THE PRODIGAL ATHLETE
By: Lauren Anderson
I recently commented on a friend’s YouTube channel referencing an inside joke we had about the “Prodigal Son”.
Mere moments of the comment living online and whamo! I got internet trolled by some self-proclaimed biblical parable “expert” white guy, telling me that I should “look up that story, cause I was referencing it wrong.” Or something like that.
I laughed it off and dropped it—for the most part. Because he was wrong and there’s no use spending my energy on that. But dammit! I am a professional joke writer! If I’m going to reference something as well-known as the Prodigal Son story– you can bet I’m gonna make sure that I know what the hell I’m talking about first.
The problem then, with that troll, is he didn’t understand the joke I was making.
Therefore I AM THE ONE WHO MUST BE WRONG? What was I thinking? How dare I attempt attempt subtle humor on the internet?! (please apply a healthy dose of sarcasm to the sentences above.)
So before I get into this blog post today– I just want to lay it out here REALLY CLEAR.
I am well versed in the Prodigal Son parable. I know what I’m talking about. No, my focus was not biblical studies. But yes, I can read english and have a college degree.
(And I can’t believe I felt the need to waste all our time with that disclaimer. Can you hear my low-level groan of disgust from where you are? How bout now? Now?)
For those of us that didn’t take over ten years of confirmation classes like me, allow me to give the quick and dirty version of the parable. It goes like this:
There is a wealthy father with two sons. The youngest son didn’t want to wait for his father to die for his inheritance, so he asked his pop for it now. To everyone’s surprise (especially the older brother) the dad said “SURE!” and handed it over. Then with cash in hand, the young son went away and blew it all on lavish and extravagant living.
*Hence the word “prodigal” which means “reckless use of money and/or resources”.
So, long story long– the kid f*cked up.
Not knowing what to do– especially after finding out he was really bad at pig farming– the kid was destitute by his own bad budgeting. So the youngest returned to the father and older bro. He begged to be taken in as a servant– anything to save him from the pigs and himself. And again to everyone’s surprise (especially the older brother) the father welcomed him back with open arms.
The older brother was like, “WTF Dad? I’ve been here this whole time, being good and not blowing my money. And you just forgive him like that?”
And then the Dad gives his eldest son a lesson in redemption. He says, (and I’m paraphrasing OBVIOUSLY) “You have always been here, so you get it. You know what’s up. And all that I have is yours and always will be. But he was lost and now is found.”
And bam! That’s the story. If you are like that troll and don’t trust my version, you can visit Wikipedia or any number of other sources written by white men… and get pretty much the same story.
(Can you tell I’m still a bit peeved? Haha.)
Ahem… I digress.
I am not religious, but I like this tale. Because god-stuff aside, it’s a story about forgiveness and redemption. It’s a story about welcoming those who have been lost back home again. Something I think I always could use more work on doing myself.
My sister works with a lot of people with severe drug and mental difficulties. She says that often the reason that people can’t stay sober is that by the time they are ready for change, they’ve burned too many bridges. They have no where left to go once they are trying to stay clean. And rightly so, but still… What if they were welcomed home instead?
So why did I just go on and on about it for this post today?
Well, I have been feeling a lot like the younger son lately.
I was given many many gifts by Solcana. Gifts too numerous to list here. If you’ve followed this blog, then maybe you get the idea. I know it’s just a gym. But to me, it’s so much more. It’s community and passion and inspiration. It’s meditative. It’s strength and strength in numbers. It’s literally changed how I view myself in the world.
Eventually, I started to feel strong and ready to take on some other things hiding out beneath my need to reconnect with my body. And the work I did at Solcana gave me the confidence and the new room to take that on.
So off to therapy I went. Where I have been intensely focused for the last 6 months.
It has been deep, and changed me on a FUNDAMENTAL LEVEL. And I am grateful for the work I’ve been doing there. But it has also taken me farther away from the gym than I hoped. Due to sheer mental exhaustion. A total break down and rebuild of the way my thoughts are put together.
Like I’ve been working out the muscle that works out the muscles. The motherboard. MY BRAIN.
My trips to the gym became less frequent, but I knew it was for a reason. I knew that was the way it had to be for awhile. I knew I needed to focus somewhere else. And I knew Solcana, just like that father in the story, would welcome me back with open arms when I was ready.
So cut to Monday. The day after completing a challenge about telling my story up on it’s feet to theaters full of strangers… and officially closing a chapter on my life in the best damn way possible. I was planning on making my return to the gym. I was ready!
Then the guilt set in.
I’ve been gone so long. They’re gonna be mad at me. They’re gonna think I don’t belong anymore. I’m gonna be out of shape again. It’s gonna be hard. I might embarrass myself… and so on and so forth.
All that second-guessing and the thoughts that keep me from saying “yes” set in with a vengeance.
And so I didn’t go.
And then I felt horrible. I was like, “Oh no! What’s happening here? That old familiar feeling of inadequacy is back. And the worst part is, it’s all in my head! No one, and I mean NO ONE, said anything remotely close to what I was saying to myself.
In fact, if I’ve heard anything, it was “I miss you! COME BACK.” Or even, “We’re here when you’re ready.” Beautiful right?
So what’s up? Why now? Why this?
Well, I think it’s similar to what that young son in the story felt. Shame in squandering the gifts I was given. Even though, in my case it was necessary for me to leave for a while.
And if I dive back into the parable, maybe it was necessary for the young son to leave too? So he could make his own mistakes, so he could fully appreciate how good he had it?
It reminds me of that quote by Kahlil Gibran. It goes, “And ever has it been said, that love knows not it’s own depth until the hour of separation.” And after being away and “otherly” focused, my path back to the gym is clear.
I WANT IT.
My only obstacle is releasing my shame, and daring to ask for/go after what I want.
I am reminded about something my friend Heather said to me offhandedly the other day. We were talking about being spread thin, but still showing up for the things we care about.
I said, “I’m so tired, but I’m still glad that I went.”
And she goes, “Yeah, I never regret going. I only regret missing out.”
And she’s right.
If that son never returned to his father, he wouldn’t have known the depth of his father’s love. If I never returned to the gym because of shame of being away for so long, then I will never know the rest of my story. And there is a lot left in this story, my friends. I know it.
I have yet to explore all the places I don’t even know exist yet.
So, here I go again, hat in hand. And the Prodigal Athlete returns.