“Time is the fire in which we burn.” – Gene Roddenberry
Monday we did overhead squats. Ninety-six of them total, broken up into four sets of 24. The rest of the WOD was muscle-up transitions and 36″ box jumps. When I got into the groove of my OHS, it became fluid but as the reps mounted so did the burn. And as it began to build in my shoulders and quads, I fought the urge to give in and put the bar down, knowing that it would retreat as soon as the weight was dropped. Instead, I persisted farther into the burn.
By the fourth round, my shoulders were on fire but I let it rage, allowing the pain and the rush it brought, feeding on the intensity of the flames in my limbs. As I finished the reps, I set the weight down and the burn relented, dissipating slowly when the bar finally touched the ground. And as much as I was relieved, I know that I could not only withstand the burn, but that staying inside it would make me stronger for the next time and not just in my fibrous muscles, but in my mind. Those are controlled burns. They burn down to build up. They are deliberate, prescribed burns… these burns we must ignite.
The necessary burn… the tear of the palm on the bar, or the sting hours later when the same tear encounters hot water or soap, a scathing reminder in the form of an ancillary sting. But these burns are inevitable and the sting is okay, because as the tender skin repairs,the burn actually means that it is healing, and with it brings a callous, a tougher, protective perimeter. These burns we must embrace to get stronger.
The deliberate burn… the words we hurl in anger, the things we do to one another in selfishness and cruelty, the pain we inflict because we can as we advance or retreat after the fires have been set. The bridges between the places and people we know that cannot be rebuilt that leave chasms and displacement, loneliness and loss. We aren’t left unmarked by these burns we inflict. The residue left behind is thick like smoke in our soul. And we are never the same, though appearances may be. These burns we must take ownership from so we can become better.
The unintentional burn…of time wasted, of relationships lost, of things we didn’t realize what they meant when we had them, and the permanence of those burns leave a mark that can’t be seen but are felt deeply in places we rarely venture, because of the sting that is found when we arrive. The pain of what is no longer of what will never be recovered almost more unbearable than the scars or blisters that rise on our skin. These burns will make us wiser.
Maybe the worst is the complete and all-consuming burn…the one that finds us unaware that changes everything in an instant. The sudden white hotness that destroys everything, flames rising until there is nothing left to burn for fuel. The ashes, the carnage left behind – the losses we are forced to face and the sting that won’t cease easily. Those burns will linger far longer than the rest because of their completeness and can leave a permanent reminder of it’s devastation. They are hard lessons to learn. These burns we must survive.
Various caustic forces in our lives are to blame, sometimes they are of our own making, but whether we ignite the flame, embrace the lessons from the pain, or just survive the carnage we cannot avoid the burn. And the unique pain is not easily forgotten, nor should it be. But even if the burn is of every bridge back to the familiar or with someplace or someone once meaningful or if the burn is of our very selves and reduces us to nothing but ashes, seething and blazing until it appears all is lost…
There are reasons to burn.
It may not be the end of something…
It may not be something we mourn as a loss…
It may mean that there is something greater, just waiting to emerge. Ask the Phoenix.