I’ve joined a gym.
This is probably not the most provocative way to start a blog post. If you stop reading now I will understand. I mean, I’m supposed to GRAB YOUR ATTENTION in the first sentence. There has to be a hook. A reason for you to look up from twitter or grumpy cat to read this, right? Well, tough shit. This is what I have for you thus far.
I joined a gym. And really, the technical term for it is box. But that makes me giggle. Like a 14 year old boy or a 42 year old woman. And also, it makes me feel pretentious like oh yeah, you turds go to a gym. I go to a, er, um (box).
I’ve joined this cross-fit craze and I am a true believer. So, if you think this post is about cross-fit and how awesome it is, it kind of is. Because it is awesome. After 6 weeks I feel stronger, I feel healthier and I feel mentally more alert (keep the commentary to yourselves). But really, this isn’t about how great my gym is. It’s a warehouse set up with ropes and rings and barbells and kettlebells and terrible things called prowlers. There are orange home depot buckets placed strategically throughout in case you lose your lunch (haven’t seen it happen yet). The workouts are always interesting and challenging and, while intimidating at first, the coaches (yes, you get coaches like for real) are there to cheer you on and tell you when you suck and make you better.
I go to a place called Crossfit Rubicon here in town. Sometimes I go at 5:30 a.m., other days I’m at the 4:30 pm class. One day I went at noon. And that day, my friends, is the reason for this post.
I don’t write much about Afghanistan anymore. My dad is still there working hard at rebuilding the health care system. It’s going okay, but of course it has it’s share of setbacks. I read the news every day and I don’t get the same feeling of panic I did years ago when he first went, when I imagined he was killed in every roadside bombing incident or every suicide bombing event in Kabul. He was right, after time you just grow to accept the conditions you live in. He lives in a war zone and we live with it.
I went to workout the other day and a woman walked into the box with a “property of Afghanistan athletic department” sweatshirt on. It actually made me stop what I was doing. I was, right then and there, eight years old and being asked where I was from. I said “Afghanistan” and they said “Where is that?”
That was how it was until 2001.
My country was invaded by the British, and we won. The Soviets came next, and my people beat them back. In 1984 people would ask “Where are you from” and I would say “Afghanistan” and they would still say “Where is that?” It would appall me that people did not know that my country was involved in a war with the country we, here, were in a cold war with.
Really, Americans? Really?
So, on Monday, I was at crossfit as a grown woman and there was a sweatshirt with my country-over-there’s name on it. And if I could explain to you how it felt, how surreal it all was, I would. But I don’t know if there is a description for it. I felt like I was in another time and place. And it showed. Both Chef (the good owner) and his wife and co-owner, Hronn, had to ask me to please pay attention.
I could not.
She’d been there. To Kandahar. This woman with the sweatshirt. She’d walked among my people. She knew how they smiled and laughed and talked.
There are wounded veterans at the box. There are men with prosthetic limbs who have gone to my country -over -there and seen the land and smelled the air and come back not the same as when they left. I am hit with it every time I walk in there. It is one thing to know it. You know, how you know things in your brain? It is another to see it. To be there with it.
I was eleven when I told my grandmother that the first child to call her grandma was killed by Soviet gunfire. That was just the first. There have been dozens of deaths since then. And those who are not dead but lived through it are injured in places we cannot see.
And I joined a gym where it all comes together for me. My people there and my people here. And it makes the world that much smaller and the workout that much harder.
You know, we are all so good at compartmentalizing. This is my gym, this is my job, this is my history, this is my baggage. These worlds, we hope, will never collide because if they do they will, you know, get it all messy and mixed up and it will be hard to withstand. But in a wholly unexpected place, a wholly unexpected thing has happened. Two of my selves have combined and it seems that I have survived it thus far.
It makes me wonder, what if other parts touch too?
And yes, this happened because I joined a gym.