This past weekend I became a Strongwoman. I may have always known there was an inner strength but I unveiled a woman that was physically strong, too.
My gym hosted a Strongman competition. There were many classes (light and heavyweight women and men, master’s men and women, novice men and women which was my category). I also found out we had fitness trainers among the competition which made me proud that people like me who don’t work in the fitness industry could hang and in some cases, beat those who do.
I had my husband, friends and family there to cheer me on which besides the friendly and vibrant Strongman community, was the best part. They knew and understood my investment –the time, the money and the conviction it took to believe I could do it. It would have not been as special without them.
There were five events: the log press (65lbs lifted repeatedly overhead for a minute), the deadlift (my favorite starting at 125lbs–met my goal of 315lbs), the husafel carry (carrying a 110lb iron tomb-shaped structure 100ft), the hand over hand sled pull (pulling the sled 50 ft across AstroTurf while sitting in the middle of a tire) and the sandball toss (for my class, throwing a 10lb, 15lb and 20lb over a 12ft caution tape in the fastest time).
I placed 4th in log press (16 lifts), 1st in deadlift, 3rd in husafel (16.77 seconds), 5th in hand over hand sled (I lost my balance and fell out of the tire but I was 2 pulls away from finishing before getting back in to complete it) and 2nd in the sandball toss (15.65 seconds). Overall, I finished 3rd!
I am incredibly proud of entering the competition, daring to see myself as an athlete, grateful for pushing past fear to recognize my body’s ability and of course, for medaling my first time out.
If you had told me six months ago I would be standing in a gym, hearing someone ask “Athlete ready?”, I would have definitely thought you couldn’t have been talking about me. But there I was standing in a gym, with chalky palms, bruised forearms, broken nails, sore arms and a genuine smile feeling more like myself than ever.
I am spending time with family. I often wish I could bring all members of my family together, in-laws and all. But I am grateful for the faces I see today and not even feeling the slightest hint of bitterness about what I have left to do to complete day 74. One more workout and a few ounces of water left will have it all done. Since I am sitting passenger side and on the way back home, I am keeping this short. I don’t want to miss many more moments.
Last weekend, I made my way to Columbus, Ohio for The Summit of Greatness hosted by Lewis Howes. This was my third time in attendance (had to miss last year due to The Digital Storytelling Workshop at the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa).
And it was my best time.
Not because any of the other speakers weren’t impactful or powerful (they absolutely were) or that I didn’t make beautiful connections (without a doubt I did). It’s because I could truly enjoy the experience by myself. No one has ever held me back but I did hold myself back when I attended with others.
Even when I had a couple of pangs of loneliness, they quickly went away because I knew it would be just a matter of time before I would strike up a conversation with a stranger who would soon become a friend.
The Summit started with a welcome party at the Columbus Commons. I got to reunite with old friends and meet a few new ones. One of the more notable parts was a tent devoted to crafting instant poems based on the word of intention for the weekend.
A group of amazing drummers led by Elec Simon opened the conference. The energy was electric and instantly reminded me why I come here.
The first speaker was renowned singer Leann Rimes. Apparently, it was her first speaking engagement and her vulnerability was palpable. She spoke about the isolation of fame and her growth. She sang a beautiful song and led us all in a chant:
I am human.
I am holy.
Grace renews me.
It’s love that guides me.
The vibration and the spirit in the theater left many in tears including me.
The next speaker was Ed Mylett. His idea of hell: meeting the person you could have become at the end of your life. This concept is not a new one to me but his phrasing was exceptional. He called it “chasing his twin.” He was unapologetic about his faith but at the same time inclusive of everyone and exuded humility. He seemed to be the perfect person to seek advice from for my future students at the nonprofit I work for. I took a chance and sent him a message. I was right! He sent me a voice message with wonderful recommendations and I will be eternally grateful for the time he took to send it.
Kyle Cease was up next. He had a few messages that resonated with me but his emphasis of staying in the now was particularly impactful for me. Learning to embrace it is a non-negotiable for me as Hubby and I navigate life post health scares.
Jesse Itzler, former rapper, serial entrepreneur and endurance athlete delivered an impassioned speech urging us to inject more adventure into our lives. He compared life to a bus that never stops and does not go in reverse. At 51, he completely rejects the notion of being “too old” and is smart about the risks he takes.
Day 1 was great but I needed to take a minute to power down afterwards before heading to North Market for the Friday social. I loved on old friends I only get to see at Summit and was inspired by new ones. There was even a mural by Ruben Rojas painted representing our community.
Day 2 proved to be massively inspirational and incredibly fun! Marisa Peer’s message of “I am enough” and teaching us not to criticize ourselves was powerful. Our thoughts listen and execute the stories we tell about ourselves.
