to all the fighters

Twelve weeks ago I signed my life away and set out on this crazy journey training for my first fight through Haymakers for Hope. (Literally, I signed on the line saying that it’s fine if I am seriously injured or die while training for or during this fight.) In the brief interviews that will be played before the fight, we were asked to state who we’re fighting for. In other words, who we know with cancer that is motivating us to climb into the ring and raise money for cancer research. I had trouble with this question, especially since our answer had to be constrained to about 12 seconds long. Sadly, as I suspect is true for many of you, the people in my life who have had their lives turned upside down by cancer are too many to count, nonetheless recite in 12 seconds. I said something vague like “I’m fighting for all those who have lost the battle to cancer.” But that doesn’t really cover it. I have lost friends and family to this disease. I know many survivors of cancer whose lives will never be the same. I believe cancer research is worthwhile and it is the only possibility for finding better treatments for cancer, so I wanted to raise money to support this. But who am I fighting for? How should I answer that? Jumping into the ring for 6 minutes seems pretty wimpy compared to the fight cancer patients face every day. I feel a little phony even saying that I’m fighting for one of these brave men and women. So this post is my sort of unsuccessful, roundabout effort to address this question.

The first time I came face to face with cancer besides the St. Jude specials, which always made me cry even as a little kid, was when my friend’s mom died of cancer when I was in the fourth grade. “Why her?” I thought. “Why did she have to die? Why not me instead? Wouldn’t that be better?” I vowed to cure cancer, and I set out on my quest by reading books with photos of children with leukemia. This was before I understood that there are countless different types of cancer, and even the same type of cancer in different people can have disparate faces. When I was nine years old, cancer was a problem that was unsolved, obviously, because I wasn’t thinking about it. I imagined that surely, if I put my mind to it, I would find the answer that everyone else had been missing. More than 15 years later, I would, in fact, spend a year actually researching melanoma, a type of cancer that is virtually untreatable once it metastasizes. I took tumor samples from patients with melanoma and implanted them in mice to study. When I would later remove these tumors from the mice, I remember thinking how strange it was to be holding the living cells of someone who had already died. How sad that what was left of this person who had a life and friends and family, talents and dreams, is a teaspoon full of cells and, with those that loved her, the memory of her life.

From age nine to thirty-one, I lost more loved ones to cancer, whom I still miss. There is one person I think of immediately when I think of cancer though; one person whose memory causes a distinct pain, materializing as an aching chest and a tightening in my throat. I’ll refer to him here as M. M was one of my students when I was a Graduate Student Instructor for an Introductory Biology Lab at the University of MI. On the first day of class, they always tell you to do some sort of silly ice breaker—games that few people like, but everyone is willing to do, since it is the first day of class, and they aren’t sick of you yet. For this class, I chose “Two Truths and a Lie,” a game where individuals tell the group two things that are true about him- or herself and one thing that is a lie, and the class must guess which one is the lie. In my science classes, I might say something like “I play the harp, I have 6 nieces and nephews, and I run marathons.” The truth is, I actually have 9 nieces and nephews, so that one is the lie. I know, tricky, tricky. Most students say they’ve gone sky diving, they’ve been to 6 continents, they have a little sister, etc. The game that day was progressing normally. Students were being congenial, and we were laughing at the more outlandish truths and lies. Then came M’s turn. “I have had a heart transplant, I have cancer, and I wear contacts.” The room of 20 teenagers grew still enough to hear the raindrop-sized beads of sweat seeping from my pores.

Did he not understand the rules? Maybe he thought it was Two Lies and One Truth? My most fervent prayer in that moment was that he was wearing contacts. No, of course he wasn’t. His vision was just fine. As it turns out, M had a heart transplant when he was seven, and he was presently, at 18 years old, battling lymphoma. My heart sank. We were all silent, not knowing exactly how to respond. My tongue felt paralyzed in the parched desert of my mouth.

“Wow, I really killed the mood with that one,” he joked, the cheerful smile beneath his bright red, neatly cropped hair, easing the tension. A few kids chuckled nervously. I stuttered something and tried to move on to another student, swearing to myself never to play this stupid game again.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from M after that most interesting introduction, but he turned out to be the student every teacher wants in his or her classroom. I think anyone who has taught before would agree that one student can make or break a classroom. One bad attitude can turn 20 good students against you. On the other hand, one enthusiastic, determined, outspoken student can create a dream classroom, full of engaged and dedicated students. M was the latter. He came to class prepared, he was polite and friendly to me and other students, he was helpful, he was very intelligent, he brought life into the classroom with a bright, mildly sarcastic, sense of humor. He became a light in the classroom and quickly moved to the top of my list of favorite students.

