“Belonging so fully to yourself that you’re willing to stand alone is a wilderness — an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. The wilderness can often feel unholy because we can’t control it, or what people think about our choice of whether to venture into that vastness or not. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.”
― Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
Despite sharing one article that I wrote (that had been published in a local magazine), and a handful of deeply personal (but mostly evasive) poems, my blog has pretty much laid dormant for the past year. I have been inspired recently to fully dive back in, but I am realizing that I’ve left myself some unfortunate loose ends. If the intention for my blog is to someday serve as my HONEST, archived, literary legacy (at least for my kids, who might hopefully care about it in about 20+ years?) it seems, completely skipping over the entire year of 2020 feels like a mistake.
A most revolutionary year for each of us, as individuals.
An extremely challenging, and difficult year for those of us who are American.
A transformative year for us globally, as a collective of human beings trying to live here together on planet Earth.
A wildly expansive year for most of us. Surviving and navigating through torrential social, emotional, mental and spiritual lessons.
One after another, after another.
Around, what seemed like EVERY corner?
2020: YEAR OF THE MOST. EXTREME. TRANSFORMATIVE. EXPANSION.
I realize that I am late to the party, as far as reviewing 2020 goes.
Reflecting on the past year/new year, and all of its lessons has already come and gone. However, it was in February of 2013 that I created this blog, and published my first ever-public post, so it feels like a good way to honor my “blog-iversary” and the evolution of my journey that some have been following since that very first day. It also seems that revisiting this past, “lost” year has been unexpectedly healing for me.
The truth is, I was already sort of mentally/emotionally checked out long before the whole world was forced to shut down to shelter in place for Coronavirus. The last two months of 2019 had been very hard for me personally, as I was stepping down from my leadership position at Anytime Fitness. For those who HAVE followed along on my journey, I know this came as quite a shock.
I was just starting to find my way through all of that, and begin to process all of my feelings of grief and loss, all the while, digging deep to keep showing up for my family and friends. While also somehow starting to search for a brand new job, in a completely different world.
I had resisted writing this post for SO LONG.
I was afraid it would become too real.
It took me months before I could even bring myself to write at all, even in my personal journal.
And, even more time before I could talk about it without getting choked up, or falling into a spiral of self-loathing, and what felt like the literal end of my world.
Because, it had been.
I chose to step down from my position at the job that I loved.
I gave everything to it,
with my entire heart,
and it simply…came to an end.
Plain and simple.
It was just a job, right?
But, it was so much more than that for me.
It was an entire, pivitol chapter in my story.
An epic, championship season of my life that I had to walk away from.
That club was the place that became a sanctuary for me, as I changed my body and my life, and the place I would become responsible for keeping a sanctuary for others like me.
I was also walking away from all of the many titles and identity that I took SUCH pride in:
H2i of the year.
Stepped down from the work that I felt I was handpicked for me.
Work that felt at times, like it had made a real difference in the world.
Work that had given me many opportunities and many more sincere connections, in the lives of SO many people that I grew to genuinely love.
I felt like I had lost everything.
EVERY. DAMN. THING.
I did not want to walk away…but felt I had to, because I made a grave mistake that ultimately, I could not come back from.
So, here it is.
Have you ever accidentally sent a text…meant for someone else…to the person/people you were actually aiming to talk about?
Now imagine, that the same text that was meant for a few of your co-workers, was actually sent to a thread that included your bosses, (whom you were criticizing behind thier backs while they were on vacation) and you did not realize it?
Not until after the unfortunate deed was done.
And, of course, the text was bitchy, judgmental and uncalled for…and sent immediately after a sending a different, sweeter one, to them just moments before…because THAT is exactly what YOU GET.
Play stupid games; win stupid prizes, as they say.
Explanations fall flat.
Reasons are just excuses.
No matter how sincere the apology, or humble ownership of the situation, the damage that had been done,
could not be undone.
The things that were said in the aftermath…could not be unsaid.
Turns out, hurting people really do hurt people.
I know now, in hindsight, that there were several stepping stones that led me up to that exact moment.
Warning signs and red flags that I intentionally kept avoiding.
Swiping them away as just over-thinking or indulging in my wild imagination.
But, we always know.
Know certain things deep down that we do not want to admit aloud to ourselves.
Our intuition always tells us the truth.
We feel it tugging at our guts and just KNOW.
But I did not want to listen.
So, what do you do when you make such a humiliating and dreadful mistake?
I wanted to run.
I wanted to yank the plug from the wall and absolutely power down EVERYTHING around and within me.
Sit in the complete darkness of the rawness of shame I felt.
Being caught being an asshole…with nowhere to hide?
Nothing to do or say but the truth.
I wanted nothing more than to escape.
Wishing for a way to somehow mute and dull the discomfort of disappointing myself, and everyone else.
At the end of the day, the trust had been lost all the way around, so I knew the best thing for me to do, and the right thing to do, was to remove myself to try to salvage what I could.
