Life: The Unknown and Unknowable at High Intensity – But Is It CrossFit?

This past week Reebok sent me to the Netherlands to compete in the Lowlands Throwdown. It was also the worst week of my life. Perhaps life is more like CrossFit than I realized.

What a week this has been. It has been quite the roller coaster and I am still trying to come to terms with a great deal of what has happened. Reebok sponsored my trip to the Netherlands where I participated in the the Lowlands Throwdown and attempted to retain my title for the fourth time in a row. Although I did not prolong my title, I am happy to have finished on the podium considering both the two months of injury I have had to deal with since the CrossFit Games and my current state of mind.

This was also one of the worst weeks of my life. I arrived in the Netherlands, expecting to go home and see the person I have been married to for eight years, only to be told via e-mail that he would not be seeing or speaking to me again. He ran from our home, and to make matters worse, it turns out he took women there. How am I with this? I go from sad, to angry, to indifferent. Thankfully, there were also moments when I was able to move away from his actions and see them for what they were – his reality and not a definition of me.

This morning, I sat at the airport drinking coffee with two of my best friends, feeling like a complete failure. Then, my friend Jo offered to me that this past weekend wasn’t just about competing, but about taking CrossFit to other parts of my life.

If years ago anyone told me, a cum laude graduate with an LLB in international criminal law, that I’d be making a living through CrossFit, I would have laughed. What started as a hobby became what I affectionately call “a hobby gone wrong.” But what Jo meant went beyond training, coaching, and competing. She pointed out that CrossFit is “constantly varied, high intensity.” Its goal “…to forge a broad, general, and inclusive fitness.” To prepare people “not only for the unknown but the unknowable.”

Isn’t life is about forging an elite spiritual being, too? Surely it can’t just be all about lifting weights and running faster? And just like exercising, does life not need to get uncomfortable before the body adapts? When do we really ever know what happens next?

The unknown and unknowable happened. What was supposed to have been a simple ascending ladder has included some gnarly descends. At work, I hated the courts and their politics, and as I got lost in my world, trying to establish who I was and what I wanted to do with my professional life, at home things slowly fell apart.

Carla Nunes da Costa, crossfit games, lowlands throwdown, crossfit and lifeMaybe I am simply projecting. Maybe this is nothing but my own opinion based on my beliefs, my own ego, and my dreams. I don’t know. In fact, I do not seem to know anything these days. Second guessing myself has become quite the hobby. The truth is in those years I often felt like I was the one keeping the relationship afloat. “Show me the athlete, the happy person, the go-getter, the social butterfly and I will love you forever.” Maybe it was just me. I could love me forever as long as I showed that part of me. When I got lost along the way, I felt like I got hit on the knuckles time and time again, and I understood my partner’s behavior to mean, “I don’t want to see the insecure, scared, scarred, and lost side of you. Keep it out of my sight because I cannot deal.” Wait, no – he actually did say that.

Perhaps this should have been a sign I chose the wrong person. Perhaps I should have questioned what I was not acknowledging or embracing in me. I did not have such insights, and I had yet to develop the necessary emotional or spiritual muscles.

I have also learnt that to what degree I soar or dive in my ups and downs, depends on how important the matter is to my ego and how hard it tries to hold on to what should be, instead of accepting what is. Sounds so easy, but undoing years of bad programming is hard. It takes courage, patience, and persistence. Have you tried to fix a snatch full of bad habits? 

So instead of running, I stayed. I tried to make the best of it and understand what it all meant. I did not want life teach me the same lesson again. In hindsight, maybe I was so trained in emotional abuse and feeling rejected at a young age that I became my worst enemy and accepted that someone would do it to me too. I haven’t a clue. Why did it feel like we were all of a sudden speaking in different languages, when all I wanted was to touch this person and somehow translate the love I felt for him in my perhaps less than elegant ways?

Life has led me to question the meaning of loving someone. Did I love? Do I even know how? Doesn’t one have to love oneself first? And what happens when I don’t want to acknowledge that side of me that I was trained to see as unacceptable? When did this kid learn she wasn’t good enough or worthy of choosing herself and taking care of herself? When did it become okay not to cuddle her own inner child, to hold on to her lovingly while she throws a tantrum? When did it become okay to smack tht child into silence?

Carla Nunes da Costa, crossfit games, lowlands throwdown, crossfit and lifeWhen it comes to others, doesn’t love mean we accept that we have different sides? That we chose to love both the good and the bad of that person we share our life with? And although we cannot fix another, we are still there while they walk through their own “valley of the shadow of death” during life’s many episodes? Or are we simply alone in this world and occasionally cross paths?

What I do know is that it is in life just like it is in training. I started off with basic baby skills. I now can take care of myself and even attempt skilled movements for speed. So if developing from baby to adult is the most normal thing in the world, why is it that experiences necessary to make me grow spiritually and emotionally cause such resistance? Why is it okay to accept that while training hurts, it is necessary to get results, but when it comes to changes in life, all I want to do is run away from the pain, from me, from the steps needed to develop into a better athlete at life? Why don’t I embrace the suck in the same way I embrace it when the competition starts? Why can’t I take this experience and look at it with the curiosity of a child excited to see what the magician will pull out of the hat? Why does this particular training fill me with horror?

Why does the unknown and unknowable in life and the high intensity of it cause such fear and pain? I understand everything has a purpose and I am supposed to be learning, but damn this hurts. Could we stop the world so I can get out? But then again, how would I strengthen my spiritual muscles if I didn’t put in the work? In training, does skipping progression not lead to injuries more often than not? Why would it be otherwise in other parts of life?

In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a piece that made me stop and think about things to come:

…If I love myself I will express that love in my interactions with you and then I am being impeccable with the word because that action will produce a like reaction. If I love you, then you will love me. If I insult you, you will insult me…being impeccable with your word… means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself.

My intention is to do just that – to recognize that someone’s behavior is on them, just like my choices are on me. I am aware I made many mistakes and I intend to work on forgiving myself because I did not know any better. On this path to enlightenment, if you may, my next challenge will be to remove myself from this situation as gracefully as I can. Come to think of it, maybe I am simply angry at the fact that I for a second chose to believe someone else’s actions are a reflection of me.

Carla Nunes da Costa, crossfit games, lowlands throwdown, crossfit and lifeMy own WOD will be called, “Don’t take things personally.” I am not sure if it will be an AMRAP or for time. Don Miguel Ruiz wrote, “What others say and do is a projection of their own reality…when you are immune to the opinions and actions of others you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” I want that to be my reality, my truth. To you, who are obviously in your own pain and feeling the need to cause me pain, I say that I wish we had taken the opportunity to face this as a team WOD, a challenge where we’d get out stronger when they called out, “Time!”

Will I succeed? I don’t know, just like I did not know whether I would make a complete fool of myself at the CrossFit Games this year, being a complete newbie. All I know is that I went to the Netherlands, I got badly hurt, but I didn’t die. I still cast aside the self doubts, my mind’s incessant chatter of defeat and clawed my way to the podium.

Mostly I believe that if this past weekend I was able to rely on existing strength and skills to get myself a podium position, when in theory I should not have been able to do so, I can also rely on all the events in my life that have led me here – the stuff that made me the 37-year-old version of Carla Nunes da Costa. And I can have faith that although it may not feel this way now, I too have developed skills along the way that will help me through this painful episode of my life.

3,2,1, go!

Photos 1&4 courtesy of BoxRox.

Photos 2&3 courtesy of Nico de Waard.

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