I’m a health and wellness coach. It’s something I genuinely enjoy—the prospect of helping people take care of themselves. Helping people realize not only their fitness and nutrition goals, but the emotional payoff that comes with knowing that they matter. They may have kids, they may have a spouse, they may have a busy, important job, but they themselves, matter.
Our team often poses the question to one another, “What is your ‘why?’” Why do we do what we do? What drives us forward as health and wellness coaches? Here’s the thing, friends…I’m great at sharing my journey, but I’m downright terrible at being brutally honest about the daily realities of my life. The battles I have with myself inside, and my real reasons why it matters so much to me that people take care of themselves.
A long time ago, I learned to put on my brave face and go with things. That’s not to say I wasn’t cringing inside, that every ounce of me didn’t want to scream and yell and punch walls; I just never wanted Kenny, or our kids, to see me scared. I felt strongly they needed to see strength. The thing about creating that hard exterior, though, is that once it’s up, it’s really difficult to melt off again. I’m exceptionally guarded. I have walls up that I find it near impossible to break down. When things go wrong, I have a tendency to blame myself and build that wall even higher.
I don’t enjoy appearing weak, ever. I don’t want the “poor you” look people give when they hear that you’re having a tough time, I don’t love anyone thinking I need anything, because damnit I’m strong; but the honest to God’s truth is that some days, I really just need a big fucking hug. You know, the kind where someone squeezes you until you finally relax into it and the tears roll out. Yeah, I could use one of those hugs sometimes. The truth is that I still have a lot to figure out about life after Kenny, and one of those things is how to let myself be a real “human” again, and not a stoic, sword wielding statue. Which is why, today, I’ve chosen to be as open as I can about my “why,” as uncomfortable and unnatural as it may feel to me.
Why? *Because seeing a young, amazing, brilliant human die from cancer at 35 was fucking miserable. I will never know if Kenny’s cancer was preventable. I will never know if treating ourselves better when we were younger would have changed anything. But if scientific study about fitness and nutrition has taught us anything, it’s that how we treat our bodies matters. What we put in it, what we put on it, whether or not we stay active the way we should; all of that makes a difference. Not only in the name of disease prevention, but in giving yourself better odds should you become sick or injured. It’s my personal belief that you should be preparing your body and mind for battle at all times.
Why? *Because I, myself, have a high risk of cancer, and I’d really like to stick around…
Earlier this year I found out I have a 40% risk of developing breast cancer. The average woman’s risk is 11%, so you can imagine my disappointment with those odds. I’ve already taken some preventative measures; I also get scans every six months. I’m constantly terrified of leaving these kids orphans before adulthood; not to mention my concern for their risks of developing something. When most people are asking doctors about eating habits and potty training tactics, I talk to my kids’ pediatrician about therapists, genetic mutations and DNA testing (Cam starts her genetic testing next year when she turns ten). I’m grateful that thus far, they’re all healthy little monkeys, but as a mom all on her own, these things weigh on me. Being a role model for staying active and eating well is literally all I can do to help their odds, and mine.
Why? *Because my life is hard and here’s the reality…
On every level you could ever imagine…I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted of being a single mom, of going to bed alone every night, of handling three kids and having no one to commiserate with, ever. I’m tired of being/feeling left out because I don’t have a partner to do “couple” things with; of having no one to love, of having no one to love me, of having no one to simply offer that hug I want at the end of a brutal day. I’m utterly and totally exhausted. Not the kind of exhausted that comes with missing sleep, or being too busy…its far deeper than that; my soul is tired. However, I don’t have the luxury of succumbing to all of that. It’s simply not an option. Exercise helps me keep up my cognitive resolve to keep going, even though it’d be far easier to climb in bed and be sad. Exercise helps me to choose happy, to push away the urge to give up on the harder days. Which leads me to…
Why? *Because I have a lot of life goals
I’m aware that many can’t understand my ambition. They see I’m a single mom and wonder why I’d ever take on so much at once when I don’t need to. They may not see the physical need, but trust me, the necessity is there. Friends, I’m not trying to tell anyone else how to live their lives, but I can tell you what I’ve taken away from Kenny’s death.
I’m going to share a very painful story; one that still makes me angry if I let myself think about it too long. When Kenny had his short remission in the fall of 2016, I begged him to go to Napa for our tenth wedding anniversary. Begged. We hadn’t been on a vacation alone since before he’d been diagnosed four years prior. We’d been through so much in our ten years of marriage, if anyone deserved to fucking celebrate just then, I felt like we did. He refused. We were about to move, we were just selling our home— he had very logical reasons not to go. That said, money wise it wasn’t an issue. Babysitting wise, it wasn’t an issue. “Next year after we’re settled,” he told me. I pressed him on it…by that point I knew better than to take the time for granted, but he insisted..next year.
One month later it was back. Five months after our tenth anniversary, he was gone. One of the last lucid things he ever said to me was “Go to Napa after I die.” I fucking hated that he said that. I never wanted to go alone…it was supposed to be us. I’m still angry we never went. We’d talked about going since before we had Cameron.
So many things I told myself over the years that I’d do “someday.” SO many things Kenny and I talked about doing together that we never did, and will never get to. Aside from planning financially for my kids’ futures, I’m done with someday. I’m living now. I’m pursuing my dreams TODAY, and EVERY DAY.
Fitness and nutrition are a part of those goals. Ask someone very out of shape how fun it is to tour a European village made of cobblestone, or bike across the French countryside. Ask someone who has no energy how easy it is to keep after three kids, work, take care of their home, and have some kind of life. None of these things are possible without first caring for yourself, and I believe that anyone is capable of all that I do. Yes, anyone. I believe anyone who chooses to care about themselves as much as they care about their spouses, parents, kids and friends will soon find themselves achieving so much more than they knew possible. When I started my fitness journey, I was a stressed out mom of three, with no other discernible path. Now I’m a mom of three who is studying to be a trainer, works at the gym, helps to coach a running team, writes for herself and another blog publisher, and feels the possibilities are endless. Its not without hurdles and not without fear, but some days all I need to do to regroup and recharge is to press “play” on my workout, and my resolve is back.
There is my “why.” My long, complicated, multifaceted “why.” My question to you, now…if you’re not taking care of yourself, why not?