I was sure he would be fine. He was such a great kid. He had made it so far. I knew that his story would have a happy ending. He would triumph over the odds again.

Then one day I received an email from M saying that, due to his illness, he would be forced to withdraw from classes for the remainder of the semester. My heart was heavy, but I was still hopeful. I followed his progress on Caring Bridge, certain that one day I would find that he was in remission and would be coming back to school in the fall. That day never came. I still remember the last day I checked up on him. I saw the words I had been dreading. M had passed away a few weeks earlier in June—nine months after I met him. My heart ached. The question “why?” echoed in my mind again, but I knew by this time that there is no answer to that question.

There is no sufficient explanation for the cruelties of life. Kids die, babies starve, really good people suffer. That is how it is. Nor is there a way to take on the opponent of someone else, as I’d wished so long ago and still sometimes wish today. Occasionally, I have the privilege of assisting someone from the corner, but it is not my fight. I can fight only my own opponents.

Some people have bigger, scarier opponents than others. Some opponents are found on a medical chart, and some are not. When it comes down to it though, we are all fighting something, and the fight is real, no matter the opponent. We are fighting for our lives, we are fighting to be heard, we are fighting poverty, we are fighting addiction, we are fighting abuse, we are fighting for justice, we are fighting to be loved and to love, we are fighting for our friends or family, sometimes we are even fighting ourselves, but we are all fighting something.

I think perhaps if I could remember this always, I would have more mercy on the people around me, even on myself. We don’t have a ticket that lists the opponents of those around us though. It’s easy to forget that the guy who yells at me for walking my dog through the park is in the ring with his own opponent. Maybe he is losing in the twelfth round, weary and beaten. The woman I think has it all together with her beautiful body, fantastic job, all those friends…she is fighting something too, and it is real and overwhelming. And me? I have my own opponents. Some days, they beat the shit out of me. Perhaps if I could remember that we all lose sometimes, no matter how hard we fight, if I could give myself and others a break here and there, if I could see the people I pass on the street and work with and run into at the grocery store as fighters just like me…maybe then I could find the strength and compassion to help, to be gracious and loving, to be patient, to be merciful. Maybe if we could all acknowledge that we are surrounded by fighters, we would find that none of us are ever fighting alone—that there is always someone in our corner, someone cheering us on, someone to take care of us between rounds. Perhaps this way we could see more victors, or at least lift each other up when we’re down to go just one more round. And then when we fight the last round of the last fight, we’ll know we’ve fought hard in the ring, and outside the ring, we were the best cornerman we could be.

That is my answer that doesn’t really answer the question “for whom am I fighting?”

Here’s to all the fighters. May you always have someone in your corner. May you always find strength to get up one more time. May you find comfort when you lose the fight. May you be generous when you win. May we all find courage and hope together. Because we are all fighters.

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just keep punching

I apologize to all the people who don’t actually want to read about boxing because this post is really only about boxing. There’s no life lesson or moral, except that hard work sometimes pays off. Oh, and sometimes there is no right punch. There is no right time. You just need to throw something and keep punching. So now that I’ve given away the punchline, if you don’t want to read about boxing, you can stop here, and you’ll save approximately four minutes of your time and have gotten the (very deep) moral of the story anyway (what a deal!).

Friday was a big day for two reasons: 1) I threw my first ever uppercut while sparring and 2) I started throwing more than one punch at a time (aka combinations).

I’d grown frustrated during the past couple weeks with my seeming inability to throw any more than one or two punches in a row. For instance, my jab-cross has come along nicely, but I couldn’t seem to follow the cross with the left hook, the punch everyone beginner boxer is taught to throw after the cross. I finally managed to throw an effective hook by itself last week, but couldn’t put it together in a combination with other throws. It seemed I had some mental block preventing me from throwing any more than two punches. I think I felt like I needed to throw the right punches, properly, at the right time. If I wasn’t sure I could land a punch, or if I thought it wasn’t the best punch, or not the best time, I wouldn’t throw it. Which means I didn’t throw a lot of punches. This is in spite of the fact that when I’m sparring with someone, I don’t really care if she is throwing proper punches at me when she’s wailing on me. I just really want to get away from the fists as fast as possible. Even if she’s not hitting me hard, it’s overwhelming and upsetting, and inevitably, one of the six shots ends up being a solid blow. Knowing this couldn’t get me out of my one-two rut though.

