The Jesus is Lord Church is blue, and white, and I am almost positive it is supposed to be welcoming and cheery and I’m not sure it’s not because I’m reluctant or because there’s a pervasive smell of mold from underneath the carpet in the foyer.
I am 14, in a new city, and I am all giant freeze-dried bangs and blue eyeliner in a land of baggy jeans and universal Keds. The girls at my new high school have already decided I’m vermin, and so I reluctantly accompany my Mom to Church because the misguided law of grade 10 dictates that in Church you will find either shockingly misbehaved rebel kids or long skirted quiet girls who do not care that they have been labeled vermin. They may or may not be nice to you, depending on their level of tolerance for your unsaved soul, but the chance of a friend in a frigid city is worth the risk. And I think my Mom thinks I need friends.
I don’t remember anyone being particularly nice. I remember hands in the air, and shaking and sobbing by about half the mass attendees. I remember odd syllables strung together in a hysterical kind of chant. I learned later that this was called “speaking in tongues” and it both intrigued and terrified me.
“That’s a cult,” says my McDonald’s coworker when I tell him about what I saw,”All those people, blindly following, doing and saying weird things and trying to make everyone else do the same. It’s a scary cult and you should never go back.” He adds salt to the fry trays with great authority and I believe him.
That Church was my one and only experience with anything remotely cult-ish, until recent years, when I’ve heard kind-of-joking-kind-of-serious comments about my preferred exercise method. The people who work out in the same fashion I do employ strange language (WODS! AMRAPS!) , yell at each other indiscriminately while sweating, and frequently hang out together voluntarily on weekends. There are some parallels to the tongue-speaking shaking people at the mildew Church, for sure.
There’s a whole horde of people who say that CrossFit is super annoying and from an objective viewpoint, I get it. But from a personal, highly biased lens, CrossFit has richly enhanced my adult life in ways I would have never thought possible.
I’ve written about it in various places on the Internet, and I believe it still: my body in my late thirties is better than it’s ever been, and that’s all because of CrossFit. I have motivation to stick to a healthy diet because I’m firmly addicted to the strength I feel when my body is well oiled. I like the notion that I’m getting better and faster as I get older, that I’m not relegated to a sagging butt and orthopedic shoes just because I’m not 24 anymore. And the intensity and fierceness of a hard CrossFit workout is the only thing in the Universe that can entirely remove the stress of the fact that things are pretty unknown and stressful in my life right now. If I weren’t Crossfitting, I’m pretty sure I’d be dependent on other methods of relaxation, and they almost certainly wouldn’t be adding muscle to my body and clarity to my brain. Crossfit helps me understand what I am capable of, and provides the motivation to go after goals that seem impossible. The radiating benefits extend way beyond exercise into my relationships, career, aspirations and life path.
This weekend, there was a team CrossFit competition in West Vancouver. I entered Corey and I four weeks ago, before my little house of cards caved in on itself, and though I considered cancelling, I’m so glad I didn’t.
At the team competition there was a diminutive girl in red shorts, hucking 170 pounds over her head. There was a Daughter and Dad team who hugged during transition to a rower, capturing hearts with their heart. There was the familiar hum of encouragement, and a drive to test the boundaries of bodily capability. There were people cheering as other people conquered goals they’d never reached before.
And yes – I understand that this whole Crossfit competition thing is basically about how furiously and heavily you can exercise. You are reaching and gasping and striving to be a better exerciser. And that, on paper, seems ridiculous.
But paper can’t convey the emotion of a goal achieved in front of others. It can’t capture the value of that moment of absolute peace, when you are deep within yourself and cannot conceptualize anything else but that moment of time. It doesn’t take into account the power of your body being temporarily in control over the sometimes destructive and worrying forces of your mind. It doesn’t relay the importance of a community of people who truly wish one another greater power and higher limits.
There is also something soothing about Corey standing beside me. He never says much, just quietly encourages me. He’s never disappointed when I fail, and more thrilled when I am when I reach a milestone.
(I’ve always wondered about Nolan’s curious tongue-sticking-out-while concentrating habit and Oh. Now I get it.)
(Photos by Sharon Thielmann, who we call Mama T. She frequently cooks for the team, and brought Corey and I delicious homemade food when we were sick with pneumonia, and I was pregnant with Jude. If this is cultish behavior, I’ll take it any day.)