"You don't know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have. "If your a social media hound like me, you have likely seen this quote posted by friends over and over and over again on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Now, don't get me wrong, I love positive quotes and sayings and I frequently post them myself. But this particular quote is one that I have seen so many times now that when I see it I roll my slightly jaded eyes and say, "Oh no, not that one again." That is, until the other morning.
I was at the gym running through my strength training routine on the circuit machines; you know those contraptions that you set your weight, strap yourself in and proceed to lift, press, pull and grunt your way through? As I made my way, I was intermittently receiving and sending texts to my husband, certainly to the annoyance of my fellow circuit-trainers. Most of the time I do my best to avoid this type of bad-mannered behavior but since he was away on a business trip and only had specific time slots between meetings that he could check in, I took the opportunity to multi-task. I did welcome the distraction of my buzzing i-phone as it was drawing my attention away from the fact that I had still had 4 more machines to go. Completely unfocused and distracted, I arrived at the torso arm machine. That's the one where you hold the handles above your head, pull down, elbows bent out to the side until you resemble a football goal post. As I was pulling on the handles my I-Phone was buzzing in my lap. I began trying to speed up my usual routine of 15 reps so I could respond. 1, 2, 3 reps went by and I didn't notice anything different. Then rep 4 ,5, and 6 I thought, "Wow, this feels really hard today." Rep 7, 8 and 9 and I was thinking "Crap!" "I must be really tired this morning." Then the monkey mind began to take over."Well, it's Monday morning....You didn't sleep well...you shouldn't of stayed up so late watching the Housewives of NJ (don't judge me)...maybe if you were more organized this morning you would have had time to eat something and had more energy...man, you really need to get your shit together." Rep 10....."Ugh!" Rep 11....."Crap!" I finally hit my wall at rep 12. Clank! The weights dropped heavily and I let out a loud sigh. That seemed awfully heavy. Then it dawned on me. Hmmmmmm...Let me check the weights. "OH!" I realized I had never changed the weights from the behemoth man or woman that was on this before me. That sucker was set at a weight 15 lbs heavier than what I normally pull. Well how about them apples? How did I do that? I normally struggle through this particular machine barely making it to rep 15 at the lower weight. Then BANG! That damned quote popped right into my head! "You don't know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have."
Now, I'm sure that very elegantly written prose was truly meant to capture the depth of our characters in let's say more serious and life altering circumstances in our lives; surely, not my battle with the circuit machines. But that's the thing, inspiration and wisdom can strike us at anytime; without warning, if your paying attention. I realized in that particular moment that WHEN, not if, life throws me another "heavy" and unexpected challenge that I do possess the strength to rise up and meet it. I felt an immediate sense of calm and security from that epiphany. Now, that doesn't mean that everything will always turn out perfect. (note that I only did 12 reps instead of my usual 15.) It means that in situations that I fear like a death of a loved one, a serious health crisis, a betrayal of a close friend, I know that my strength, persistence and tenacity is ready and waiting for me to call upon it. It means that I can give up the need to control every situation for fear that if a, b or c happens I will be lost. There will be times that are difficult, painful, and challenge me to the core but there is a comfort and security in I knowing I have built the strength and stamina to handle it.
We all possess this level of fortitude. I believe it's built into our DNA as human beings. But we must first TRUST and BELIEVE that we have it and then make the choice to tap into it instead of choosing to fold and give up. I could have chosen to give in at around rep 8 and believe me I absolutely thought about it. But one thing I have learned about myself is that I sometimes relish in the feeling of pushing to overcome a challenge I think I can't do. I guess it comes from experiencing and living through many difficult circumstances. Now if you have yet to experience any true hardship, challenge or trials (lucky you) or if your usual pattern is to stomp your feet, scream "It isn't fair!" and get stuck in that moment instead of finding a path forward then you might not ever be aware this level of strength resides in you. It's like a muscle you haven't exercised. Believe me it's there. We have all heard that incredible story of a person being able to, in a flash, tap into the strength only seen in Superman comics, lifting a car off of someone or carrying someone twice their size to safety. Or how is it that we can suddenly run like we are only 50 feet from the finish line of the New York City Marathon when that really cute, well built guy or girl hops on the treadmill next to you. ( I know I can't be the only one, damn it!)
Sooner or later we all are presented with an opportunity to tap into strength we didn't know we had. And as unfair as it may seem, the more times you are challenged the more opportunities you have to find that muscle and build its strength. The more your flex it, the more powerful and sturdy it becomes. Eventually, you'll take comfort in knowing you've sweat, trained and prepared yourself to take on the world and whatever it throws your way.
So now, when you or I see this quote again for the 100th time,"You don't know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have", instead of rolling our eyes, we will be grateful; grateful for the reminder of the strength that lies deep within and grateful for the reminder to get our asses back to the gym.