The endless cycle of grief: the day powerlifting died

The process of letting go is a slow and painful one, but it brings some relief. As if with each flake you shed, you become a lighter and a more genuine version of yourself.

I just now opened the book manuscript I was supposed to hand in in 2012 and never did. It is in Portuguese. It belongs to a time that no longer exists and a diagnosis no physician agrees with anymore. I was compared to Kay Jamison, as “the voice of the silenced bipolars”. Well, I am not bipolar according to everyone. No matter how we twist the DSM, it doesn’t come out that way. Trauma is powerful and can create colorful psychiatric syndromes.

Most believe it is some dysrhythmic disorder (epilepsy), certainly a middle year disfunction and I am in the Autistic spectrum.

So… I have 67K words written, sitting there. I decided to reverse it: I will work on the English version first. There’s a lot I can use – there’s a lot to be discarded.

But the most important thing, I guess, is that during this last cycle of bad-sleep-bad-mood I finally understood what happened. In 2005, as I emerged from the pool of blood in the botched suicide attempt, I found a purpose. Lifting did provide me with structure and moments of peace against the unending intruding thoughts, but I had the slum (Paraisopolis). I had a purpose so strong that it did beat death, death threats, everything. I took one blow after another, by all criminal powerlifting organizations there, but I didn’t let go.

It took Shelby, a sadistic local gym member in the American Midwest, a “gangsta” representative of the “gym culture”, to ring the death knell to powerlifting: as I looked into her emptiness, I understood it was never about powerlifting. And that for all my kids at the slum, for all those people having fun at meets, without looking behind the curtain, it is not about powerlifting. It is about the release of lifting. And for me, it was also about reaching out to the disenfranchised. Shelby’s stereotypical combination of criminal-sadistic-white-racist-fundamentalist-opportunist-child-abuser suddenly lifted the last veil and I saw it: this is powerlifting.

That day, I let go of powerlifting.

And I was left here, sick, with not enough receptors to take in the T3, not capable of hearing large frequencies of sound due to irreversible middle ear damage caused by Powerlifting (Shelby), immersed in brain fog. But most of all, with a huge emptiness that I believe could probably be filled by my gym. Or so I hope, if there is still some spark of life in me.

That reminds me of my grandmother’s death. Maria, my grandmother, was a musician. She had perfect pitch. Her relationship with music and the piano were intimate. She did play for others and she taught hundreds – some of the best in the world. But she had her private moment with the piano and she didn’t allow anyone around. The piano was her instrument of peace and transcendence. Why did she need that? Because she was awesome, to start with. She was a genius. But her life included an abusive husband that fortunately, only beat her before leaving her with three children: the next woman he touched committed suicide. He was evil. Of her three children, two died of unknown diseases. One took nine years withering in bed before passing. All she had left was my mother, and then the four of us. But what really kept her alive was music and her non-negotiable autonomy.

But the years are relentless and eat away even the purest gift. So one day, she had her deal with Death, that friend who is always waiting to take us to the irreversible peace of inexistence. She never touched the piano again. She never spoke again. She just sat at the couch and in two months, she was dead.

She died in my arms. I was alone with the caretaker. After two agonizing breaths, I saw her eyes go blank. There was no life there.

At that moment, Maria was not there anymore. Her immortal legacy lives through us.

One thing I learned from that moment: I have the same clarity as my grandmother. Life has no intrinsic value. It is worth it according to the value we attribute to it, and for us, who chose a higher path, transcendence is the only true satisfaction that justifies living.

It has been months since I haven’t touched my bars. The heat in Oklahoma can kill me in a few minutes and the space for my home gym never seems to be completed. I know I am slowly dying. I don’t have much time left. My health is degenerating fast and I am probably not helping. Whether I will bloom again if (and there is a big if there) I have my weights, (a short) time will tell.

Shelby didn’t kill me (although I’m sure she would, if she understood what she did): through her deplorableness, she revealed how deplorable-dominated powerlifting was. How dishonored STRENGTH itself was by powerlifters, for years. By the Joes, Steves, LBs, Bobbys, Juans. Their faces are starting to blur in my mind and become one single disgusting deplorable.

The strength and the slum – those I bring with me.

But that day, the music died.

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