I kept telling myself that I had to finish strong, and “fail forward”.
A leader can fail and still lead, if they choose to fail forward.
So, that became my goal.
My team was still watching me.
My husband and kids.
They all knew what I did, and what had happened; and were all watching to see how I would choose to walk through it.
I had failed.
But, I would not fail to walk my talk.
I was determined to face it head on, and walk away with as much gratitude and integrity as I could.
Hoping that would somehow preserve my own personal story within the special community I had gotten to be a part of building while I had been there.
Focusing on that felt like the only way I could survive the storm.
It was one of the hardest times of my life.
Trying to convince my people that I was on to bigger and better things, when the truth was I had no clue what I was going to do.
I still had all of my big dreams…but obviously had nothing lined up to pay my very real bills. I knew most people were confused, and that it didn’t make much sense, but in the end, I will never forget how I was sent off with love and gratitude from all of the members who had allowed me into their hearts and lives.
So grateful for them having trusted me with coming alongside all of them in their own fitness journeys.
It’s all a blur now, how I managed to cross the finish line and make it to my last day, albeit humiliated and weary. Even though it was not in the way I had ever wanted or expected it all to end, I was proud of the way I faced it.
When Brene Brown talks about “the sacredness of standing alone”…I feel it in my bones.
After it was over, I spent months hiding out, laying low, and licking my wounds. Examining the different layers of grief as they came rolling in, with the same consistency and reliability of each and every painful Facebook memory notification that I would end up receiving like clock-work each morning.
Lots of time alone, in my house, and alone in my mind.
Listening to all the sad songs.
Listening to all the podcasts.
Listening to anything that I could find, as a way of breaking down my feelings to use as fuel to keep going.
Scared of the truths that I was being forced to face about myself.
I was so afraid that I had blown my one and only chance of being valuble in this world.
I cut off all my hair. About 10 inches.
I had heard someone discussing the power and magic of a good old-fashioned, drastic haircut, (alla Angela Bassett in the movie “Waiting to Exhale”…right after she sets fire to all of her ex-husbands belongings, piled in the seat of his sports car, and walks away slowly as it all burns behind her) and was inspired.
I seized the moment of focused distraction and embarked on an extensive deep dive on the spiritual significance of cutting one’s hair, and was convinced that as soon as I could cut it all off, the re-birth would begin!
I would emerge atoned.
Cleansed and new.
Although, cutting my hair did feel amazing in the moment, it would be a very LONG time before I would genuinely feel any of that big, “Angela-Bassett-phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes” energy.
The holidays came and went, and I began my 2020 unemployed and ashamed, not even knowing yet what the year of 2020 was going to bring to all of us. I was devastated. Heart broken. Rejected. Disillusioned. Banished. Angry. Relieved. Hopeful. Repeat.
A human story.
A complicated story of relationships.
A story of closeness, and boundaries.
Passion, purpose and disapointment.
Glorious victories and ugly losses.
The most precious memories woven tightly together with the absolute HARDEST lessons.
I know I am not the only one who has ever made the kind of mistake I made.
We are all human, and often drift from behaving in our highest-integrity-selves at all times.
I just wish the lessons that I had to learn had not come at such a high cost.
But maybe if they hadnt, I wouldnt have truly felt it deep enough to burn into me like a tattoo.
This expensive, painful and permanent reminder of a moment in time that shifted who I was.
You see, I’ve come to realize now that there really was no one to blame.
We were all at fault, and we all contributed, directly or not, to the ending.
Everyone wants to BELONG somewhere special.
To be a part of something important, and missional.
Who doesn’t want to feel like they are bringing a unique, personal value to the table?
Something that is specific to YOUR own passion, talent and energy?
We all got swept into this big, important thing that felt larger than life!
Fitness became the thing that helped me to finally feel love for my body, while also working to care for and stregthen it like I never had before.
It was special.
Fitness magic was what I called it, and it was contagious.
Because, I found that I was not alone or the only one struggling to make peace with my body.
Many people, of all shapes and sizes resonated with how I felt, and felt empowered right along with me.
I shared and blogged my entire journey.
Before ever joining the gym and becomming a member, to then starting a support group and being hired to work there as a part of the team.
Then, having a video go viral, that eventually made such an impact for people, that I was given an award for being the “gym manager of the year” within the brand in 2018.
That entire time, I shared the good, bad and ugly of my own fitness journey, and found myself representing those of us who did not yet have a voice within our fitness world.
So many people who bled purple with me… who had believed in me, and what I represented to them and those they were working with…rose to support me.
They helped me give that voice a platform.
It was not something I took lightly or for granted. Having the opportunity to talk to/offer insight to personal trainers and other fitness professionals across the country about the “gym experience” from the perspective of someone in a big body was invaluable!
They not only took me seriously, but they let me lead.
It was a magical time for me.
So how do you cope from going from literally being celebrated and awarded for your efforts, to what felt like being discarded?
