October 20, 2014 – Riding up the elevator Saturday night with my friend Jojo after having either participated or volunteered in the largest Hawaii open weightlifting contest ever, we agreed that there is “something about weightlifters.” I can’t quite put my finger on it exactly and I suspect it will be bouncing around in my brain for years to come, but there is something about weightlifters and there were these little incredible moments in time on Saturday that leave the mind tumbling.
The biggest cheers of the day weren’t for the guy who attempted to throw 400 pounds over his head, but for a 65 year old man who is 5 foot 4 and weighs 125 pounds and totaled 130 kg (286 lbs), a weight that exceeded the highest amount lifted for his age and weight class at the World Masters Games. I wish I would have taken a picture of 84 year old Tommy Kono over behind the stage encouraging a little 9 year old girl between lifts. I know its rude to eavesdrop, but I was standing by Rob Blackwell with California Strength who totaled 322 kg (710 lbs) when he was telling said 65 year old about how much he admired him and hoped to be follow in his footsteps when he’s in his 60’s. Ruddy, the event organizer, whose love of the community was evident in all of his actions and who so clearly put his whole heart and soul into putting the event together kept checking on us volunteers to make sure we were doing okay and had everything we needed. Vernon pacing back and forth like a nervous father and then practically bursting into a million little pieces with pride in his nephew’s PRs and maybe a little joy of having taught and shared his knowledge. And watching each and every one of the lifters who had the balls to get up the stage and live in the moment. Yes, there is something about weightlifters.
You have to be present when you lift. Weightlifting has you go towards your fear and teaches you about your strength when you are feeling uncomfortable and scared. It requires you to be fully present in the moment. The decision to get under a bar or get out of the way of a heavy bar over and over and over again intentionally changes a person fundamentally I think. Hours, days, weeks, years of practice of being present in the moment, deciding, and striving to become the better versions of themselves can shift a person. “Only to the extent that a person exposes oneself over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible be found.” And there is that thing that is bouncing around in my brain somewhere – that indestructible thing is closer to the surface and less hidden behind layers of superficiality with a lot of weightlifters – there is something burning in all of them.
I’ve spent waaaay too much time in hospitals and with hospice the past few years with either the sick or the dying – in the end, we let it all go – our money, our things, our body – and are left with our mind (hopefully), our love of one another, and our ability to live in and with ourselves in the moment. Its that same indestructible thing. So many people only realize its there when they are dying. Many of the weightlifters found it under a bar a long time ago.