Among my more indulgent guilty pleasures in life, right up there with chocolate fudge brownie from Ben and Jerry's and dulce de leche from Haagen Daaz, is watching the World's Strongest Man competitions on ESPN.
Always broadcasting from places like Kuala Lampur or Cape Town (where presumably the doping laws are lax), the World's Strongest Man competition pits unbelieveably muscular athletes against one another in unbelieveably ridiculous feats of strength. In one round they lift cars and in the next they must stand between two huge pillars and hold them up, then go and squat 500 pounds.
My favorite event is the Africa stone wherein the competitors shlep around a big rock carved in the shape of the eponymous continent. Frequently Nordic men with names like Magnus Samuelsson and Svend Karlson go head-to-head with their Baltic, Slavic and North American counterparts Zydrunas Savickas (my favorite because he's Lithuanian and so am I - well one-quarter Lithuanian, but who's counting?). Recently, I got to thinking about why I love these programs as much as I do.
The best I could come up with (because I'm just not that into muscles) is that I am in awe of their strength. While theirs is clearly visible and tangible, I think real strength has many forms. Most people have no idea of how strong they can be until the situation demands it. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "Women are like tea bags. They don't know how strong they are until they get into hot water."
A wise woman that Eleanor. Having recently come through a very challenging situation, I marveled at my own ability to be strong for those around me, knowing the entire time that I'm always been a pretty strong person. Does it come from faith? Pure tenacity? Previous trials by fire?
Probably all of the above. But more than any of those, I think real strength is being able to pull strength and support from other people when you need it most. Just like Zydrunas has his legion of trainers, I have had an incredible team of people who have astoundingly known when to coddle, when to push, when to question and when to just listen. To everyone who has been there for me these past few weeks - thank you. While I don't plan to carry around a gigantic stone to prove it, you have all made me stronger.