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.
On the 69th day, I went to a small group physical training class and the “small group” ended up being me.
I appreciated the one-on-one attention. My first real attempt at pull-ups was valiant and the success was aided by a set of bands I stood on for support. Per my new usual, I left tired but proud of the work done.
Afterwards, I met a friend for my second workout –a walk in the park. She gifted me a lovely book of poetry for my birthday.
On the back of the book there was a quote that resonated deeply with me:
“Nobody warned you that the women whose feet you cut from running would give birth to daughters with wings.”
Many women like me come from silenced women, oppressed women or women who lived as if their feet were bound or cut because of what the world brainwashed them to claim as truth.
And they did give birth to women like me and many women like my dear friend who want to live out loud, feel the earth under their feet on multiple continents, hike, climb, start their own businesses, volunteer, work, raise money, take care of their families, write books and lead without apology.
Women like me who are scared to live without the recognition of their wings.
I just had a day I wish I could have once a week. I took a three-hour writing class entitled “Pens Up, Fears Down” taught by Sadeqa Johnson. A friend of mine also attended (a lovely surprise). After class, I was invited to a lunch by her that she already had planned with another close girlfriend of mine.
When the day began, it was a bit of a struggle to tear myself away from the bed. I strained my left ankle jamming my foot into the sneaker but told myself it would be ok once I got going. Thankfully, I was right.
Recently at the tail end of my walks, I have shifted into a jog. I was being tender with my ankle so I rolled it around a bit and decided today I would continue this new tradition. I ended up jogging longer than I had since this began!
Even though I overestimated how much time I had to get ready before class, I still made it for all of the writing prompts. Before class, my hunch was Sadeqa’s style of teaching and the community of writers gathered would reignite my fire for writing fiction.
It took a couple of prompts but I finally started to tell the story that’s been a bit of an obsession for me lately. That story has been trying to find a place on the paper for a couple months now but I have been avoiding it.
I think I found the start of a couple of short stories or a novella. I love when I make space for a story and it lets me know it has found its home when the pen hits the page.
The fact that I got to cap this writing experience off with a lunch with two of my beautiful writer friends was perfection. We should have taken a picture but I am pleased we were too absorbed in one another to break the spell of lovely, flowing conversation to do so.
I am in the middle of day 55 of 75hard (with water to drink, pages to read, a picture to take and a workout to complete) and day 9 of bloglikecrazy. Days like this wear me out in the best way.
I am back home. I will take a few minutes to lie down and reflect on this most perfect day.
Then I will get on with the rest of the work because I have to show up for Day 56 and Day 10 no matter how it shows up for me.
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.
Outside of Toni Morrison’s glorious new documentary, I took time for a few weeks to process multiple things that were going on.
I went to an event about harnessing fear.
I went to a comedy show and laughed until it hurt.
I started journaling again (not everyday but I began picking up the pen).
I became much more comfortable with not reaching out to people who don’t reach out to me. It didn’t feel petty. It felt right. I want to cultivate relationships with people who show they care. They deserve all the love and kindness I have to give and I truly wish others well but they no longer take up real estate in my mind.
I am taking a long break from the scale. Not as an excuse to eat but as a way to love myself.
I started drinking a gallon of water a day.
I decided not to eat my boredom and emotions after dinner.
I went to therapy, a helpful and potentially life-changing workshop on breast health and received a vigorous and soothing armpit massage (who knew about the armpits?) and received therapeutic massage.
I cut down my cable (a lot).
I donated books and old DVDs.
I fell a little more in love with one of my jobs.
I met someone who confirmed a next step for me with my writing.
I showed my arms more than I usually would because it’s hot and psoriasis cannot be hidden all the time nor should it be.
I went to a festival and danced with some friends.
I put some time in at church and listening to podcasts that made me think (and take action) about what I want for the next 10-15 years.
I did experience anxiety but I breathed through it.
I let go and let myself live.
How have you let go and let yourself live this summer?
On Saturday, a friend of mine asked me to go to the movies to see Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. My friend and I had tears in our eyes by the end. I scooted to the edge of my seat several times as if I was at a thriller. It has taken me a few days to process what I was feeling. Inspired? Challenged? Convicted?
I don’t have all of the right words that won’t be a regurgitation of scenes from the film.
So I will just say all of this:
It made me feel like I could write anything or work on one dream while lifting up the dreams of others or raise children or write from a place that doesn’t take the white male gaze into account or be unapologetic about wanting to be celebrated and unapologetic about my Blackness or my faith or turn down the volume of doubt in my own head or from others or be fiercely private or lay it all out there for the world to see and hear. Embrace the sunrise as I put pen to paper. It made me want to… everything.
I went to lunch with two friends earlier last week. We discussed our goals, stepping out on faith and what to do when we don’t believe. A suggestion was made that I take the time to write what I am not believing God for. For example: God, I don’t believe I will be able to financially support our family in a real way with my writing. Show me what to do with these feelings. Show me how to increase my faith. Help me to align myself, my habits and my words so that I can believe this for myself.
Even though what I just wrote was clearly an example, a conflict arose for me. There is a school of thought that a lot of self-help people and people of faith (and both) subscribe to that says you are to claim your dreams and your victories as if they are already here.
As if you’ve already won.
While that school of thought feels empowering and I am sure has produced mind-blowing results, something inside says that it ignores the very real struggle of getting to that place. The place of full-on, no questioning, all-mighty certainty.
Is there a place for me? Someone who’s in the middle? Someone who believes winning is completely possible but also sometimes feels like they’ve already lost?
I am going to take my friend’s suggestion and journal and pray from a very honest, sometimes lost in the wilderness place and also from a hopeful, medals already swinging from my neck place.
Even though there are no guarantees as to where these honest prayers will take me, I find solace in its authenticity.
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.
This past weekend, Hubby and I went to another vegan potluck at a friend’s home. This time, it was a cookout complete with barbecued seitan ribs, corn on the cob, garden burgers, potato salad, pesto pasta salad, fresh cantaloupe slices and ice cream. Hubby even baked his chocolate chip cookies again.
My friend’s husband at the grill focusing on his seitan ribs
Pesto pasta salad
Since it was basically the same group, we had an amazing time yet again. I was pretty wiped out from attending 3 events and cooking before we even got there but we looked forward to seeing everyone and of course, it was all worth it. I also realized I had never been to an all-vegan cookout, either. We were all outside, talking, laughing, eating at picnic tables and watching the children run and swing. There’s really not much of a difference.
There’ s comfort in going to a place where you don’t have to explain why you eat what you do but by far, the comfort is always because of the people.
And the connections.
As I’ve written here many times before, it never stops being about the people and the connections.