The End of Days: The Beauty of Exhaustion
TODAY’S BREW: Santa’s White Christmas blend. Awwwww.
Exhaustion brings out the real you.
My Sensei, then seven time world fighting champion Mafia Holloway said this to me as he trained me for endless tournaments, including the Junior Olympics and the Olympic tryouts. I would start running sprints at six in the morning, we would have breakfast, followed by hours of drills, weight training, repeating techniques, sparring with all manner of inventive twists until my legs burned, my lungs cried, sweat pouring. Having seen the sun come up, I would train the day away into dusk. By evening, when actual karate class began, I was floored, even with considerable rest periods in the day. I often did not want to take or teach class, or spar with people who were wide awake and ready. But Sensei would always say the same thing: “The real you comes out when you’re tired. This is when you let go.”
So I would fight harder, sometimes bringing tears to my eyes, nothing more to give physically or emotionally. And I fought through it. Because my heart never tired. Exhaustion, when done correctly, is the result of having cared so much about something that you don’t think you can possibly commit more. When someone tells you that you must, even if that someone is you, this is the moment when you throw all your inhibitions to the wolves and surpass your limits.
When my father died when I was sixteen, Sensei was the one who picked me up, drove me to the dojo, and worked me. Emotion that I was too numb to feel came out in the form of shattering weight bag kicks until I was sobbing, heart breaking with every motion. I was tired in every way possible. He showed me how to make my numbness live and breathe, be something strong. Others might succumb to grief, but I would not. Because when you’re drained, there is nothing left but to fill up again.
It is for this reason that I would write into the wee hours after grueling work days, and that I get up at 5 to write prior to long days as Mama. It is for this reason that I wrote Running Home in the most challenging time of my life. It is for this reason that when I have seen the emotional bottom of my barrel, I grab that blank page and put my hand to it like a man writing his will on his deathbed. It is what I must do to make sure the real me sees the light of day. Those occasional bags under my eyes and the tears I shed even now are my battle scars showing that there is more, always more.
And I will never be too tired to fight.