Pumpin’ Iron

There’s been a lot of heavy lifting going on around me lately. My mom moved houses and after an exhausting 72-hour marathon of pack and haul and pack and haul, I was about ready to put marinara sauce on my noodle arms.

She moved the weekend of the presidential inauguration and the Women’s March—it was funny to think of Obama moving from the White House as we were moving from our house (a very small brick bungalow, sans-Oval Office, but still). I was bummed that I couldn’t march with my fellow brothers and sisters in downtown Indianapolis, while people everywhere across the world lifted each other up. While I carried heavy boxes, strangers carried burdens as they marched through cities nationwide. While we were lifting our belongings into trucks, my friends in Milwaukee lifted the dignity of those whose arms are being tied behind their backs, whose hearts grow heavier as they’re crushed by the unwelcome mat.

There must be a lot of sore arms in this country. That’s a good thing.

After most of our belongings were moved into the new house, I was sitting at my kitchen table at home listening to the deliverymen grunting as they carried a washer and dryer into our new house. I felt bad that I was uselessly sitting there, so I busied myself with making brownies and texted my sister in a fit of unnecessary worry. She reassured me that heavy lifting was their job. They’re fine. She also probably called me stupid.

It got me thinking, as I’ve witnessed people marching, holding signs, calling senators, offering support, and engaging in meaningful conversation, isn’t heavy lifting all of our jobs? Shouldn’t we all be lifting each other up?


My friends at the Women’s March in Milwaukee. (Also not my photo–one of my sweet friends took it but I regrettably have no idea who.)

After a weekend of carrying boxes the weight of small eight-year-olds, I felt profoundly strong. There’s something powerful and emotional about packing all of your belongings—donating half of them along the way because why do I still own my grubby Converse low tops from eighth grade—and planting new seeds in a new neighborhood. You might find yourself playing “Closer to Love” by Mat Kearney over and over again in the car as you transport your grandmother’s china set down Meridian. You might catch a glimpse of the skyline—even when you’re miles north of it—reassuring you that your zip code might change but your original home turf doesn’t.

With raw hands from packing and carrying cardboard, I picked up Small Victories by Anne Lamott and stumbled upon an excerpt that I underlined a long time ago:

“The welcome book would have taught us that power and signs of status can’t save us, that welcome—both offering and receiving—is our safety. Various chapters and verses of this book would remind us that we are wanted and even occasionally delighted in, despite the unfortunate truth that we are greedy-grabby, self-referential, indulgent, overly judgmental, and often hysterical.”

Anne goes on to say that this book of welcome isn’t written yet—that we have to write it ourselves. Luckily I was sitting in my bed because reading these timely, relevant words made me a little weak in the knees.

Whether we’re lifting our pens to write the book of welcome, lifting spirits, lifting dignity, or lifting washers and dryers, I pray that our arms grow strong but stay soft enough to embrace each other tenderly.

Better start doing some more pushups, huh? (After all, just because Mrs. Obama isn’t in the White House anymore doesn’t mean she isn’t our bicep queen.)

(Also here’s a song to lift to.)