On my darkest days, it felt like my very soul that was offered up so willingly, to serve “the bigger picture” was worthless.
On my better days, I knew where I had to own my mistakes.
I could go inward and see my own ego and stubborn pride at work, and my unwillingness to let go when I should have.
I could be honest with myself about how I had totally allowed by priorities to become toxic and skewed.
But, it was so hard to remain in a posture of healthy self-reflection because ultimately, I was the villain, right?
The one responsible.
There were more teammates who had also left after me.
Some willingly, and some not.
But they aren’t my stories to tell.
Regardless of anyones reasons, I held myself responsible for a long time for what felt like “throwing a grenade into all of our lives”.
The end of an era.
It felt like a massacre for everyone in involved, like all “family dramas and splits” do.
Probably worst of all for our members, who had trusted in us and what we had created together.
The shame I felt over that was deep, and still comes up for me sometimes.
That job was my whole entire life, existence and identity…until it wasn’t.
And that is EXACTLY why I had to lose it all.
To find my way back to my own, true life again.
To find my way back onto my path.
To find my way back to just being ME.
Getting back to learning who the heck I really am, and what lessons I am learning along the way.
The very reason I began this blog so many years ago.
Life has some WILD ways of bringing us full circle.
Pride really DOES come before a fall.
The problem with being so eager to beam, boast and share the most wild ride of my life those last 4 years, is that I now owe a responsibility to share the ending of this part of my story too.
In the name of “writing integrity” on this little blog that began before I even stepped into the gym…I cannot leave this chapter out.
I have never shied away from baring all the the facets of this journey…I have shared my truth, and fully intend to continue.
Okay…but, it’s been more than a year? Why share this now? What’s the point?
The truth is, there have been too many layers of self-discovery and healing that have grown out from this place of brokeness that I am eager to share!
Now recognizing that this is the same cycle I have created and repeated in my life, multiple times before, out of a craving to BELONG.
It happened when I was commited deeply and serving in the church and within different ministries, and it has even happened in various ways within my own family.
Finally, grasping the hard truth that is this: if I continue to abandon myself, my own needs, time, talent and energy in exchange for the acceptance and approval of others…this will SURELY happen again.
If I had not shared the depth of where I have been during the past year of mostly silence, I would not be able to share the depth of the ways in which this great loss and lesson has also blessed and molded this newer, wiser version of me.
Though it came roaring through my life like a wildfire, burning everything down around me, eventually the embers cooled.
The ash settled.
I was reminded that there is always new growth.
There are gifts in the rubble.
I would also not be able to share how all of it would truly stregthen me, and help me naviagte living through the ever-present fear of this current pandemic.
How it would help me create solid boundaries, and empower me to stand firm with my convictions during the turmoil and tension of this past election cycle.
I would not be able to fully share how the pain of loss would help me dig deep to show up diffrently for people that I love, in the face of social injustice.
How it all helped prepare me for the challenges of my new job, and all of the things I still want to accomplish.
I would not be able to articulate the ways it has altered my family life and priorities.
My relationship with my husband.
My relationship with my children.
My relationships with family and freinds.
My relationship with fitness and my body.
My relationship with my faith and spirituality.
My relationship with myself.
All for the better.
The truth is, this is the work.
The hard and continual work of being a human being.
Inward, fearless personal inventory, between all of the highs and lows.
How do we show up?
Especailly when we get knocked down?
What have we learned?
You simply can’t heal what you don’t reveal. When you muster the courage to spread everything out in front of you, to survey and examine from a birds eye view, only then can you release guilt and blame.
A willingness to take an honest look at yourself and all of the things…gives your life the chance to reveal the deeper meaning and reasons that you couldn’t see, when you were living it out in real time.
I will be forever grateful for my season with Anytime Fitness, and every single person that I got to meet, live life with, and fall in love with during that chapter of my life.
I know I have learned specific lessons from each one, that I will carry with me forever.
It was REAL.
All of it.
And it feels so good to say so.
I am so grateful to finally be able to share my heart here, and say a final goodbye, as I look forward to whatever is in store for me next.
I KNOW I still belong in the fitness and wellness world somehow, and am pursuing what that looks like on my own terms now.
I still believe in fitness magic for EVERYbody, and will continue to persist, as I have been, on my own journey as well.
Ultimately, the greatest gift of this lesson was in realizing that it was never a certain place, group of people, impressive title, or any personal offering or sacrifice of mine that gave me the value and belonging I was searching for.
It was only what carried me deep into the wilderness to stand alone,
within the fire.
To see for myself, that I hadn’t blown any chances or ruined my “one shot” at being valued or successful.
I had been valuable all along.
Way, way back.
All the way back to the beginning.
Just by being born, and being me.
Just like you.
Just like all of us.
I read a quote last night that said, “closure doesn’t come to you, you have to create it.”
So, thank you for allowing me this creative space to share my soul for the past 8 years. I am so excited to see where the next chapter takes us!