On Friday, a switch was flipped. We were practicing uppercuts during drills, and I told the woman with whom I was drilling that I thought the chances of me ever throwing an uppercut were slim to none. Truthfully, I was a little annoyed we were drilling uppercuts at all, since I thought that in these last few days of training before the fight I should be working on shots I would actually use. When we started sparring, the first round went by uneventfully with the same old jab-cross. In the 60 seconds between the first and second round I decided I would try to throw an uppercut just for kicks—only to see if I could connect with it. I figured I could slip the jab, which involves twisting a little to the right to get my head out of the way of the left-hand straight punch, and come back with a right uppercut, a shot aimed for the underside of an opponent’s chin. Then maybe, if I was feeling it, I could follow up with a left hook and right cross. That’s how I saw it happening in my head anyway. I’m not sure if that’s exactly what I did, since what I think happened in the ring and what actually happened in the ring after often distinctly different. But I did throw the uppercut. And in that split second, everything changed. All of a sudden, things opened up so that I could take other shots—the hook, the cross, another uppercut, and low and behold, when you are hitting someone, they are less likely to hit you back, which allowed me to hit more. Whatever block that had been there vanished, and I just started throwing punches. It didn’t matter if I missed some or if they weren’t perfect. All that mattered was that I was punching. I was actually putting up a fight.

Friday morning was probably my last real class before the fight, since I’ll start easing up on training by Monday or Tuesday. It was great to end on a high and the feeling like I can bring it next Thursday. I don’t know who will win this fight, but I know I won’t go down without a fight. If nothing else, I’ll just keep punching.

KEEP CALM AND BOX ON

Ten days out from the fight, things are starting to come together for me. This may be the fourth time I’ve written that things are finally starting to click, but maybe that’s just how boxing is: like life, you’re forever learning and always a step (or, at times, several miles) away from having it together. As soon as you think you’ve sort of figured it out, life fakes the cross and comes with a left hook to the body, and you find yourself in the fetal position on the mat.

My trainer seems to think I’ve come light years from where I was a couple months ago. In general, everything feels a little bit more natural in the ring. I’m throwing more punches and landing a higher percentage of them. I’m moving more around the ring and getting my head out of the way of my opponents fists. My fakes are more convincing. I’m turning my hips when I throw my cross. I’m mixing up combinations here and there, going from head to body or body to head, trying to remain unpredictable. I’m not getting hit as hard (or else I’m getting used to getting hit hard), and I’m countering sometimes when I get hit, instead of freezing. On Friday, I even successfully threw a left hook!

The biggest difference for me though is that I’m not afraid of anyone anymore. I used be overcome with nerves when I went up against certain boxers. My heart would start racing, and the butterflies in my stomach would transform into a flock of angry sea gulls. This would cause a sort of clog in communication between my body and my mind, slowing messages and preventing my body from doing what it knows how to do. Even now, immediately after I find out that I’m sparring with one of these women, a tiny fear monster springs up inside me out of habit. Instead of taking over my mind and body as it used to though, I manage to pacify the creature by reminding myself that I will fight these women just like I fight the boxers I’m not afraid of. I envision a sort of circular folding in on myself like a fountain in reverse, pulling in what I need with deep breaths, washing away the noisy monsters, and allowing the calm to spread from my slowing heartbeat through my limbs to the tips of my fingers and toes. Then, when the bell rings and I start fighting, amazingly, I have fun.

Learning to relax in the ring has been the biggest challenge for me, but I honestly believe that the progress I’ve made over the past month or so has largely come as a result of learning to calm my nerves. I can’t help but wonder if the same is true outside the ring. Maybe they’re right—perhaps worrying really doesn’t help anything. In fact, maybe getting all worked up and anxious actually makes life’s blows hurt more. Maybe if I could let go of my fears and anxieties, I could be a better human, and I could have a happier life. (I know, you’re thinking, “well, duh, Hannah. It only took you 31 years to figure this out?” Well, I’m a little slow about things like this). Anyway, I am trying to adopt the principles I’m learning in the ring into my daily routine. After all, the worst it could do is lower my blood pressure a little bit.

