Two things have shaped my thinking for this article: My philosophy of life, and my weird neurological disorder. My philosophy of life: “Don’t make anyone’s day worse, including your own” is much easier to explain than my strange case of Tourette’s Syndrome.
Ask most people what they know about TS and they most likely picture Deuce Bigalow or another film that portrays Tourette’s as that disease that makes people shout obscenities uncontrollably. But that’s Hollywood TS. Even with cases as severe as mine, this symptom is incredibly rare, less than 1% of what are already considered “extreme” cases.
Some really quick background – TS is a neurological disorder that typically either makes people move involuntarily, or make noises involuntarily. Imagine the worst you’ve ever needed to sneeze – now pretend that feeling is always there, but it’s not trying to make you sneeze, it’s…well, it varies wildly and anything goes. My symptoms might remind you of the Tasmanian Devil, which I can live with – much more respectable than Deuce Bigalow. When things are at their worst, I yell, twitch, jerk my limbs around, scratch myself, punch myself, slobber, pant…and on and on and on. My brief fantasies of military service ended when I realized that nobody would want me hiding next to them. I couldn’t ever even play hide and seek. One day four years ago I screamed so hard every 2-3 seconds that I got a hernia. I’ve also bitten through my lips and tongue more than once. A year ago I dislocated my thumb during a movie, just by wiggling it around too hard. Boo-hoo.
It sounds weird. It is weird. With all the amazing functions and limitless potential of the body and brain, there are just as many things that can get screwy along the way. And so I’ve struggled with this bizarre disorder for the last 10 years. It beat me down more than I’d like to admit. I was often unable to leave my house. I was too disruptive in public and too embarrassed. The years stretched out ahead of me in my mind, and I had little hope that I’d reach any of the goals I’d set for my life.
Then some small things changed. I want to be clear that nothing that follows is meant to be self-congratulatory. It’s just the way that things happened. My father set me in motion and in retrospect, the rest seems inevitable.
I got into lifting. No particular reason, other than my dad did it and said it might give me some “small victories“. A way to feel like I was in control. I was surprised by how quickly I came to enjoy my brief, modest workouts, and soon felt like something was wrong on days that I couldn’t lift. My numbers were nothing special and still aren’t, but it was the ritual of progress that mattered.
One thing led to another, and pretty soon I had discovered Dragon Door and the grip world. My house filled up with kettle bells. I began to spend lots of time worrying about how to strengthen my hands, of all things. And a funny thing happened…little by little, my passion for strength training took the place of the misery I’d let my disorder cause me. For ten years I had watched my body do whatever it wanted. And now, like an out-of-body experience, I saw myself putting that body through its paces during some wonderful, brutal workouts. I could suddenly look at myself and say: “You do whatever I tell you to, now shut up and get to it.”
These primitive self-help sessions led to a discipline that has crept into everything I do, and much of what I am. By day I’m a humble librarian. My profession is not known for its physical might. If you ever do think of a library, chances are you picture a little old lady shushing the taxpayers in between her bun readjustments.
But in my office you’d see a bunch of kettle bells, some sledge hammers, a mess of chest expander bands, a pinch block from Strongergrip, a bunch of metal objects at various stages of being bent, and of course, stacks and stacks of books. The Diesel Crew bending manual also has a permanent spot on my PC’s desktop.
I don’t expect my “hobby” to be the center of anyone’s universe but mine. It seems eccentric to most of my colleagues. Maybe it is as strange as they tell me. But every day I get better at something. Every day I test myself. Every day there is some small victory of my own choosing, and that is priceless. Not enough people can say that. Life doesn’t require that we test ourselves in these ways, so we require it of ourselves.
And why? Because as hard as it all is, it makes everything else easier. The most difficult thing I do every day is usually over by 7 AM. It’s hard to be nervous about much after that.
If you’re stuck, sad, or bored, DO SOMETHING. Our time here is too short. Improve what you can improve, every day. Control whatever needs to be controlled in your life to keep you progressing, positive, and happy–every day.
Thank you all for your continued inspiration and encouragement. It might sound melodramatic, but I don’t know who or where I’d be today without the endless succession of small victories we’re all stringing together.