What I have survived. 

People always talk about how strong you are, how you’ll get through this, how god doesn’t give you what you can’t handle. 

But no one ever mentions the toll it takes on you. 

No one ever says, “Be strong, but remember, your body and soul will pay a price.”

It’s like a difficult class at the gym.

You go into Spinning class thinking, “Ah, I made it, I’m here.” And you look forward to the sweat and the music and the endorphin release. But 15 minutes in you realize, this is a ball-buster. This bitch instructor is set out to kill me and for a moment you think of leaving. Fake a phone call. Take a piss and just not return. Whatever, just get out before the real pain starts. But then, somewhere around the 30-minute mark you’ve broken through “the wall” and now your legs are on fire. You are grinding a hill and every muscle in your body is working in unison. Your veins run purple with blood. The towel is drenched, the water bottle near empty and you realize that in only 15 minutes this will be over. The grit sets in, the next hill is higher, harder, and you’ve got this. Not only can you do this, but you do this more. More than anyone else in the room, in the gym, in the world. You are the bike. You are the music. You are the heart beating loudly in your ears and only you got yourself here and only you can choose when it ends. 

Until it does. The last song is played. The dial turned down, the lights brought back up. And you are no longer flying on your high. You’re wiping down and packing your gear to go. 

You are strong. You are stronger now than you were 45 minutes ago. And you are tired. 

Later, later that night or maybe well into the next day, it becomes harder to get up from the chair. Your legs are heavy. Your muscles weary. The balls of your feet start to ache from the metal pedal they hugged so tightly in class. 

And you realize, in a simultaneous flash of pride and regret, you are stronger because you survived, but you are scarred. See, when you workout your muscles ebb and flex and grow and change but when they do that they also tear. Small microtears in your muscle fibers is what is really happening. And when those tears heal the muscle grows and that is how you get stronger. So, in a way, muscle is scar tissue. Healthy scar tissue. 

You do this two, three times a week and the scar tissue grows and grows and your image in the mirror looks better and better. And so, you keep doing it. Until it no longer becomes a choice. 

That is surviving what god gave you. 

God or fate or life or whateverthefuck throws these hardships at you, day after day, week after week, and people tell you that you are strong and so you deal with the hardships day after day, week after week, until you really are, in fact, strong. 

But no one sees the muscle tears. No one ever mentions the scar tissue that is building up and has nowhere to go. Where does all that go – that pain, that sadness, that fatigue, that anger. 

When you look in the mirror you see it. It’s the lines dug into your forehead. It’s the bloat around your chin and neck. It’s your fake smile, your slow, hunched over walk, it’s your hands wringing each other over and over in sweaty circles. 

It’s your indifference. It’s your apathy. It’s your carelessness. It’s your panic attacks. It’s your meltdowns. It’s your benders. 

That is now your muscle. That is the price for exercising your strength. 

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