Tools in the Ruck: The Weight
Carrying a plate
I carry a literal steel plate around everywhere I go. Anyone can tell you about my weird habit of carrying my gym on my back. I tell myself about all the great benefits of rucking all the time. It’s great for my posture. I burn more calories than just walking, and it’s a lower-impact exercise than running. I’m building up my skeletal structure with the resistance of the added weight, and it’s also easy to incorporate into daily life without having to add a commute to some stale, indoor gym. There’s the mental and emotional resilience that’s increased by taking the harder path.
Micheal Easter, Brett McKay, and (of course) Jason McCarthy have written brilliantly about the benefits of rucking, and you should check out their extensive work on the subject and the amazing gear over at GORUCK. Taking the harder path instead of prioritizing my comfort flies in the face of a society that prides itself on a hyper-individualized, sanitized, and sedentary life. Carrying a ruck plate feels like an act of silent defiance. It feels good for my heart to act like a mythic, warrior king in a world that seems so far from stories like that.
However, in addition to the physical weight, I carry many more burdens that weigh me down. Like an extra 120-pound sandbag on my soul, the weight of the concerns of life threatens to overwhelm my ability to carry them. They also, over time, increase my resistance to those weights. I am able to carry more, the more I carry.
This time of year in Oregon, it’s dark when I wake up, dark when I get off work, and dark when I’m playing with my kids. It rains most days and is cloudy the majority of the time. It feels like my brain is being wrapped in a thick fog. Though I know the summer will eventually be glorious, on these dark days it’s sometimes overwhelmingly gloomy. It feels like my soul is trapped in mud, and I struggle to break free of that to just get out of bed and get on with my day. This effect is compounded by the fact that we have just moved 2,240 miles away from our previous home in Indiana just about six months ago. The sandbag of friendships left behind, relationships that have ended, and favorite places left for others to enjoy.
I feel the weight of the relational distance most deeply. As a guy in his mid-30s, it’s hard to build friendships, and even harder to keep them going from a long distance. I’m a highly relational, sensitive person and I connect deeply with people. It feels like being a kid in a new school, and you have to be on your best behavior or people won’t like you. I’ve shed some of that and am able to be at least authentic with new people I meet, but I tend to give into the temptation to overshare about the things I’m going through.
If I’m not careful, I’ll dump my emotional baggage on anyone who shows an interest in listening, which isn’t fair to them. So instead, I reserve myself and pull back from these new friendships even as they’re being formed. I say things like “I’m mostly ok” when people ask how I’m doing. It’s true if a little simplistic.
It’s hard for me to write in a vulnerable manner like this. I feel the weight of always needing to edit myself. I feel like I need to make others like me. Even I need to fool myself into liking myself by presenting a version of myself that’s more self-aware, more controlled, with more of my shit together (I even felt the weight of whether to say ‘stuff’ instead of ‘shit’ there because of what you’d think about me reading this).
In a GORUCK event, I’d have teammates with me to help carry the weight when it gets too much to bear. In life, those teammates have felt harder to find and even harder to depend on. Therapists help to a certain degree, but that only gets me so far. Friends have their own stuff going on with their own problems and I don’t feel like I can burden them with mine. I don’t want to dump all this on my wife, because that’s not her role either. She’s my wife, not my counselor.
That leaves prayer as the answer, which has left me feeling like even God doesn’t want to be bothered with this stuff. He seems so distant as to not care about the obligations I’m carrying. One pastor I heard recently said that prayer is giving God our burdens and that if we still feel burdened after praying, then all we did was gripe at God and not actually pray. What a load of bovine excrement that is. That paints God as an uncaring, unkind father who doesn’t see what I’m going through and won’t lift a finger unless I say the magic words. The God I follow doesn’t operate that way. Does he?
Here’s a prayer that I’ve been praying a lot recently when life just seems super heavy. I hope it helps lift your spirit today:
Father, thank you for strengthening me through physical, emotional, and spiritual training. Forgive me for seeing my challenges and trials as burdens to endure rather than training to be embraced. Thank you for giving me a masculine, warrior heart. I give you the expectations that I have put on you and others. With open hands, I come to you expectant, but without expectations. Help me to walk in step with you, and to give you my burdens of disappointment, comparison, and self-hatred.
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