I recently sent an email to a friend of mine. His name is John. John is older than I am, and a dear friend. I trust him, I look up to him. He has been assisting me since the ordeal of my life, which began some 6 months ago in Williamsburg Virginia. After I read the email I sent John, I felt that this web site was the perfect place to re-post it.
I am writing you this email in violation of a promise I made to us both.
As you recall, I left a message on the phone the other day letting you know that I was not going to bring the weights up again, and that I was going to let go and simply trust God and you. But something happened last night that I need to share with you, and it has to do with something that happened to me when I was 14. But first, let me say a couple of other things.
After I sent you the email listing “my needs” last week, I was troubled. Vexed, as it were. I wrote you a second email trying to explain what was bothering me, what with my concerns of appearing spoiled and so forth and so on. And when I sent you the email I thought that was the end of it, but it wasn’t. For several days thereafter, I was just beating myself up.
I thought to myself, “how would I feel if I was one of these 2 associates of John’s, use to helping people who had “real” needs, like a home for their family, or a car, or unpaid medical bills. How would I feel about someone, if upon reading a letter of request, I got down to the end of the letter and of all things I saw….BUY ME WEIGHTS???????”
If I was a philanthropist, and someone came to me asking for some shiny new weights, I would tell them to take a hike, only I would not be so nice about it.
So, for the next 4 days I just reamed myself for being such a self-centered, spoiled rotten little bastard. I mean, how dare I? For the last 6 months of my life I have known true suffering. I was suicidal. I was homeless. I was desperate. I was hungry. I had no job. I lost all my health, and I was loved. Here I was asking for some fucking weights??? Was I mental? What was wrong with me!
And this went on for days and days, with self-doubt and self-condemnation ripping at my insides like meat-hooks shredding my intention. I just really felt like a schmuck for asking for, of all things, weights! SHEESH!
Then, last night, God dealt with me yet again, and at 4 AM. He has this thing about early time. Egad.
God took me back in time to when I was 14.
At that time, my father had been an active alcoholic for years, but he loved us (my brother and I). And in spite of his disease, he really did try to do right by us. My father was such a cool guy, John. In many ways you remind me of him. Good ways.
My dad was brilliant. He was a bit taller than you, but he was big. He was fat, too, but he was big and intimidating if he wanted to be. That said, as mean as my dad was capable of being, at times he was very kind. One of the things I remember most fondly was my fathers interest in my health. He was really interested in my CF and he did everything he could to make sure I stayed as healthy as possible. To that end, when I was 14 (I think) my dad bought me a plastic barbell set!!! My very first set of weights!!! He wanted me to get strong and stay healthy, and he felt the weights would make a good fit for me.
Well, I took to the weights like a fish takes to water. I worked out 6 - 8 hours a day. My father cautioned me that I was doing too much, but I would not listen. My muscles were getting stronger and the more I worked out the better I felt. I was in love with my weights!
Well, gaining weight that very first summer was tough. People with CF do not gain weight easily. Sometimes not at all. Most of us just do the best we can and take our lumps as they come, whatever form those lumps come in.
My dad tried everything under the sun to help me gain weight. He had me drinking concoctions that would make an alcoholic puke. I was eating 10,000 calories a day and excreting most of it. That summer I think I gained a whopping 10 lbs.. It was not much, but it was a start.
Over the next few summers, I abandoned the cement weights for real weights at the very first bodybuilding club in Virginia. It was called Body Mechanics!
Body Mechanics was a pure dungeon of a gym. Down inside the gym it smelled of sweat. It was dark, the weights were black, the equipment was pure metal and this became my new home away from home. It was heaven to me. At the gym, there was no alcohol. There, I felt safe. I felt joy. I felt welcomed. I felt like I belonged. I trained there every day. Sometimes twice a day. Of course, at the time I did not drive. I was 15 or 16. So my dad drove me to the gym and then he would meet me back at the gym a few hours later to take me home. You want to talk dedication? My father was more dedicated to my health than even I was.
Each time my dad would show up at the gym I would be waiting, covered in sweat, pumped to the max, veins bulging everywhere, sitting in the Richmond summer sun waiting for sleep to overtake me once I got into my fathers car.
That summer I grew and grew. I built a physique that was the envy of anyone I knew. I was so far ahead of CF that I felt it would never catch me. The barbells had helped me build an exterior that belied the truth, that I had a fatal illness that was killing my peers right and left and I was simply not going to let that happen to me.
Over the course of the next few summers, and into my college years at the University of Virginia, weights and strength remained a constant in my life and the training kept me healthy. My doctors marveled. My father was so pleased and proud and I was just so happy to be able to be fit and strong and healthy. My passion for strength grew along with my body, and so much so that the head strength coaches at UVa took an interest in me.
My father had managed to meet the head strength coaches and one thing led to another and before you know it I was brought into the athletic department as a go-for at the weight room. I was not a coach, but I was given the tremendous privilege of working out at the UVa athletic department under the tutelage of Bill Dunn and John Gamble (John Gamble hated me and to this day has nothing positive to say about me. I do not know why, but he just cannot stand me. I actually liked John and looked up to him. I still do. Sadly, Bill Dunn died about 10 years ago from cancer, probably the result of years of steroid use.).
So, for most of my years at UVa I enjoyed a privilege few non-athletes get to enjoy. I got to work around a rising, pre-eminent athletic program first hand, all because of my love for strength training.