I’ll start by saying that, being prone to anxiety and depression, and having an overly active imagination, remaining calm is not my forte. I think this whole “centering practice,” as some people call it, is a great idea when I’m already relaxed and in good humor, when things aren’t going too badly, when my opponent isn’t so scary. I’m really not too bad at breathing, relaxing, letting go of the little things. Until, that is, life throws something at me that I’m not expecting. Then it all goes to shit. The fear monsters spring up from every direction and feed off my anxious mind, growing and multiplying until they’ve crept into every dark corner of my being.

So how do I learn to find calm in life’s chaos like I can in the ring? How do I quiet the fear monsters in real life? If you were hoping I’d have the answer, I hate to let you down. I don’t know how to do this, but, scientist that I am, I’m trying an experiment. My hypothesis is that the same thing that changed my life in the ring may help me in real life.

My trainer has told me from the start that I need to relax in the ring, but to be completely honest, I couldn’t imagine what that would look like. It was hard for me to even tell that I wasn’t relaxed. So I started observing when I sparred with boxers I wasn’t afraid to fight: the little boy, the guys at the gym who are so gentle with me. I began consciously focusing on how my body feels when it is calm. I felt it’s strong and steady heartbeat, I felt my core engaging with every punch, I felt how my hips turn when my body is loose, I felt my body respond to my sparring partner without me telling it to. I practiced calm. And then, one day, when I stepped into the ring with the big, scary opponents, I remembered what calm felt like, and I tried to imitate it. I moved and breathed like I was not anxious. Miraculously, this resulted in me taking fewer hits, or at least, the hits felt less hard. This boosted my confidence. It made me believe I was perhaps less bad than I had originally thought, which allowed me to relax a little more. Still, these days, sometimes when I get hit, I start to get worked up like old times. My muscles tense, and I find myself caught again on the wrong side of a flurry of punches. But then I back off for a second, breathe, and remember calm. I cannot say I’ve mastered this, but I can say that calm is feeling a little less foreign.

So I am trying to practice calm outside of the ring every day when life is not so scary. I’m trying to feel what calm is like. Then maybe when I find myself up against the big opponents, the really hard stuff of life, I’ll be able to remember calm and call it back. Maybe I’ll be able to imagine being calm, and maybe this will actually help me relax even as fists are flying around me. Then maybe I’ll be able to roll with the punches instead of rigidly resisting them. And maybe, just maybe, the punches will hurt a tiny bit less. I don’t expect this is something I’ll ever master. Rather, I suspect it is something I’ll have to practice and exercise for the rest of my life, as I meet bigger and better opponents. But perhaps practicing calm will allow me to reign in the fear monsters and enjoy this adventure a little bit more.

an accidental intervention: how boxing helps me eat

It seems lately that I can go from Happy Hannah to Hangry Hannah (hungry+angry=hangry) in a matter of moments. It is a Jekyll and Hyde type of transformation from my normal self, a person who is generally laid back and polite, to a ravenously, desperately hungry version of myself, reminiscent of a starving werewolf. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise given my workout schedule, but consider this fair warning: you better hope you are not the one who comes between me and my next meal.

Similar to most women, I’ve had a complicated relationship with food and my body since long before I started shaving my legs. It all began when someone in my second grade class decided I was the fat kid. Unwittingly, that person shaped the way I would view my body for the next 20+ years. When I was only seven years old, a stubby tomboy with long, red pigtails and grass-stained knees, my body went from being useful to being ornamental. This new expectation that my body be decorative was devastating to my self-esteem simply because I wasn’t the shape and size a bunch of little kids thought I should be. I remember going home the first day someone called me fat, looking at my body as I sat in the bathtub and feeling disgust at the little rolls on my stomach and the fat on my thighs. I still feel that revulsion today.

I spent most of my teenage and adult life at the same weight, give or take five pounds. It didn’t matter how active I was or was not—I simply was more or less toned. Until, that is, at 29, I all but stopped eating and lost nearly 30 pounds over the course of a couple months. At my slimmest, I weighed in at 112 pounds, which at my height, means that my BMI registered as “athlete” on the little online chart (because what, but those BMI charts should be telling us who is an athlete?). This felt like a major achievement to me. I was finally skinny enough to be an athlete! I had to buy new clothes because my old clothes hung on my body like a scarecrow’s. These new clothes fit the way I had always wanted my clothes to fit. I felt small and sexy, and I was comfortable in my body for the first time in my life.

