It started out as something I stumbled across trying to find some kind of inner strength. Trying to see if I had more in me than just the sweet girl who lets everyone run all over her. Trying to see if I was capable. Capable of more.
And I threw up. It was the hardest workout class I had ever taken. But, I got up, wiped my face, and I showed up again. And, I threw up again. And this became my once a week relationship with kickboxing for quite some time. Survival and crawling to the side in a sweaty mess when the class was over. I marveled at the ones going further, still fighting strong and standing at the end, wanting so badly to be like them.
I got pregnant with my first daughter and I took a break. Pregnant and nursing was not working out with working out. But, I did come back just as soon as our daughter was done with nursing… two years later. Starting all over again. Crawling to the side in a sweaty mess by the end of class. And, just about when I felt like I was getting the hang of it, I got pregnant with my second daughter, and I took another break because that’s what you do when you get pregnant. You sit on the couch with your fat belly, eat ice cream and enjoy not worrying about your shirts being tight because you’re growing a baby. It’s glorious. But, eventually, I needed more. I was not satisfied with the “had a baby” excuse any longer.
So, I came back again. Not only starting over but starting further behind than where I ever was before. My body weak and changed from the two lives it had grown and adjusting to our new routine. Things that were once simple were not even possible – at home AND in my workout. But I kept going. My job changed from full time to part-time and I felt less guilty about more time at the gym and started increasing my days. Then, all of a sudden, I looked up and I realized I went from doing push-ups on my knees to doing toe push-ups. I had stopped barfing, most of the time. I was stronger. I was improving. I was learning how to stand up for myself. I wasn’t crawling over to the side when class was over. I was still standing!
And then, we were surprised with our third daughter. Kickboxing had become so much of a routine that I decided to keep working out while pregnant. Why not keep doing the things you love in a healthy and manageable manner just because you are growing a baby? I surprised myself by making it to 34 weeks pregnant! Large and in charge, and capable. It was glorious. I even bought baby boxing gloves she sported to keep from scratching her face. I mean, she practically kickboxed her way through my entire pregnancy. Gloves were just second nature! Just kidding, she hated them. You win some, you lose some. As soon as six weeks postpartum came, we were back for more. The instructor held our youngest as I proudly punched the bag and showed her this is what Momma was doing while she was in my belly! And she smiled. It might have been gas, but it was the sweetest gas smile ever.
One week later, I laid that precious girl down for a nap and, for some reason we will never know, she woke up in Heaven.
And there it was. The moment that will forever mark the before and after of who I once was and who I became. The moment that changed everything about me. My life as I knew it altered forever. My heart was ripped in two.
It left me not only lying in the ashes of my hopes and dreams but also in a pit of despair. Kickboxing was no longer important. I didn’t think I would enjoy anything ever again. A part of me wanted to crawl right into that grave with her. Death would have been easier. Giving up would have been easier. Staying in bed and letting the darkness overcome me and my broken heart would have been so much easier. I could barely walk. I was barely eating. And I was never sleeping.
But, I couldn’t bear to let tragedy become our sweet girl’s legacy. She was so much more than just that little part of the story. I desperately wanted to see her sisters smile again. I wanted them to know there could be more to life than this. They needed to know what it looks like to fight through the struggle.
So I had a decision to make. The easy path or the warrior path? I had to decide whether or not I was just going to sit there for the rest of my life, simply surviving in the depths of despair, or if I was going to claw my way out with everything I’ve got. If I was going to fight for her and fight for her sisters with everything that was left in me. If I was going to find myself standing at the end.
So I came back to kickboxing. And I threw up. And I cried in the bathroom. And, probably made a scene or two. But, it was the only thing that came close to the pain that was aching in my heart. There was some kind of relief in being able to focus on the pain pushing my body to grow for a change. To focus on becoming something new. If only for an hour at a time, it became my saving grace. I started coming once a week, then twice a week. Then I started coming every day. It became the reason I got off the couch. It taught me how to keep going when I didn’t want to. How to get back up again when I had no strength. It showed me how to fight to keep living. To choose life. For my husband and two other daughters. It showed me how I was stronger than I ever knew and that I could live again. It taught me about my relationship with God and what it means to suffer. And how suffering brings strength and renewal. What it truly means to persevere with endurance and run the race set before me. I watched my heart and body transform into something new.
I went from looking in the mirror and just seeing a grieving mother to looking in the mirror and seeing strength. And being proud. Trusting even when I don’t understand and it hurts. And learning I am capable of so much more. But, most importantly, I found a way to live again. And that’s where I found out who I was – what was inside waiting to get out all along. The sweaty mess of a girl with crazy hair. But strong, oh so strong.
Because that’s the whole point – life truly is what we make it. Oh, it will knock us down. It will take our breath away and leave us in a heaping mess on the floor. There is no doubt about that. The question is, are you going to fight to get back up?
Go. Take heart. Find something that you love. Do the things you have always wanted to do. Struggle through the hard part of becoming more. And let your children watch who you become on the other side.