Maya Angelou passed away today. As I read through highlights from the huge volume of inspirational work she produced during her lifetime, I’m overcome with total admiration for one woman who could come from so little and do so much, dig so deeply and touch so many.
If you are familiar with Dr. Angelou you know she survived a turbulent childhood, never attended college, and as a single mother worked through a long series of varying occupations. She became an author, a teacher, a Poet Laureate, and received 30 honorary doctoral degrees. Through her body of work she expresses so eloquently what it is to live, to rise again and again and to live.
“Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise” – Maya Angelou
Pardon the indulgence but I’m about to draw a connection between Dr. Maya Angelou and CrossFit.
While our struggles may differ in detail we are all the same. We are human. Sometimes you’re cruising along in life and you’ve just received a promotion, your diet is in check, you remembered your spouse’s birthday, the car has been inspected, and life seems pretty damn good. Then there are those other times when it’s everything you can do to resist the doughnuts in the break-room, or you’ve been laid off, or you’re injured, or you rush from work to the grocery store and wait in line just to rush home and get dinner on the table for your family just in time to go to bed and wake up and do it all over again.
You’re not present in your life but being run over by your life, consumed with an endless stream of tasks and worry. It is precisely during those moments when it’s everything you can do to get out the door that it is most important of all to be courageous and show up.
“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” ― Maya Angelou
If you’ve gritted through a WOD where you thought you might never survive, then you’ve reached that place, you’ve dwelled in that space that reveals who you are. That moment where the room and all the noise and the music and the clock fall away and it’s just you and the work in front of you. You know what it is like to be in the moment. You reach a place where you think that you can’t but you do despite anger or loss or injury or heartache or worry. You remember what you’re capable of and fall in love with your own heart all over again.
That zone of digging deep and stepping up – that zone is where you remember who you are. That pristine place inside of you comes to life. It’s a tiny victory in the scheme of everything that the day has thrown at you and it’s worth it. Hard physical work challenges us to get in touch with what we’re capable of being. You are true to yourself, to your family, to your integrity. You know that the only way out is to push through. Because that is what you do. You are a person who shows up. Showing up takes courage and grit. Grit gets you out of the rut.
“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We cannot be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” ― Maya Angelou
It may seem trivial to compare physical work to the words of Maya Angelo, but the place where the ability to continue to rise comes from is the same. It is the place within.
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ― Maya Angelou