I’ve recently had some great events happen in my life not only as an athlete but more importantly as a coach. Bucket lists were crossed off and athletes achieving greatness on a personal and athletic level have kept my world in a positive spin. I have been busy, how busy? Well enough to keep me worn thin but not out. I have promised myself over and over again to sit down to write but sometimes … most of the time, I just want to rest my mind.. my bones. I have had time to look upon my surroundings, my business endeavors, my connections, my family and my work. I have had time to dive deep into future ideas as a business owner but also, as an athlete. As the general population in my gym seems to get younger and younger, I often ask myself .. “What have I become?”
Now more often than not, that term is seen with a negative connotation echoing from someone at the bottom of a hole looking up. In all honesty, I myself have said in some of my darkest moments, with my brain humming quietly a NIN classic that guts the soul. But, things are different now aren’t they? Where my perspective as a young man was near sighted, I now find myself gazing at the horizon of not only my world but of others too. I see myself as a man engulfed and obsessed with the digging of his own trench rather than one saddened by the dirt on his knees. I find myself counting my battle wounds, scars and pains in a playful manner as I crack open a cold beer on a hot Sunday morning. I find myself tracing my knuckle tattoos that read “Old Wolf” not as a bitter soul but one with a heightened sense of things. What have I become?
I have recently been surrounded by greatness. I have met, seen and been surrounded by the worlds strongest men, Cancer warriors, histories greatest powerlifters and at times some of the best people I have ever met. I have seen battles won as much as I have seen battles lost with muscle and sinew tearing from bone or souls leaving earth waving goodbye for the last time. I have sat there quietly, as is not my nature, and taken my notes both observing and quietly contemplating. I find myself re-reading bills or unwanted mail not a trigger of stress but as on obstacle to use for my training. I find myself trying to fix staggering issues with my family and friends as a life long commitment to patience and the acceptance that control is and will not always be mine. I find myself sitting alone at night lost in thought and often perplexed on how and why I can repair so many lifters both in the gym and outside. I find myself reflecting on where I could repair the armor a leader has so graciously aloud to be battered, broken and shattered for the sake of others. What have I become?
I am no longer the boy searching for recognition from others but rather, mastering self confidence. As much as I have the spirit of a curious and often stubborn child, I have come to term that my soul has always and will always be aged and weathered beyond its time. I see the sport of strongman now from a different perspective, although whether its better or not is up to you to decide as my confirmation is written deep within my mind. I find myself longing for war again but with the apprehension of a youth. I find myself fearful but only because I know the power and resolution fear can create. I find myself as excited to coach as I do battered and bloody on the competitive floor. What the fuck have I become?
Take a moment. Silence your mind as best you can and listen deeply. There is a long lost whisper, ever so softy, dancing on the back of your mind crawling up and over from your heart. It’s soft at first, like a light rains first droplets tickling the edges of green spring leaves. It spins and turns lost in the winds of your mind but it’s there isn’t it. It leaves in the day time drowned out by the noises of the world but comes to you louder and louder each night. The voice does not whisper your doubt and shortcomings but instead reminds you of what you were always meant to be which for many of us is just as scary. I have listened to this voice for years and years and it continues to grow louder. I am the warrior who may never reach that mountain top because the battle sometimes is fought back, its fought side ways, its fought down and sometimes, it is fought going no where. Because the love of life, sport and courage is found by understanding who you are in this war. That battles for greatness, legacy and championships are ruthless and guttural and leave us a vulnerable mess to be witnessed. That some warriors were meant to claim the sun not by having flown straight up to catch her but instead, to have crawled their way through muck and mire, broken dreams and shattered hearts, through pain and solitude, through depression and loss. I am the man in love with the war of life, the war of Strongman, the war of leadership and the war that is being Michael De La Pava. The process of life is not merely planting the seeds to watch your trees grow but… having the will, execution and commitment of burning it to the ground to let new life grow, to let old memories die and new ones flourish. I don’t know exactly what lies ahead of me in strongman other than the absolute LOVE of fighting forward everyday and pacing myself for war again. My body is regaining its form and my bones are screaming at me with the pain of a man resolute on his goals, set in his ways with eyes locked in on the prey… step after step crushing through the stabbing ice and dirt… and that… is where I belong.
“To what service is my soul committed? Constantly ask yourself this and thoroughly examine yourself by seeing how you relate to that part called the ruling principle. Whose soul do I have now? Do I have that of a child, a youth…a tyrant, a pet, or a wild animal?”
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.11
Never Stray from The Way