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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lessons From The Gym

I'm a mutant freak. Most of you have suspected this for a long time, or at least since you started reading my books, but it's true. I have a genetic condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (Classic Type II). Don't worry if you've never heard of it most of my doctors have to look it up (not actually comforting).

In the simplest terms my body produces collagen wrong - that's the stuff that makes the connecting tissues in your body - and I'm bendy as a pretzel but have an awkward tendency to have limbs drop out of their sockets if I neglect my muscles.

Weight lifting is not a recommended activity for people born with Ehlers-Danlos because of the whole zombie-limb thing. When most people pick up something that's too heavy for them they might strain a muscle. When I try to pick up something too heavy for me I might tears my fingers, elbow, and shoulder all out of place and need to reinsert them into the proper joints. It's not a fun afternoon activity. But I have my doctor's permission and I started with itty-bitty 3pound weights. Now I'm up to ten pounds!

And then today I started hurting. It wasn't the bicep that hurt but my elbow. It felt like it was trying to rip itself free.

I put down the weight.

My friend next to me gave me a funny look. The class instructor shouted, "Challenge yourself!" The girl in front of me smiled in the mirror, flipped her hair, and toned her biceps with a 15 pound weight I'm still six months away from even trying.

I left the weight alone.

No amount of yelling, comparing, or pitying looks will make me force my body to the point of breakage. I know my limits. I know an aching joint means I'm a couple minutes away from popping bones loose and giving the class a lesson in gross anatomy. From painful experience I have learned to work at my own pace and not compare myself to someone else.

This is a lesson that translates to the rest of life quite easily: Don't Judge Yourself By What Someone Else Is Doing. Don't base your worth on what someone else is doing. Don't declare your writing career dead because you didn't publish as many books as a friend. Don't give up because someone found success today.

It's really easy to look around the gym class and see the people who have been working out for years. They have the defined muscles and perfect form that a newbie like me craves. All around in the publishing world I see authors who are being fought over by agents and selling their books at auction. But they aren't me. It seems like such a minor detail but it really is the only thing that matters.



Everyone you see is doing their own thing. They have their own goals, weaknesses, strengths, desires, and achievements. You may be striving for something similar but how they get there and how you get there are going to be different. The only way you're going to achieve your goals is by knowing yourself well enough to know your breaking point.

Know when you need to give yourself room to recover. Know when you need to challenge yourself. Know what your best is and know that some days won't be your best but you're still working and that's what matters. Know yourself, and to thine own self be true.


  1. Now if the rest of western society could catch up to that attitude, we'd have a lot less fighting (and war).

  2. I so needed this today. Thank you, thank you.

    1. *hugs* I saw some of your FB posts. I hope everything picks up for you. *hugs and more cookies*

  3. Taking care of yourself is tons more important than pushing yourself beyond your limits and suffering a setback.

    When I'm teaching someone or trying to cheer them up and they're depressed because they aren't doing as good as someone else, I point out to them that they are doing good for the stage they are at. Then I remind them that they didn't start off running but had to learn to crawl and then walk. Putting it into that perspective seems to work.

    As for the people who are smug about where they are and not sympathetic towards someone coming behind them, I remind them that they also started off not being able to do things. This results in either an apology or the person leaving us alone.

    But, yeah, as you say every person is different and has to learn at their own pace and with their own challenge levels. It's harder when you have a medical condition complicating things.

    Take care of yourself.

    1. As we say at my critique group, "Even Jim Butcher wasn't Jim Butcher Good when he started."

      Authors often make the mistake of comparing their rough draft to somebody else's fourth polished novel. They aren't even in the same ballpark let alone the same game. All that matters is that you're trying and today is a little better than yesterday. Some days, not quitting is the only thing that makes today better. :)

  4. So true and just what I need to hear.