Open mouths yelling, silent. A 300 pound bar awaits me motionless, but encouraging. Usually the bar is my enemy. This bar seems to root for me. The crowd moving in slow motion as I stand looking back at them like a kid stumped in a Spelling Bee. Is this for me? Am I here now? Or have I been in Heaven this whole time? How would I know the difference? Ever since I have woken from death, life has been so beautiful. The colors are brighter, the wind is cooler, the rain is heavier and my love for others seems to run deeper. I look at people in a different light these days. Each of us born to grow, from babies to adults, we carry such heavy pain and sorrow. We help people with bags at the airport, but why not past skeletons hanging on for dear life. We try to hide, a mask we wear….but each tear and smile is seen from a certain angle. I feel for each person, not even knowing them at all. My senses seem to be strong as I walk closer to this bar.
My front toe drives high as I walk like a toy nutcracker. My shirt off for those to see my scars. Yes, this is why. I want to show the world that anything is possible, even life after death. Weights after no breath. Faith after doubt. Forgiveness after mistakes. I am out of shape and have gained much weight, some might keep a shirt on to hide from such an embarrassing trait, but I show my skin to you to show that life is more precious than judgments. I remember being on the other side, talking to that gold figure, pleading that I wanted to go home, or that’s how it felt. I felt that, I feel that, I am now living that. I was sent home to my family, and now I walk toward my weightlifting community. The bar waiting for me like I waited for my bride, Jessica Lee West. Beautiful and surreal. A reunion of some type, as those who have watched from the computer screen for many years, now watch on as I meet the bar with my hands.
Crazy to think that 3 months ago I just opened my eyes, and now I am in my classic set up about to open up these hips. Slightly leaned forward, weight on the balls of the feet, eyes down, upper back rolled over as arms fall free like cables. The setup I know and love. The set up before the start position that I fell in love with many years ago, meeting once again as the crowed cheers, “Let’s go!” I move my weight to the right and left, back and forward just slightly to get a feel for the bar now connected to my body. That’s how I look at weightlifting, you’re not moving the bar, you’re moving your body, and the weight is now a part of you. If I move the right way, the lift will be made right away, on the first take. It’s like settling into a race car, you must feel the wheel as if you were a part of the car, taking yourself outside the bar only leaves misses and unsure attempts. If the athlete can move with the bar, the bar is simply a metaphor, a myth only told at camp fires. Now the sport has just turned into gymnastics, and you’re up. The bar digs into my shin hard, painting a chalk circle around both shins, as if my legs were clowns and I was putting on makeup to crack up the kids. Never a drag, only fun from the bar moving back and fast. I call it horses out of gate, when I see track I pull, when I think Shankle, I roar. When I think of my son I hit the floor, when the smell of my wife hits me from across the country I begin to cry. I am not happy I just snatched 300, I am happy to be alive. I am grateful to be able to do what I love. Being reunited with the bar from the Man above. Family first, and then bar slamming second. The crowd giving me hope, my fellow friends giving me sense of accomplishment.
The weight smiled as I walked away, happy that I am back, but knowing we would draw blood together one day. Like I always say…. It’s the unspoken understanding that creates the most powerful of relationships. Thank you to all who have supported me from death till now. I am forever grateful to have you in my life. I don’t know you, but I do. Hey… I’ll see ya around one day, stay true to you. For God is good and Weightlifting is fu%#%* awesome!