Sharing in the Suck: Building Community (ATX)

Guest blog by: Jessica Carroll

I’ve been thinking about community lately – how we as humans are holding on to whispers of ancient tribal bonds. I recently read “Tribe” by Sebastian Junger, which dives into the idea that modern society has created isolation within the human populations that live within it. That isolation is correlated to emotional struggles, anxiety, depression, medication prescriptions, suicide, and alienation from society. Junger counters this observation with how areas immediately develop close-knit community in times of natural disaster, war, and overall shared difficult situations. The shared bond in suffering breeds a stronger unit. 

I look to the communities I am involved with and see those budding bonds in shared suffering – chosen suffering, of course. My fitness groups choose to wake before dawn. We choose to participate in more physical activity than most people see in one day before the sun comes up. We choose to freeze, sweat, laugh, yell, sometimes bleed, push, and support. We gain another inch closer to the ground in a push-up, another PR on a lap, another burpee past what we could do last week with confidence knowing that the person next to us is gaining the same. 

When I reflect on Junger’s words on groups bonding of a shared struggle, I think of our teams heading out to relay trail races – each runner’s fight to crush the trails during the daylight and night depending on the one before her. We’re covered in dirt, sweat, and disbelief at our own strength and we see the same pouring off of our teammates. It fuels something ancient, something primal within us. We won’t allow our team mates to desolate suffering – if they’re still fighting, we can still keep fighting.

A fitness community wraps arms around one another in an unspoken word of respect for the work that we all came to pour on the concrete, grass, stairs, and track. We nod to one another mid-lap, mid-lunge and know that we’re stronger because that person’s presence is the root of what got us out of bed. We’re not endeavoring alone and that accountability pushes us to heights we couldn’t see from the forest floor of doubt. 

We owe our ancestors the honor of solidly supporting our team mate in a group circle hug, throwing up more high-fives on the next lap, and don’t forget the silent nod of knowing exertion. The self-inflicted suffering of physical activity is most delicious when shared. And we can’t be satiated.

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