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DANGEROUS GIFTS
January 8, 2004
 
Curves has doubled in size: another whole room of exercise equipment, so that nobody should have to wait in line to join the circle of pushing, pulling, dancing, marching ladies ever again. A new machine has joined the others: you lift up and push down a handle held in front of and close to your body -- sounds simple, but it's excruciating, almost as bad as The Beast, a machine with which you bear weight on your shoulders and bend slowly down at your knees until you're in a sitting position. Beast I and Beast II, I suppose: one for the upper body and one for the lower.

At Curves, the equipment is pneumatic: the amount of resistance you create against which to work your muscles is dependent on the speed at which you move. Execute a move rapidly, and the resistance goes higher, as happens with a bicycle pump. So you can choose how much weight you will lift, pull or push. It is directly proportional to the amount of effort you put in. The more resistance, the better: your muscles should work until the point of exhaustion, and then they will respond to a complex series of neurological and chemical signals initiated by their failure to meet the demand on them, and they will grow stronger.

I've always been good at exhausting myself, so the principle of muscle failure is attractive to me. Just keep going until something stops you -- perfect for someone who doesn't know how to set limits. Finally, a world in which my lifelong character flaw is a virtue.

Mostly, people gravitate toward those worlds -- we find professions that use our gifts, or in which our faults are gifts. So chefs usually love to eat. Lawyers like to argue. Firefighters like to take risks. Each of their gifts can also carry them toward excellence. But it is also true that each of them can ruin -- or even lose -- his life because of it. Some chefs are obese. Some lawyers are impossiuble to live with. Some firefighters are brave to the point of foolhardiness.

Find where you love to be and go there. Let who you are take you as far as you can go. But be careful. We're comfortable with our strengths, and so we usually try to use the equipment suitable for one endeavor in the service of another. You may be a good lawyer, but don't cross-examine your wife. If you're an accountant, don't audit your friends. You're a good teacher, but don't correct peoples' grammar if they haven't asked you to edit them. You may have lots of energy, but don't exceed what your body and spirit -- and those of the people who must live and work with you -- can handle.

Odd, that the very thing we love might be our undoing. That it shouldn't be something else. Why must my heart's delight be dangerous? Why can't it be the thing I avoid?

Who is to say? Every coin has two sides. A gift does not come without a danger. But the reverse is also true: there is no trial or danger that does not contain a gift. If you haven't found it yet, look again: it is there. Not what you might have chosen, perhaps, but a gift nonetheless.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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