When the Universe Knocks…

There are two ways I know when the universe is asking me to pay attention to something:

  • The same comments/feedback/messages come to me again and again from people, places, and things.
  • Despite all my best efforts, my focus is brought repeatedly to an idea or thought process, usually one I’ve been trying to avoid or deign.

Let me back up and tell a story.


Last month, I began group weightlifting training led by a bodybuilding pro. In my first session, it became abundantly clear that I was the weakest weakling in the group. Many of the women in the class had been taking the session for years, or were frequent gym goers with muscle tone. I on the other hand, visit the gym sporadically and sport zero musculature.


My subpar strength showed itself most obviously during arm exercises, where I could barely do a regular pushup or bench anything even half of what the other women could lift.


Sure it was frustrating. When you leave a machine and the person behind you pulls the pin out of the weights and re-inserts it 85 weight bricks below your hard-to-manage, just-lifted weight, it stings.


I really didn’t let it get to me though and that’s the truth. I mean, I accepted that it would take me awhile to build up muscle and stamina. I knew it would be awhile before I would not die during tricep dips.


Still, I wanted to progress. I’d been taking twice-a-week strength-building classes for a month, and I thought I should be adding weight by now.


Apparently, the trainer agreed. When I asked what I “should” be pressing on the tricep machine, she asked the rest of the group what they do and when the answer came back 65-70 pounds, I about melted into a gelatinous fat puddle right there. I’d heard from a bodybuilder friend that it was recommended you advance weight by 5% every six weeks, and 65 pounds represented a more than 40% increase over my pansy norm, so I wasn’t sure that increase would work for me.


As I contemplated, the trainer said something like, “You build muscle by pushing yourself,” and “Most of the time, doing it is just a state of mind.” I knew both those statements were true, yet I wondered if “pushing myself,” would also mean “broken muscles.” Either way, so be it. This trainer is very focused on proper form and lifting safely, so I figured she must think I could do it.


And yet. The way she delivered those statements and the emphasis she put on certain words, suggested to me that she also believed a) I wasn’t pushing myself usually; and 2) I was choosing not to lift more. Because “a” can be true sometimes, I thought she knew something I didn’t and so I put the pin into 65 pounds. And my muscles broke.


I very nearly couldn’t operate the machine, but now I was irritated and close to pissed, and I wanted to show that I didn’t back down and that I had the right state of mind.


After dying, I walked to the next machine and upped the freaking weight from my norm, and again could barely lift. At that point, the trainer told me that if the weight is so high that I can’t do the exercise properly, I needed to adjust the pounds.


I then proceeded to passive-aggressively mutter something like, “Do you want me to put the weight up or the weight down? I thought this was state of mind,” and other things four-year-olds say when they’re upset.


I left the gym still mad and concluded that what I didn’t like about the whole thing was the alleged implication that I wasn’t pushing myself and my state of mind sucked.


That possibly imagined implication bothered me so because I wondered if they were true not just for weightlifting, but for my life, and I wondered this because I suspect there’s some truth in those statements.


“Is my state of mind why I’m not a millionaire?”

“Is my not pushing myself why I haven’t finished writing a book yet?”


It’s how you see people react the strongest to comments that they feel are somehow true about them. For me, it goes something like,


“Oh Debbie, you’re so blonde.”


(Wait. Am I blonde?)


It’s as if the universe is getting you to pay attention to the things you need to change, or not change, or acknowledge, or know.


For further instance, lately I’ve been plagued by noticing people who really push themselves and say things like “If you hustle, you’ll make things happen for yourself!” and “Focus and work the plan.”


Real go-getters like this and I don’t get along and never have, which says more about me than them. Yet, I see them everywhere and am bombarded with their “just go for it” messages, which I’ve deduced is the universe talking to me and getting me to push myself.


The truth is these people make me angry – another glaring clue that I probably need to learn something from them – because their focus tends to eclipse everything but the BLINKING GOAL IN FRONT OF THEM. And look, I know that’s probably good and why they meet goals, but does being focused and working the plan also mean you dismiss everything and everyone around you that doesn’t fit the MAKE IT HAPPEN mold?


I’ve been to a few conferences dedicated to GOING FOR IT and I really felt out of place. If what you say or what you do is not purposeful or devoted to how you can make more money and take over the world, you are viewed as frivolous and not invited to future conferences and then you just feel bad. Again, because you dimly grasp that you are probably not a JUST DO IT person and have no business fraternizing with DOING IT people.


It’s just that do the DO IT people need to be so smug about their less-DOING-IT brethren?


That’s neither here nor there.


Where this whole thing dovetails for me is that I probably DO need to DO more to be a better person, and progress in life, and make things happen for myself, but where I am on my road, maybe a 5% increase every four weeks IS pushing it and going for it and upping the ante by more than 40% in a month isn’t in your muscles, which doesn’t mean you don’t want it to be; it’s just that you’re working on it.


I may not be decoding the universe’s message properly, but I’ll keep my ears open, and next month when I’m 5% smarter, I’ll try again.


Because I may not push big, but my trying is large.


3 thoughts on “When the Universe Knocks…

  1. You really get into the nitty-gritty here. I enjoyed reading your post.
    I think it’s I important to touch on a related issue: intentions.
    I prefer to give the benefit of a doubt when interpreting peoples intentions when they give advice…whether it’s about tips that help oneself ‘push harder’ to attain goals- or be it advice to ‘slow down and smell the coffee’ because life is not about pushing for goals to the point of missing the smaller, sweet aspects that are all around us and help the mind rest.
    I can’t push to be more creative ( it doesn’t work that way for me)… But I am admittedly a slacker to the point of wondering if I have ADD.
    When I am focused on achieving- I am laser focused- almost to a fault. So- I welcome other peoples perspectives, it’s refreshing to see oneself thru others eyes. And you need a tough skin to do that ;)
    The guy who left those super heavy weights on the bar at your gym- he’s a flat out jerk. And sometimes people are just that, too.
    Ignore them- save your energy and be glad you are not that way.


  2. Have I told you that I recently became a dog trainer? I mean, I’ve been working on it a long time but I only recently completed a phase of my training that allows me to actually train dogs and their people. One of the most valuable things I learned applies to all kinds of animals, even humans. I don’t get to choose what feels punishing to someone else. What’s easy breezy to me may feel terribly difficult to my next door neighbor. By the same token NOBODY else gets to say what feels punishing to me. Or to you. And you can tell them I said so.

  3. This is so perfect, as are you. I have been spinning (not in a class, of course) and stuck. I’ve been all worky worky one paragraph at a time and then BAM. Nothing. Now what? Another paragraph? WHY? HOW? WHEN? Or just chalk up another mark on the scorecard of what didn’t happen and who cares why. What to do about this? What do do about LIFE? One pound more or less? One more word in front of the other? What about the goal? What about it’s supposed to be about the journey? The present moment? Because I DON’T KNOW. I’m just here. One minute I’m all JUST DO IT. The next minute I’m all DO WHAT? And exactly WHEN will I have time to do the WHATEVER it is that I don’t know to do? Because I DON’T KNOW.

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