“This won’t be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do,” he yells to a room full of shaking knees and fast-beating hearts.
To a room full of pumpers. Sitters. Standers. Pedaling, Pedaling to cross the finish line we’ve traced out in our heads.
“And if this is the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do– well then, good for you. But I can promise that there is going to be plenty harder in life.”
We’re revving. Breathing heavy. Wanting to scream. Sweating. High on adrenaline. Junkies.
“Much harder than this moment.”
Pushing. Pouring. Thighs collapsing. One pedal swing away from bursting free. Whatever free means to each of us. Strangers spinning. Spinning strangers.
“So take it and give it everything.”
It’s that moment. That moment of pure, real, truth: I want to quit this. I want to quit this so bad. I don’t want to pedal. I don’t want to move. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts.
And suddenly you are remembering those Harder Things in life. The Hardest Things We’ve Ever Had To Do. And you cannot help shift your hazels from seat to seat–wondering, wondering, “What did it look like for you?”
When that Hardest Thing came… did you crawl? Did you cry? Did you curl into a ball?
Did you stumble? Did you shake? And tell me, did you ache?
You don’t know a single person in that spin class. You’ve never laughed together. Nor shared a drink. And maybe because it is always about the going.
Moving. Hurling into the gym. Throwing down a water bottle as a place holder. Changing. Quickly. Wiping the lipstick off your face. Pulling your hair into a bun. Quickly, quickly. Before saddling onto the bike and spinning. Faster. Faster. Going somewhere but you don’t know where. Away. Away. Where no one can ask you, “Have you had the exit strategy planned all along?”
Panting. Panting. As he tells you to get up & up & down then up. It burns. Your legs tremble as if they are the forefathers of Overload.
And yet your mind keeps racing back to chocolate cake.
And the Hardest Things that we’ve crawled out from all around the room.
Maybe there is more in common with the Spinning Strangers than you think.
The way your mother ordered it from the big glass holder of desserts. She knew your heart was broken. She knew it was one of the Harder Days. The Harder Nights. The Harder Things.
You keep thinking back to the Hardest Things. Pedal, pedal. The Hardest Things You’ve Had to Do. Sprint, sprint. The Car Doors You’ve Had to Slam. Up. Down. Up. Down. The Last Words You’ve Had to Speak.
And you mean to say, to tell me, that others have felt it too? Others strapped tight into pedals with neon spandex peeking out from beneath track shorts. They’ve had their Harder Things too?
And all this… well, all of this time you thought you’d made a mistake. To break the heart. To shut the door. To fall apart. Those mistakes sat in piles like the old subscriptions of Vogue that flopped over one another on the floor by the bed.
“Twas’ you, twas’ you,” the Hardest Thing tried to convince you. “Twas’ all your fault for the broken heart.”
When really… really… perhaps the biggest mistake was thinking you were alone when all of it crumbled. When the Hardest Thing Came to Stay Beneath your Chunky Sweater. Came to Try To Tell You, “Sister, You Aint Strong Enough.” And a HA HA HA. The Hardest Thing trying to spit laugh in your face.
Maybe that was the mistake. The Aloneness You Thought Existed. That was the mistake.
It was never the breaking of the heart, the shutting of the door, nor the falling apart, so much as it was the foolish small thinking you carried when you thought you were Alone in all of it.
Darling, there were mothers. Sisters. Friends. Girls waiting with car keys in hands to rush you to a coffee shop. Ready to wash away your pain with sweet laughter and Michael Buble.
And didn’t they pull you back together? Didn’t you learn it would all be ok?
Harder things, yes, I’ll assure you right now that there’s bound to be Harder Things than this. Bigger Climbs. More Miley Cyrus jargon about mountains and uphill battles.
But don’t forget to look around. When you’ve got that Quitting Feeling all up in your chest. Look all around you. Be it strangers spinning or best friends with car keys already outstretched, you are not so alone as you think you are.
In the speeding, the going, the getting, the moving, the pulsing, the paining like the window panes of car doors you once clutched all your courage just to shut, there.. are.. others.. who have been there before.
Others… who refuse to let you do it alone. Others… who will stand by the finish lines you’ve marked in your head. Others… who are ready to say straight into the faces of the Hardest Things, “Do your worst. But I’m not leaving her side.”