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April 8, 2024

Cry-Fits and Garage Hits: The Disrupter’s Guide to Breaking Down and Building Up

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If you read last week’s post or listened to the podcast, you’ll know that I’m writing a new book about optimism and disrupters. In the intro, I talked about why I’m delving into this work and used the example of my fixation on the human condition and using car crashes as an example, I pondered why different people have vastly different responses when things break bad. It was as if the universe was listening to my battle cry about resilience and optimism because it decided to mess with me.

I left Naples CrossFit this morning and got into my car and broke down crying. Crying is a rare thing for me — but not for the reasons you might think. I don’t think it’s weak or soft. Crying is a release of emotion, but I have always had difficulty doing it. I am so envious of people who can have a good cry now and then, but I’m not one of those people. When I finally cry, it’s because I have reached my breaking point. I stuff emotions so deep and when they finally surface, stand back—it’s like a dormant volcano that’s suddenly erupted, spewing years of pent-up pressure in a fiery, unstoppable release. That’s what happened to me in the car today. 

The eruption was a result of failing to complete the workout this morning. Well, that’s what I thought it was. Five rounds consisting of a 200 meter run and 6 clean and jerks. For those who don’t know gym rat lingo, you launch a loaded barbell from the ground and go into a full squat, then push that rack up above your head for a full press. I love this movement in Crossfit and I’ve been gaining some strength over the past few months since moving out of my comfort zone to join Crossfit. I joined because I’m getting older and I need to build and maintain the muscle now that I’ve hit midlife (and yes I’m considering 50 midlife — don’t come at me). But this morning, I regressed. I could barely get through the 6 reps per round and the run felt like someone attached cinder blocks to my legs. I fell behind the class and I was the last one to finish. 

My coach was supportive and the others in the gym were encouraging but I couldn’t hear it because I was so frustrated with myself for not being able to do it. The frustration flood gates manifested into a full on bawl when I got into my car and I truly apologize to the people who had to witness this when they pulled up to the stoplight next to me. 

Then I got mad at myself for crying because I felt like a lunatic. By the time I got home, I was furious and I backed into my garage door. No joke. I always back into the garage and I thought the garage door was fully opened but my tears were obstructing the fact that the door was only half open and I hit it. I didn’t think I could cry harder but it turns out I could. 

I had to tell my wife who was in the middle of building something at our neighbors house (she has a real tool belt and everything) so I called her. I started to speak and she heard my voice crack and said simply, I’m on my way. When I told her I bombed my workout and hit the garage, she.started.laughing. She legitimately thought there had been a death based on my voice and the fact I’m typically the unfazed one in our relationship. In my defense, there was a death — of my garage door and my pride. I was instantly catapulted into the gravity of the situation (or lack thereof). She said, “You hated that garage door, anyway.” That made me laugh through my tears. 

I realized that this is exactly why I’m writing a book about disrupter’s and optimism. By exploring the reasons I responded the way I did, I hope to make sense of it. I can normally disrupt my own negative thoughts expeditiously. Today, on the other hand, I needed the push from the optimists around me. I needed Coach Tracey and the rest of the CrossFitters to push me and I need my wife’s perspective. The cost of fixing the garage door infuriates me, but it’s financial inconvenience. 

I didn’t exactly know what caused the eruption. So before I started shopping for new garage doors online, I took a moment to sit quietly and attempt to figure out what brought me to the breaking point. I pinpointed a few things in my life that are causing me stress and I realized that I have been doing what I typically do — processing in silence and pushing away some things that I’ve needed to confront. But pushing them away doesn’t mean they go away. Whenever I fail to confront something, it manifests in other areas of my life. Like my sleep. My cerebral overdrive causes me to wake up with no hope of getting back to sleep. I believe sleep is a superpower. I know this to be true because when I don’t get it, I find myself hanging on by a thread. And that’s what occurred today. 

The workout fail (i.e. my body letting me down) was the thing that blew open the flood gates. But the release brought me back to my center. The perspective gained from the fact that my garage door does not constitute a crisis of any real magnitude is helpful. Once I got past being pissed off at myself for spiraling, I was able to get some clarity on why that happened. 

Here are the takeaways for becoming your own disrupter so you don’t get to the place that I did:

1. Emotional Expression is Crucial: Suppressing emotions can lead to a breaking point, much like a volcano that erupts after building pressure. It’s vital to allow yourself to express feelings rather than bottling them up. Release these feelings in the way that feels best to you. Journal, exercise, sit silently, listen to music, confide in someone you trust — whatever brings you a release. 

2. Setbacks Are Part of Growth: The experience at the gym serves as a reminder that progress is not always linear and that setbacks are natural. These moments can be used as opportunities for reflection and growth, rather than as reasons for self-criticism. I’m proud of myself for how far I’ve come at CrossFit, and I need to focus on the incremental improvements I’ve see versus the one day I failed. This is true in every part of your life. Setbacks are inevitable so allow them the opportunity for a reset in your life. 

3. Support Systems are Important: The role of the supportive community at the gym and the understanding from my wife highlight how valuable it is to have people around who can offer perspective and help mitigate negative emotions. But that means you have to reveal a bit of vulnerability with those around you. Your relationships are crucial to your well being. 

Conversely, be that disrupter for someone else. When someone asks you for help, offer it. Better yet, don’t wait for them to ask. When you see someone in pain, don’t look away. I needed those people today.

4. Self-Reflection Leads to Insight: Taking time to introspect helped me identify underlying issues contributing to my stress and emotional overflow. This self-awareness is crucial for addressing the root causes of distress and for initiating change. You cannot address it if you don’t confront it. Don’t push the negative stuff away. I’m a prime example of what not to do.

5. Maintaining Perspective: The incident with the garage door, while frustrating, allowed the me to regain perspective with the help of a little humor, illustrating that sometimes, a shift in viewpoint can lighten the burden of a situation.

Overall, the lesson is about the necessity of emotional honesty with yourself, the acceptance of life’s ups and downs. It’s also about the power of community and close relationships, and the importance of maintaining perspective and humor in the face of challenges.

Take these lessons, friends. Apply them to your life. 

And honestly, I wasn’t crazy about that garage door anyway. I also want to replace the front door so maybe I’ll crash into that next.

Onward and upward.

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