Lift the Heavy Stuff by Lisbeth Darsh

Lift the Heavy Stuff by Lisbeth Darsh

“Your life will not get any better if you do not lift heavy stuff.”

My friend K says this about the gym, but she means it about life too. (And she uses a four-letter word instead of the five-letter “stuff.”)

K is a One-Letter Friend, you know, the kind of friend who only needs one letter on your calendar or on text. The friend who seems to whisper in your ear even when they’re not in the same room. A One-Letter Friend will tell you what you need to hear, not just what you want to hear. Be grateful for these friends.

But K is right: your life will not get any better if you do not lift heavy stuff.  

Now, heavy is a relative term: what might be heavy for me might be light for you, and vice versa. There is no one “heavy” and there is no one “light” but that doesn’t really matter, does it? As much time and effort as we spend comparing weights and effort and people and things, it’s all kinds of ridiculous. You do your thing and let other people do theirs.

The fact in all of this is that you have to lift heavy for you if you want to improve. Heavy in the gym, yes, but you also have to do the heavy lifting in your emotional life, in your personal relationships and in your own mindset.

You can try to eat perfectly and try to work out perfectly, but the hard truth of the matter is that unless you deal with your emotional health, everything will be more difficult as you try to improve your physical being. Simply put: if you’re not happy with yourself, it’s hard to be happy with your physical appearance. So, start working on your mindset as well as your ass-set.

None of us goes through life without getting hurt. (Read “Scars.”) We are all affected by our lives, by what has happened, what transpired years ago as well as what happened to us yesterday or in the last hour. These actions have repercussions, despite our best efforts to contain the damage from whatever blast occurred.

These consequences take material form sometimes, especially if we try to eat or drink our pain. And they have consequences if we try to obsessively lift our pain or obsessively run away from our pain. As much as I wish I could tell you bourbon or push-ups (both together is a bad idea, trust me) ameliorate or at least ease the pain of living, none of them by themselves are magic elixirs or miracle cures.

What does work? Dealing with the heavy stuff, on your mind or your body or in your hands. See that word I just used? Elixir.” We’re used to hearing that word in conjunction with kombucha or smoothies or some kind of potion that someone is trying to sell us. (“The magic elixir of life!”) But “elixir” is a word of Greek origin that means “powder for drying wounds.” Think about that (and how weird our language is that we end up with a wet word out of a dry root). A powder for drying wounds. That’s exactly what you need: a powder for drying wounds. Whatever way you’re coping, you’re drying a wound.

And we all have wounds: physical and emotional. Life can be brutal, so brutal. If you really think about how hard life can be and how fragile human beings are, it’s amazing that you don’t look around at the stoplight and see every driver weeping at the wheel, tears running down their faces while the bright, peppy beats of the stereo music play on, trying to fill some void that we can never fill, no matter how hard we try, and most of us do try hard, so hard, every day. Most of us are a mess inside. Some of us just manage to don a smarter coat or laugh a little louder.

Nonetheless, we should not despair. Why? Because we have so many ways for dealing and coping and allowing life to go on in the moments when we wait for it to be sweet and wonderful again (and it will be, have faith).

As rough as life can be, we have the barbell and the trail and friends and time: these things stay with us, even when we think all is lost. (Read “For Those Who Think All Is Lost.”). So find them and use them and get through the messy stuff. Like the writer Nancy Sloan Aronie says, “We hold our pain like a precious gold charm … it leaks out venom … holding us hostage with its increasing power. You can let it kill you or you can kill it.” Don’t let it kill you.

Deal with the heavy things in your heart. Deal with the heavy things in your hands. Deal with the burden on your back. Deal with the heavy stuff in your life. Accept your burdens and then lift them, just like you do the barbell. Work towards a new body and a new soul. As the writer Roger Rosenblatt wrote, “Dissatisfied with the makeup of your old soul? Trade it in. But always trade up, and make the new one a great soul.

Do the work and rise. Find that happiness within yourself and make your life the shining example you know it can be, in the most quiet of your hearts, the one that speaks so softly only you can hear your name when it calls. But to get there, to make your life better, you must first lift heavy stuff—in your mind and with your body.

So, get started. Find a One-Letter Friend to tell you what you need to work on, and grab that barbell, too. Movement begets movement so you might as well do some deadlifts.


Close friendships are one of life’s miracles–that a few people get to know you deeply, all your messy or shadowy stuff along with the beauty and sweetness, and they still love you. Not only still love you, but love you more and more deeply. –– Anne Lamott