However, soon I was fighting the urge to eat from the time I woke up until the moment I fell sleep, and this caused me to sink into depression. The idea that each day for the rest of my life I was going to have to battle with food in order to be thin was absolutely overwhelming. By the end of my skinny year and a half, I was attempting to eat a diet of less than 1300 calories a day while running about 50 miles/week. Food had become the enemy. I hated food for tasting so good, but all my mental energy was devoted to thoughts of my next meal (even if it was a celery stick) and counting calories and not eating what or when I wasn’t “supposed to”. I learned later that preoccupation with food like this is a symptom of starvation. Eating anything that tasted good was terrifying because I knew that one small piece of chocolate could mean that I lost all control and ate everything I could find. I was famished all the time. Even when I did allow myself to eat, there remained this deep, soul hunger that could not be satiated. At that point, I had not had my period in nearly 18 months (another sign that my body was starving), but I actually took pride in this—this served to me as proof, not that I needed to eat more, but that I was a “real” endurance runner. It never occurred to me that running marathons was evidence enough that I was an endurance runner. No one told me that this behavior was crazy—at least, not that I remember. Rather, I only got complements about how fit and thin I looked. No one knew how very tired I was though. I finally arrived at the thought, “is being skinny really worth the cost?”

Eventually, I concluded that no, being thin was not worth the loss of my happiness. I gave up on restrictive eating and began allowing myself to eat anything I wanted. If what I wanted was an entire 1lb bar of dark chocolate from Trader Joe’s, that’s exactly what I ate. Nothing was off limits—there were no longer “bad” foods. At first, I ate everything. I put away the scale, and I ate. Rather than trying to suppress cravings and ignore the feeling of hunger or drown it with glasses of water, I started trying to listen and respond by giving my body what it wanted. And gradually, over the past 9 months, I’ve come to a point where I don’t want to eat everything. I’ve found that most often, my body wants healthy things (although rice cakes and cucumbers don’t taste nearly as good when you’re not starving). Sometimes, however, my body wants three dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Or maybe six. And that’s totally fine. I’ve learned to trust my body, having faith that it will tell me when and what it needs to eat and when it’s had enough.

Yes, I’m back to my original weight—30 pounds heavier than the days of hunger. Even though I know I am so much happier when I’m allowing myself to eat, I still can become frustrated just by putting on an old pair of pants that no longer fits or by catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror. It is boxing, more than anything, that is helping me look at this image in the mirror in a new light—or perhaps, more accurately, an old one. Boxing has caused me to appreciate my body again like my seven-year-old self when my body had just one purpose: to carry me around outside so I could play capture the flag, run barefoot through the woods, swing from the monkey bars, and climb trees.

My therapist called my introduction to boxing (which came shortly after I decided to start eating again) an accidental intervention. This is because weight means something different in boxing than it does in the rest of the world—it determines the people you can fight, not how well you fight. It’s a number on a scale, not an indication of your worth. In boxing, there’s a term called your fighting weight. This is your natural body weight when you are in top shape and ready to fight. I love this because it acknowledges that all our bodies are different—the weight of one person in peak physical condition could be quite different from another person’s fighting weight, even if they are the same height. It also suggests that your body “wants” to be at a certain weight. Because of this mentality, there is a certain nonchalance surrounding one’s weight among boxing women. I was shocked the first time a woman at the gym dropped her weight in casual conversation and appeared to have no discomfort or embarrassment whatsoever about this number. I learned that your weight is not something to be ashamed of in the ring. In fact, weight, when used properly, can be to your advantage as a fighter (which is why people fight in weight classes). Besides, you may as well get comfortable with the number on the scale because, come fight night, everyone will know it.

With practice, and by surrounding myself with people who are comfortable with their bodies (or at least, more comfortable than most), I have started to respect my body for all the things it can do, rather than constantly berating it for not looking the way I wish it would. I try to say a tiny prayer of gratitude each day for the things my body is good at. “Thank you for healing in spite of the abuse I inflict on you on a daily basis.” “Thank you for building muscle and learning new things.” “Thank you for not dying when my trainer decides I need one more round.” I don’t have it all figured out. Not even close. There are still days I feel repulsed by my body. Although I no longer have a meltdown because my old pants don’t fit, those deep-rooted feelings of shame and guilt are not far beneath the surface. We’re getting there though. I’m learning to work with my body, instead of against it. I’m trying to give it what it needs so it can serve me better. Learning to listen to and love my body is slow work, but at least now Hangry Hannah only survives until I get my hands on a granola bar. And we can all be happy about that.

the time before the giant (and one-handed pushups)

A champion shows who he is by what he does when he’s tested. When a person gets up and says ‘I can still do it’, he’s a champion.