The R&B group Final Draft performed for us. They were amazing and had great command of the stage. Dr. Alaa Murabit was incredibly impressive. She is a UN Commissioner, a doctor changing the world with her peacekeeping efforts. She graduated high school at 15, medical school at 21 and is only 29!I loved how she stressed that we should listen to all leaders of all ages. Heed the wisdom of those that came before us. Figure out what went wrong before, what was missing and execute from there. She said that a leader is not someone with a lot of followers. It’s someone who creates other leaders.
Stephan speaks offered us sage advice about relationships. I agreed we should be telling each other what we want and need specifically and the power of a written letter. Also, we are not responsible for anyone else’s healing. It was wonderful to see Lewis honor his team, volunteers and highlight Pencils of Promise and the hundreds of schools built all over the world.
In-Q closed out the conference with his soul stirring poetry. There was also a special video from Sean Stephenson. He recently passed and his message to love our bodies, love ourselves was the perfect note to end on. The closing party was a blast and the return of DJ Irie did not disappoint. I danced until I ached. I wouldn’t have it any other way. After a couple of hours of sleep, I was at the airport, reeling from the weekend. On my layover in Philly, I ran into Elec Simon who was just as gracious and personable as he seemed on stage.
It’s all over until 2020.
So what now?
I found that when I was the most engaged, it was with people who travel, seek adventure, take action and are creative. In addition to hitting my fitness and writing/teaching goals, I want to create my own (mostly) solo adventures.
That part of myself has been slightly repressed over the years due to letting myself become distracted with work, relationships and a bit of good old-fashioned laziness. Realizing it was painful but it is a box I don’t have to stay in.
I can tell myself a new story.
Special thanks to my friend, Gina Molinari for graciously hosting me at her home and surprising me with a stay in the hotel.
A co-worker told me she rented studio space recently to begin doing her art again and it reminded me that I had let several weeks go by without writing.
I have added quite a bit of new work to my schedule which (predictably) sapped any creativity from me. There was also a death in my family which despite great sadness brought us together.
But with this death came reconnection. Not just with my parents, cousins and aunts and uncles who I sorely missed. We had the pleasure of staying with Hubby’s cousins in Georgia on the way down to Florida. We stayed with them almost 5 years ago on an anniversary trip to Savannah. They welcomed us with such warmth and exuberance I immediately remembered why I loved staying with them so much the first time around.
After coming back from Florida to their home, they took us out, fed us well and made us feel right at home. I even shared some of my writing with them and I got to read work one of them wrote. They gave us a surprise the night before we left. To honor my Haitian heritage, they gifted us with two paintings and a wooden piece purchased in an artist square on Port-au-Prince in the 90’s. I was and am incredibly moved.
On the way back home, there was another reconnection.
A completely unexpected one.
Hubby and I reconnected. Between work schedules, doctor appointments and life in general, we haven’t spent enough quality time together. I am not counting time spent catching up on TV shows.
The long drives provided uninterrupted time full of conversation, laughter, 80s and 90s music sing-alongs and random comfortable silences.
When we finally came home, he went back out to run a quick errand while I started dinner. While pasta was cooking, I sat back down and an intense feeling hit me.
I missed him. We just spent almost 8 hours in the car together and I missed him. I hadn’t felt that way after just being around him since we first got married.
Although the trip was born out of a painful experience, I recognize and honor the blessings that came from it.
Spending time with my family has proved to be a form of self-care and self-awareness. I love being with them but I now realize how much it takes out of me to engage with people I love, especially after having a rough couple of weeks (and who am I kidding–months). I wanted to be there for all of it but I found myself crashing pretty hard in the evenings. I even dealt with feelings of guilt for not being able to put on a more exuberant and fresh face but everyone understood.
Artist’s Way update: I didn’t really start The Artist’s Way but I read the Foreward and the Introduction. I also started writing my morning pages which is supposed to be 3 pages of stream of consciousness journaling with no expectations attached. I plan on diving into the first chapter tomorrow. Just like previous journaling practice, I feel more centered after doing it. It’s as if my brain believes it has accomplished a great feat first thing in the morning.
I was looking forward to seeing if morning pages would affect my anxiety level throughout the day. I can confidently say I was calmer right after but since I wasn’t in my usual environment, it is hard to gauge if it made much of a difference after that.
Today, I wrote and prayed and walked and worked and trusted.
Trusted that I left on my heart and my most hopeful, erratic, loving thoughts on the page.
For the past few days, Hubby and I were in Florida to celebrate our anniversary and to visit family. Our schedule was jam-packed but we did make time to stay spend a morning at Ft. Lauderdale beach and go to South Beach. I fell in love with the water, as in kicked off my sandals, hiked up my dress and waded straight into the warm clear blue. After a long walk, we made it to be to Tap Tap, a famous (and delicious) Haitian restaurant in South Beach Miami. We indulged in Diri Kole, plantains and legim (vegetables). I forgot to ask if there was a meat-based broth they cooked anything in but it was wonderful. I especially loved the decor. There were murals everywhere, a lovely and vibrant tribute to the people, music, rituals and food of Haiti.
