There’s been a big shake-up in the force recently. I know it probably won’t sound like much, but the reverberations could be felt across the county when our local CrossFit gym closed.
People felt grief, remorse, anxiety, sadness, and lost.
Some folks joined other CrossFit gyms, others chose to go back to more traditional gyms, and some decided to do their own thing at home.
There was much angst over these decisions — and some melodrama too.
It surprised me how deeply everyone felt (including me), but I think I’ve figured out why it affected so many people the way it did.
Community. It goes by many names: tribe, family, faction, fraternity. But when you build a true community — a group of likeminded folks who have a common interest and spend time together doing it — it’s going to be missed once it’s over.
I’ve lived in the Eastern Panhandle for over two decades, but the friendships I made and cemented through our shared CrossFit experience were mighty.
Participating in CrossFit workouts is already a dynamic, group-fueled environment. Within the walls of those gyms, we leave our collective sweat, and sometimes our blood and tears. We leave our grunts, our fist bumps, and our screams of pride. We leave our personal records, and our disappointments.
Within those walls, we are soldiers who look out for one another, encourage each other, and usually without fail, cheer for the last man standing until the work is done.
When I think about it, it’s the human condition at its best. It’s taking yet giving, being watchful yet not critical, and supportive yet not overbearing.
I realized many of these folks had become my tribe, and we were inexplicably and suddenly off our reservation.
When I see a member of my tribe out in the community, it’s almost like finding water in the desert. We shriek a hello or share a warm hug or friendly handshake.
No matter where we end up, this group of folks who conglomerated at CrossFit 304 will share a special and enduring bond.
Most of us were new to the concept of CrossFit when it arrived in Charles Town, or else we were attempting to try it on our own without the trappings of a typical box-style gym. Several of us were fitness enthusiasts, but few of us were experienced with the apparatus or skills with which we would soon become proficient. I’d never before tried Olympic weightlifting, dropped loaded barbells, been able to do a pull-up, or known the definition of a burpee.
As I began the foray into CrossFit, my fitness improved, my language changed, and I became a part of something much bigger than myself.
Community is not something I take for granted. I’ve been grateful to experience it in the work environment, among family, through being the mother of an athlete, by participating in a writer’s group, and at the gym.
It provides a unique and special opportunity when it comes along, allowing you to see the world from a slightly different perspective.
Sometimes communities go south — and I’ve experienced that also — where people become hurtful or selfish, personalities conflict to make it less enjoyable, melodrama takes over, or the group disbands for whatever reason.
Some people dislike change. It represents the unknown, and some folks are more comfortable doing what they know. This is true even when it’s clear they’d be better off at another job, another gym, or another relationship.
Change is unavoidable. We can fight it or embrace it.
I view change as an opportunity — that something new and different is on the horizon. Perhaps it will help me find a different tribe, or learn a new skill, or show me something I couldn’t have seen by doing the same old thing.
Be gentle with yourself if you feel sadness or grief over a current change in your life. It legitimately hurts sometimes, especially if it means a loss of community or the company of people you’ve enjoyed. Be equally sympathetic of others you know dealing with a loss.
And take solace in knowing, “Sometimes the things we can’t change end up changing us” (author unknown), and “Usually you just walk and walk among people who are not of your tribe, and then suddenly, there you are, in a place that feels familiar and known” (author Deb Caletti).
Your next community is probably just around the bend, waiting for you to find it.
This column aired in The Journal on Sunday, March 8, 2015.
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