– Evander Holyfield.

 

All my warm fuzzy feelings about boxing went out the window for a minute this week. On Wednesday morning, my trainer said to me as we were warming up “what, you didn’t have breakfast this morning?” Then he imitated 90-year-old boxer after running a marathon. I felt exhausted Wednesday morning, but it was Thursday that really got me. It was Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Boxing Edition. I felt beat up by life even before sparring by some combination of overall exhaustion, PMS, and frustration with work and life, not to mention soreness from boxing the previous day. Then I got hit hard repeatedly with the right cross and the left hook because I failed, again and again, to protect myself. After two rounds, I climbed out of the ring and burst into tears. 

Following Thursday’s sparring session, for the first time since I started going to boxing in February, I didn’t want to go to class on Friday. I was dreading it. I was tired of getting hit, tired of making mistakes, tired of being told to keep my right hand glued to my temple for protection and change the level of my head so I’m not an easy target (can’t you see I’m trying?). I was tired of the persistent whiplash headache that follows me home after taking a few hard blows and settles like a fog around my head for the rest of the day. My inner teenager was shouting, “Well, I’ll show them! I just won’t show up in the morning. Ha! Then they’ll be sorry. Try to hit me when I’m not even there!” But of course, it doesn’t work this way. You can’t even win at Bingo if you don’t show up to play the game.

If I had given myself a choice, I might not have gone that morning. But I didn’t give myself the option to stay in bed, so I ended up once again at Redline at 6:50am. My neck and head were still hurting, the mile-long bike ride to the gym with heavy legs and a heavier heart had felt interminable, and I wanted to cry just thinking about sparring. I forced myself through the warm up and distracted myself with the drills. When it came time to spar though, I suspect my trainer knew I couldn’t handle another day like Thursday. Instead of the usual culprits, he had me spar with people he knew wouldn’t hurt me. I boxed a total of 7 or 8 rounds, but mostly with guys. This was a welcome relief, since the men tend to practice their defense and let me do most of the hitting, punishing me only gently when I make some egregious error.

One of the guys with whom I sparred is an experienced fighter, though I don’t think boxing is his favorite of the fight sports. Boxing with this kid is like boxing with running water. He actually seems to conform his body to the shape of your hand like a waterfall would if you tried to hit it. This makes it nearly impossible to strike him with any force. He weaves in and out and around your hands the way a river passes around rocks. Watching him and an opponent is a bit like Saturday morning cartoons: his opponent comes charging at him with everything they’ve got, and he moves calmly, unhurriedly out of the way.

Thanks to the guys, I made it through another day of boxing. As inspiration this weekend, I watched Rocky for the first time. (Yes, I managed to get through 31 years without ever seeing a single one of the Rocky films. Like I said, before I was into boxing, I really wasn’t into boxing.) Why is it that we love an underdog story? No one wants to watch a movie about the big guy winning. We see that every day around us. Maybe it’s because we’ve all seen the world through David’s eyes. We’ve all stared down our own giants. We’ve fiddled with the pebbles in our pockets, knowing that we aren’t even a little prepared for what’s about to come. We want to know that there’s a chance we can succeed, and these stories give us hope.

The thing they don’t show in the movies is everything it takes to get to the point of facing down the giant. If David hadn’t been a shepherd chasing off lions all those years with his slingshot, he wouldn’t have had a chance against Goliath. If the Italian Stallion had been just some guy off the street, he definitely would have been crushed ten seconds into the fight. Of course, they show a song’s worth of Rocky running stairs and doing one-handed pushups, but the song is one of those that sort of gets you all pumped up and makes you think you could probably do a one-handed pushup too. Real life isn’t like this. It is getting up and doing the things you don’t want to do. Again and again. With no peppy song to get you going. It is facing the lions every single day. It is falling and getting up. Falling and getting up until you are weary beyond belief. It is boring. It is messy. It is exhausting. Only after working hard, working hard again, and continuing to work hard do we face the giant. Then, even though the odds are still against us, we’ve got a shot.

I really wish I had some tidy closing statement declaring that I persevered, broke through the wall, and marched on to victory. We’re not to that point of the story though. We are in the running stairs and one-handed pushups (ha! don’t I wish) point of this tale. Maybe someday I’ll have a big smash bang ending and a beautiful moral to my story, but for right now, I’m just getting up again. And again. And again.