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Rich enough

I read an article in the New York Times about the Zen of weight lifting.

I don’t know much about either of those topics.

The article started with a description of the author’s favorite exercise. He picks up two heavy weights and basically just walks around with them for a while. He said it was good for his core, arms, legs, and cardiovascular system. An “utterly elegant whole-body exercise.” End quote.

It’s called…wait for it… “the farmer’s carry.”

Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid.

The author went on to say that he lifted weights for two hours at a time, three days a week.

That’s funny. I know a lot of guys who lifted weights two hours a day in the morning and another two hours in the afternoon, and did it seven days a week for forty or fifty years.

It made me think about my own farmer’s carry. I raised hogs for a quarter of a century. All the young ones were fed more or less automatically, but the breeding stock needed to be fed by hand, because if adult pigs eat all they want, they become fat as, well, you know. On average, I fed them about seven pounds a day, carried in plastic buckets that held about 30 pounds, for about 200 sows. My hog feeding days are behind me now, but I’m so relieved I didn’t need to move to Manhattan and join a fancy gym in order to get the benefit of the most modern exercise regime. I worked out my own little modifications -walking on ice for balance or through muck a foot deep for the cardiovascular benefits. Simply wading through a group of 30 hungry sows would be a challenge for a ballerina.

I’d like to see them recreate that experience in a fancy Manhattan gym.

The first half of the article just gave me a chuckle, but there was more. It’s Thanksgiving this week, a time set aside to contemplate everything that causes you to be grateful. Reading the article about weightlifting gave me something to think about for the holiday. The author, Brad Stulberg, writes that his time in the gym gives him something he can’t get in his regular life. He quotes research that says people have three basic needs in order to thrive, and while he doesn’t get them in his working life, weightlifting provides them all.

And, I quote:

  • Autonomy: The ability to exert oneself independently and have control over one’s actions.

  • Mastery: A clear and ongoing path of progress that can be traced back to one’s efforts.

  • Belonging: Being part of a community, lineage or tradition that is working toward similar goals.

Who knew? All those years, I thought I was just trudging through daily chores trying to make a living and instead, I was engaging in a 25-year experiment in developing and thriving as a human being. Let’s check the boxes. Autonomy? I’ve worked with some stellar people over the years, but truthfully, I’ve spent more time alone than not, and there’s been no one telling me what to do. That means I own the triumphs, but I need to own the screwups as well.

Mastery? I’ve never mastered anything, but that’s because mastery of anything is a journey without an end. You do anything seriously for a quarter of a century, you really should get better at it, in a way that’s noticeable.

Belonging? Being part of a community, lineage, or tradition? Yeah, that one would have been hard to avoid. Farming is a 10,000-year-old tradition, and I live on the farm my great-grandparents homesteaded, which takes care of the lineage thing. As for belonging to a community, I believe most of the people who read this column have that one nailed as well.

I know I’m a lucky man, but I’ve always been pleased that nothing in my life was handed to me. Occasionally in my Thanksgiving thoughts, I’ve considered that I’m grateful that I wasn’t born lucky or rich.

Turns out I’m richer than I thought.

Copyright 2019 Brent Olson

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