A year ago they were completing a survey at the gym and one of the questions was, “what were my fitness goals?” My response was, “trophy wife status,” I was joking but I knew I wasn’t.
One of my worst qualities is that I defuse conversations that I don’t want to have by making jokes. I was scared, scared because I hadn’t been on a date in years. Scared because I was alone. Scared because I was crying at night after I put the kids to bed. I was sad.
I posted the joke on Facebook that day and it had a huge response – which also made me cry. I got up the next day, and went back to the gym and asked if I could change my answer. I marked out “trophy wife” and put in one word “STRONG!”
It was the one thing that everyone thought I was but I knew I wasn’t. I’ve been a single parent for years. That was suppose to make me a strong person, right? It was a badge that I didn’t want to wear. I didn’t want to be alone, I didn’t want to eat another dinner alone, and I didn’t want to go to bed alone. I wanted someone to ask me how my day was. By wanting these things, I felt like it made me weak and there are times I still feel that way.
At the time, I was also in excruciating pain. I had hid it for years, but there was no denying it at that point. I was limping and wincing at every move. I knew I needed surgery and that scared me more than anything. I knew the recovery would be overwhelming at times and that I would also be doing that alone. Pushing through the pain, made me feel like I was making myself a stronger person.
After I made that goal change I retreated to my normal machine at the gym and pushed myself to the point of exhaustion and tears. Yes, I was crying a lot. Thank goodness for good fake lashes. See what I did there – more jokes.
I came home and wrote STRONG on a Post-It note and put it on my bathroom mirror. I scheduled my MRI, which eventually lead to my surgery. The recovery was awful to be honest. I told everyone otherwise, but it was truly awful. I hurt! Every part of me did. Physically and emotionally, I told no one. I pushed through with jokes and reassurances that all was well and I was doing fine.
At the one month post surgery marker I started Physical Therapy (PT). To my disappointment, this was going to be a slow process. A week later I turned 39, and it was my first trip out in months. I sat at dinner with a table full of amazing people that I love.
Then Laura, an intricate member of my tribe, stood, tapped her wine glass, and began to tell me all the reasons why I am amazing person. Why she loved me, and why she felt so blessed to know me. That right there, would have been enough but then, the same interaction happened one at a time down the table. Fourteen people thought I was someone that I couldn’t see.
I came home that night and took down “STRONG” and replaced it with “FUCKING STRONG.” I got up the next day and went to PT with a different attitude. I asked a lot of questions and forced them to give me the most aggressive plan to get whole again.
The next couple of months were quite possibly even more painful than before the surgery. I was either at the gym, at PT, getting a massage, or doing stretching. I watched as my scar healed and my body began to change. My legs were stronger, as were my arms.
It took 7 months before I felt confident in my back, and if I’m being completely honest, in myself. I took down the Post-It note. I am still scared that I will be alone forever and that there isn’t a person for me. I still cry sometimes when I go to bed alone. I am still scared that I’m not as strong as I “should” be. But there comes a moment when you have to wipe away the tears and do the things that scare you.
You have to chase the bear with the stranger. You have to let the handsome man kiss you. You have to tell yourself that it’s going to be ok. You have to stop worrying about all the rules that you have created for yourself and just say” fuck it” and live.
You have to stop being so scared. If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. – Ellen Johnson Sirleaf