I think that I've “found myself,” a cheerleader

Well hiiyeee friends!

I know, I know- haven’t I been gone, like, the WHOLE summer? 

Why, yes. Yes I have.

I took this summer to do exactly what I set out to do, learn more, do more, see more. I spent a TON of time with my kids. There were times it was maddening, exhausting, and minutes I counted until school began. BUT, we had days we spent adventuring. We had mornings we watched the sun rise over the Atlantic. We had evenings we stood in awe of cotton candy sunsets. We dug our toes into salty sand, we splashed in the ocean, the bay and our neighborhood pool. I watched as it appeared my kids all grew a foot overnight. My daughter somehow looking closer each day to a teenager than the chubby, dimpled toddler she is in my mind. My boys seemingly growing closer, the age gap narrowing as Nate’s vocabulary grew, and as Ben realize how fun it could be to be the “older brother in charge” instead of the younger brother taking orders.

As for me, I spent my time centering in on myself. When Kenny passed, I told myself that I’d give myself a year to get set up, one year of “nothing” to sort myself out. When the year mark of came and went, I felt no more sure of what direction I was going. I mean, absolutely no idea. A friend convinced me to sign up as a Beachbody coach. I figured I was working out anyway, I may as well try to help others who wanted to get in shape, too! That was it. My first baby step. I took my time to learn the business, the programs, to use the products. My daughter, having watched my escalating enjoyment of running, and doing my workouts at home, asked if she could take up running instead of returning to soccer in the fall. I was so excited that my love of fitness was rubbing off on her, that I reached out to sign her up. That’s when they told me that they were actually in need of some help coaching the Girls on the Run program at her school; I took the leap and volunteered. An application and a background check later, baby step number two took shape. As summer wore on, and my friends and I spent more time at the gym together, a friend of mine decided to get a part time job there. The woman running the fitness center enjoys the loud banter of our little workout crew so much, that she offered us jobs on the spot. And suddenly my purpose became clear, as if it magically had been slowly written on the wall through the summer. 

I’m a cheerleader by nature. While I wasn’t a great actual cheerleader, I’m a ra-ra girl to my bones. When you’re my friend, I’m almost a cheerleader to an annoying degree. If you’re having a bad day, or want to sulk about something for a second, I’ll chime in with how you’ll be okay, and you’ve got this (even when I was probably whining about something ten seconds before). If you’re a friend reading this and have wanted to throat punch me a time or two when you wanted to vent, I apologize. I just always want to perk people up. I want the best for people as a general rule. Unless you’ve done something heinous to me, I will root for you. Even if you’ve done me wrong, unless you’ve gone and murdered my cat, I will cheer for your victories. Even if I know you’ve chosen to judge me, or say negative things about me or my life choices, I will do what I can to throw support your way. Not because I’m a saint (that’s laughable to even write), but because I feel like (almost) everyone deserves to be the underdog. A comeback kid. Someone who comes back from the brink.

I could give some little monologue about how I don’t want to give my energy away for negativity; and it’d be true. I could also dive into how I’ve held grudges, and they only hurt me, which would also be true. But the real reason I think everyone deserves a cheerleader? Because I’ve needed one myself these past years. People do ugly things when they’re in pain; when they’re grieving and can’t care about the feelings of another soul. Its not purposeful. Its just a genuine inability to feel anything but pain and anger.  I shudder to think what people must have thought of me if they met me at one of those really dark times. I know there were days I appeared totally normal, totally fine, and you could have stabbed me with a knife and I might not have felt it. I was in such agony, other than my kids, I couldn’t care. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. 

I’m one of those people up there. I’m an underdog. I’m a comeback kid. I’ve clawed my way back from the brink. I’m Gonzaga in 99. I’m the Mets in 86. I’m fucking Khaleesi, raising her dragons after she lost her sun and stars. I couldn’t have done it without my cheerleaders, just like Daenerys couldn’t have done it without the Dothraki. 

Yes, I’m strong. Yes I have been determined, and worked my ass off to get to this place. I also had people rooting for me. People who wanted to see me walk out of the fire many assumed would consume me. People who pushed me to find out who I am, what I’m made of, and not be afraid anymore of the judgement that people will pass on me. Over the last few months I’ve had people reach out to tell me that my walk through the fire inspired them to start walking through their own. That watching me get to the other side with my little dragons helped them take a deep breath and keep going. Now that I know that, I want to keep doing that. For me. For my kids. And for all of you who care to join me here. I want you all to see that normal, little old dorky me is not some beacon of strength. I'm not a pillar, or anything more special than anyone else. I'm just like you, and if I can do what I've done, so can you.

I also want everyone to see that what happens to you doesn't define you. As my posts unfold, over the course of cheering you all on from my cozy abode, I hope to show you all that you choose who you are. Maybe you don't choose the things that bother you, or your taste in music, but your perception is your choice. I've spent the bulk of the last few years writing about my husband's illness, his passing, and my  journey of self discovery after my definition of myself was ripped away from me. It took me all this time to CHOOSE to not be "the widow." Yes. I am "A widow," but my definition is not "THE widow." I am so much more. I choose to be so much more. 

My parting wisdom for you all today, what this life has taught me, what this experience has taught me, is to aim higher. Its not easy- for ANY of us. I'm a "middle ground" girl who is terrified to rock the boat. Over the next months I will regale you with stories where I aimed so low, I couldn't see the bar above me, simply because I was scared to be my own cheerleader, and scared that I didn't deserve better. I do, though. I get it now. So if your Monday is sucking the big one, if you're feeling like you're at a dead end in something- a relationship, a job, anything- aim higher. Whatever you're aiming for won't be happen today; the seed you planted this morning isn't the fruit you will eat this afternoon. Just keep aiming higher. Maybe you'll catapult, maybe you'll crawl, but either way, you'll go UP!