My level of conditioning and devotion to wellness followed me into my adult years, into my 30’s and beyond. I had chosen not to make a living from it simply because I felt if I worked at it I would burn out. Imagine having a love for chocolate and deciding that because you love chocolate you will get a job working at a chocolate factory. How long would it be before you began to hate chocolate? Anyway, that was my reasoning. I guess that was pretty stupid reasoning, huh?
Anyway, to bring things full circle, I went from being a 115 pound, 14 year old scrawny kid, to weighing 165 pounds, and being in very good shape all the way until the year 2000, more or less. By that time I was 37 I think?? At that point in my life, things changed. My mom got sick.
When mom got sick, I moved back to Lynchburg. And yes, I brought all my weights with me, for by this time I had a home gym. I had begun piecing it together back in 1992 when I bought my Vulcan Racks from Ironmind Enterprises. That was the first of several tools I would buy from Ironmind over the years. After 12 years, I had amassed a tremendous facility. It was small, but it was good.
As for the reason I decided to train at home, it was basically because by 1990, even though I was pretty healthy, I was using inhalers a lot and I had a cough.
My chest was a bit more congested than I was use to, and some gyms have a rule that if you have a cough not to come to the gym. As I recall, my gym had that rule. Moreover, training at gyms was getting more and more costly. Additionally, I had fallen out of favor with gym management because if a small dispute. So, training at home seemed like a good option, and once I started training at home I never looked back. Training at home has been all I have ever done since 1992. But I digress.
So, back at mom’s I continued to stay strong with my weights and various tools I had collected throughout the years. Again, I was using these tools to keep CF at a comfortable distance. By now, I weighed around 160.
Well, by 2007 even more things had changed. Mom had passed away (in 2004) and Beau and I were roommates. I had my gym set up down in the basement apartment that I rented from Beau. Life was going along just fine more or less, until the fire. The fire changed everything.
To make a long story short, I had to sell all my equipment to get the money necessary to make the trip to Williamsburg, which would have never happened had the fire not taken place. The rest is somewhat history.
There is a point to all of this however. I want you to understand something here.
During the 6 months I was in Williamsburg, life (satan - whatever) stole from me everything I had worked so hard for all my life. All of my efforts to stay healthy, stay strong, were gone in a flash. The 30 pounds that I had painstakingly sweat and bled for all those years (and I do mean bled - literally) was gone. All that both my dad and I had worked so hard to achieve was taken away from me in 4 weeks. 30 pounds. Gone. Just like that. Most of it muscle.
My home? Gone.
My life? Gone.
My strength? Gone.
My stamina? Gone.
My feeling of well being? Gone.
My desire to live? Gone.
My weights? Gone.
My protection from CF? Gone.
What I did have that I did not have before was a relationship with Jesus that is closer now than it has ever been. I can truly say it was worth the price most of the time. But today, when I was talking to my friend Woody, I broke down and cried. I felt God crying with me, too. I really did. I felt God saying, “Tim, it’s OK. And yet, it’s not OK. What happened to you, this life….it’s OK to mourn. You have lost a lot.” I really felt God crying with me. Isn’t that strange?
The truth is, I have lost a lot.
I have lost so much and gained so much in such a short period of time.
John, I can’t begin to tell you how scary it is to think that I will never ever be fit again. That all of that pure lean muscle I worked so hard for is gone forever. That the miracle that was the accomplishment, something most people with CF will never achieve in a lifetime, is gone forever. That is so hard to process. It is so hard to convey how hurtful that is, how sad that is. I am speaking strictly from a human perspective.
So, last night, as I sat in bed, with God reminding me of that time 31 years ago, when I got my first barbell set, all of the sudden I realized that those silly, ridiculous weights I have asked God for are not so trite and petty after all. They have a meaning to me that would escape most people altogether. Most people would look at that desire of mine and think me a bloody fool. In fact, I felt that way about myself for most of this past week. But not any longer.
John, those weights saved my life in more ways than one. Think of it this way. Had I never touched a weight, I might never have lived past 20. Had I never touched a weight, I would most certainly have never weighed 164 pounds. And had I went into the hospital weighing 134 pounds (what I weigh now) how much would I have weighed IF I had come out alive?
90 pounds? 100 pounds, maybe?
Do you see?
Because I gained 30 pounds of muscle over the years, I had 30 pounds of muscle to sacrifice in the hospital. Yes, I lost 30 lbs. But because I weighed 164 to begin with, I still weigh 134 pounds now, which means I weigh more than I did when I first got started on this journey, but with the experience of someone who has been there and done that.
I want to try my best to regain the muscle I lost if God is willing to work with me and if it pleases Him. If it does not please Him I will find a way to adjust.
I just wanted you to know that while on the surface my request for these tools may seem spoiled, selfish and shallow, it really isn’t so selfish and shallow after all. They mean so much more to me than just their material value. They mean more to me than even I realized. Now I know why. I know myself better than I did 24 hours ago.
That does not mean I have to have my weights, it just means that my request for them goes beyond just wanting stuff. I have had a love affair of sorts with strength training over the years. In many ways, it brought me so much closer to God over the years. In many ways, it saved my life.
I hope you can understand this.
Blessings to you John.
Timothy.Tags: cystic fibrosis, friendship, health, illness, strength, weights