to injure myself further. For me, the maintenance of exercise is a necessity these days. Unless both my legs fall off, then I am screwed.

After six or so sessions, there is improvement, but there are still things I cannot do. Like pull ups, or even just hang from a bar. I struggle with complex lifts involving speedy movements, like thrusters and snatches. Slow, steady and heavy I can still manage, and I seem to be fine with my trusty kettlebell – Kevin, don’t fail me now! Some days I barely notice the problem, but with this cold weather, I feel the frailty of my body down to my bones. This must be how it feels to be old and stiff and worn out.

It’s frustrating rather than anything. After all, I am not an athlete. My potential to earn a living does not depend on my gymnastic skills, which would be inadequate even without an injury. But it’s annoying not to know WHY. The masseur will shrug and say, wear and tear. It’s a bit like life I think. Sometimes we struggle on, doing ourselves a little bit more damage each day without realising, and don’t even notice until the pain hits us hard. The damage can be caused by ourselves, or situations that we are in, but find hard to change. So my question is this: why do we find it so hard to let go?

Changing things is difficult. We can dream, set goals and make plans to get where we want to be, yet never achieve them. If you google ‘change’, you can find a million inspiring and uplifting quotations, that may or may not help you. There is a wonderful book I read some time ago which focuses on that subject: ‘The Examined Life’ by Stephen Grosz. He is a psychoanalyst, and the book is a snapshot of fascinating case studies from over his years of practice, people who want to change, ‘as long as they don’t have to change’. Our identities and behaviour are so closely intertwined. To make the changes we want, we must let go of our old behaviours, but it is not so simple, almost like a death in some respects. He refers to this quotation in the book, from a French poet and author, which I find powerful:


For me, it’s not just about becoming a Queen of Sparta. I have a rough idea what I need to give up for that: a penchant for wine, cheese and an over indulgence in late nights that stop me getting up in the morning for training – sorry Jillian, I missed you this morning! Other things are much harder, and I think it’s the same for most of us. If we had a team of personal chefs, trainers and shrinks on hand 24/7, we might get there a bit faster, but it would still be hard work and it’s easy to fall on the way. Sometimes the cure for what ails us hurts as much as the pain itself.

If we do falter on the road to our dreams, it helps to remember that at least we have started. Fall down seven times, get up eight. We need to stop worrying and planning and just DO. Even baby steps will get us there in the end.


Until next time,

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