I also found out that I have the opportunity to go to two events over the same weekend in different parts of the country the night we left. One event is a known. I know (and am excited about) the type of people attending and the speakers. My second choice is full of unknowns and whether or not I deem the experience a success, I have no doubt I will be pushed to grow as a creator and a writer.
I have been told and have told others if you have the choice between two choices like that, you go with the unknown.
I understand part of life is about stretching yourself in order to know who you are and what your limits are.
I hope what I choose allows me to find out more about who I am and what those limits are for me.
While I was at Whole Foods today, I ran into an old co-worker. There were the regular pleasantries but then the inevitable question came: “Where are you now?”
And I had to think about it. I knew what he meant and I mumbled something about trying to freelance and we soon parted ways. Not that I had to pour the whole and complete truth out with all the details but after I left, I realize I am probably not sharing enough with my closest friends and family about the doubt I do feel along this journey.
I don’t doubt whether I want to write or that if I continue to write, at some point in time successes will come. I have moments where I let the frustration take over or the uncertainty of the “when” consume me. I know better but in those moments when I am asked what I am up to now, I want to be able to say so much more.
After I think that, I realize it’s up to me to make “so much more” happen. It’s up to me to approach vendors for partnerships with my E-book, pitch more publications and devote more time consistently to the completion of my novel. None of this is news. Just because more effort doesn’t guarantee more success immediately doesn’t mean I should stop being as aggressive with my other goals outside of blogging.
I believe our psyches crave instant gratification especially in our social media age. Patience is a discipline I struggle with the most. I have to remember to revel in the journey and look forward to the time when I can look back and ask “Remember when?…”
Maybe I should take comfort that I am in the same boat with millions of other creatives.
We are all working and waiting for our moment in the sun.
Sometimes we are impatient, insecure petulant children and at others, we are hardworking, giving people who are humbly anticipating the chance to let our art be seen, for the message we are communicating to the world to be heard.
I never thought about it until psoriasis came for a visit and never left.
I barely ever wore any kind of powder or foundation and rarely got pimples.
I basically had the luxury of rarely thinking about it.
But then psoriasis came to visit and never left.
Even though it came slowly and didn’t seem threatening at all, it did eventually ravage my body. And no steroid could fix it and I am not fond of exposing my body to biologics. In fact, I have spent most of my life scared of all medications outside of OTC and antibiotics.
So after fielding multiple questions such as “What happened to your face?” I started to delve back into plant-based healing and learning about the devastation inflammation brings (for me, psoriasis and PCOS). So even while I waited for the flares to become less frequent, I had to figure out how to cover the pink and red flaky patches on my face. Of course, it was makeup and if for some reason, I didn’t have my makeup brush and Dermablend with me, my spirits would sink. I remember on one particular day not wanting to get out of the car when I parked at church. I drove away and found somewhere to cry.
I felt like a monster without my “face.”
The pain of an itchy scalp, raw thighs and a scarred face sometimes felt like too much of a strain on my mind, let alone my body. I often smiled through a lot of it but I felt like I was wilting on the inside.
As we all know, we can’t escape our own mind or body.
It took a long time to start to see some improvement and I don’t have flares as often as I used to but damage was done.
People who meet me now will never know what I used to look like and it seems like a small thing but it was a real adjustment. I believe my smiles are more genuine now. It’s funny that I am actively pursuing a profession that puts me front and center when I can remember feeling like that’s the last place I really want to be or should be.
I think it took blogging and writing classes and prayer and fruits and vegetables and talking it out over and over again with my husband, family and friends for healing to start taking place. I know I have a long road ahead of me but I think I found a formula that works.
I wanted to say a few words about support. Last week, I was under the weather at my writing group meeting at one of our member’s homes. She was such a gracious host, providing us with snacks and each one of us was gifted a journal. She said she thought of me because of my travel coffee mug my sister gave to me for Christmas that says “Keep Calm and Blog On.”
This past weekend, I went to Charlotte to visit family and was greeted with two gift bags on the bed. One was for me with a gift and card from my mother and father, congratulating me on the publication of my E-book, “What I Love About You: A Guided Journal to Writing Your Proposal and Vows.” The other was a cute mug and a card for my husband for being an amazingly supportive husband.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the smaller things when you are trying to live up to your full potential. Who is really supporting me? Am I promoting it the right way or enough? Has my book helped people with writing their love letters, proposal and vows? There are about a hundred other things I could worry or stress about.
But when I read her card, I knew all of those other things really don’t matter.
Like my new journal says, all I have to do is Keep Calm and Write On.