How do you give word to something so powerful it’s beyond words? I have several gratitudes that begin with that sentiment. My most profound one I shall save for last. But this first I have, didn’t really bear its fruit until years after the hard work had been put in.
I was a know-nothing college freshman looking for a place to belong when I showed up at Thursday night meeting. There was a VHS hype video of women in rowing shells put to music and a buzz of energy in the air.
The years on the women’s rowing team at The Ohio State University were mostly thankless. The sport has few races in a year and you could take 2,000 practice strokes for every race stroke. There was just so much work. And all of it was hard. I remember our weight room workouts would have you doing 200 reps to simulate a race duration. So while we were pouring sweat down our elbows repping out 200 bench pulls the golfers would walk the indoor track with their golf bags clacking every step of the way BECAUSE THAT WAS THEIR WORKOUT. Freaking golfers. Sissies.
My hands bled. My back seized. My shoulder tore. My lungs burned. One time I went out so hard on the rowing machine for so long, I vomited on myself & lost my vision, entering full delirium. Everyone else knew not to start out so hard. That was embarrassing. So was crying at practice all the time. I’ve learned I cry at pinnacle experiences- joy, sorrow, beauty, etc. It’s still not normal though.
All of those experiences were alongside my crew. As the years after graduation passed, some of us have found each other, and chosen each other again and again. We all knew each other when we were hopeful and foolish.
As the years have become decades, these women are like home to me.
My rowers are a safe place where I’m understood. I can share my wild spiritual adventures with Jesus and find wisdom in their experiences enduring suffering. I can speak of my latest foster care wounds and be understood by those who have navigated these paths ahead of me parenting special needs or responding first to profound community trauma. I am deeply loved here. I am appreciated for who I am. I am encouraged and affirmed in this sisterhood. They are so intelligent, accomplished, and overcoming. They are so impressive to me. And they love first. Always love.