Imagine what it would feel like to be in the middle of the ocean, treading water, no land in sight. A wave crashes down, forcing you under the water. As you resurface, gasping for air, another wave crashes down, pushing you beneath the surface again. At that moment, all you can think about is survival, keeping your head above water, fighting for each breath, and praying for the storm to be over. Just when you think you can’t tread water anymore, a small beacon of light shines over the water. It’s a rescue boat, coming to save your life. Shivering, trying to recover, you can still feel each wave crashing over you. It is an experience that you relive over and over again. Suddenly, realizing you don’t know where you are, the map you’d planned out no longer exists. Life has changed forever.
What does this have to do with my story? Well, I wasn’t caught in a storm in the middle of the ocean. But, events in my life left me constantly treading water and fighting to catch my breath. Just when I was able to resurface and breathe, another wave came crashing down. Then, my rescue boat came. Now, my passion lies in piloting my own rescue boat; and no storm will stop me.
Before I can inspire and motivate others, be a source of support, and ask you to put your faith and trust in me, I need to open my heart and share my journey. I’m telling this story not only to empower others live the life they want and deserve, but show you WHY this has become my life’s purpose. Everyone closest to me knows that I am not a person that opens up about the trials, struggles, tragedies, and loss in my life to those I do not even know. However, I’ve realized that maybe I went through the storm for a reason far beyond my comprehension. The resilience I acquired gifted in me the power to positively impact lives in ways that could not be possible had I not endured so much pain and suffering. Maybe God knew I could persevere and had a plan for me all along……
Growing up, I was always active and involved in fitness. I was blessed with parents who let me participate in every sport or activity I wanted. Between my brother and me, the time my mom and dad spent either in the car or at a game/practice/class probably was equivalent to another full-time job. I danced, did gymnastics, played softball, earned my black belt in karate, and was a cheerleader through college. Fitness and exercise became ingrained in me, became part of who I was and am. I found so much joy in playing sports, competing, having fun with friends and teammates, and just being active. I felt powerful, proud, strong, and that I had something to fight for. Not to win, but to become better and find pride in my hard work and what I had achieved. I came to realize that fitness and exercise could turn any bad day around, help me forget my worries and problems, and gave me energy and confidence. I remember wishing I could help people experience and feel that kind of happiness and wished I could share what I loved with others. Little did I know that the blueprint of my life would lead me towards fulfilling that wish.
I became a nationally licensed school psychologist to help kids learn and change behaviors preventing/deterring them from reaching their full potential. I wanted to instill confidence in future generations, prevent and stop bullying, and help kids get through difficult times in their young lives. Kids crave positivity, knowing they have accomplished goals, and triumphed over adversity, just as adults do. I had no idea that my schooling and expertise would be used in the capacity it is today. But, I truly believe it was all part of a greater plan for my life.
In November 2011, my father, my hero and best friend, was diagnosed with brain cancer. It was inoperable. I was devastated. One of the most frustrating/horrible aspects of the cancer was that my Dad couldn’t exercise anymore. He was overweight and ate very unhealthy for many years. But, in the past 7-8 years, he dropped over 45 lbs., worked out every day, and at the time of his diagnosis, was in the best shape of his life. Exercise made him happy and fulfilled, the same way it always has for me. Sometimes, he would even do the Turbo Jam videos with me. Although he couldn’t groove like Chalene, he still had fun & made me laugh. I treasure those memories.
In February, my husband, the man I loved more than life, suddenly told me one day he wasn’t happy and left. I received divorce papers in the mail two weeks later. The pain in my heart felt unbearable as I cried myself to sleep every night. I had lost my support & my best friend right after my Dad’s diagnosis. My mother preached resilience when I was a kid, so I pushed myself to stay positive and persevere. I work in education, striving to help every child be successful. About two weeks after the ordeal with my husband, four students were shot in the cafeteria at our high school, and three of them died that day. It was the most tragic event I’d ever experienced. My heart will always go out to the families of the victims of this unfathomable act of violence.
My husband and I had a beautiful Vizsla puppy named Mila who was the light of our lives. When my husband left, I felt very alone and struggled to cope with my father’s cancer, divorce, and the tragedy at school. Mila was my support system. Although she couldn’t talk, she always made me feel loved, made me laugh, and brought joy to a world that was turning dark. At the end of March, I received a phone call at school. Mila was at day care and suddenly collapsed over. She was rushed to the hospital, but the vet not able to revive her. He said it was either a heart defect or an aneurysm, neither of which could have been detected. It was two days after her first birthday. I remember crying over her body, begging her not to leave me, although I knew in my heart she was already gone.
Now I was truly alone, or at least I felt that way. I was just going through the motions of day-to-day life. My father’s cancer progressively worsened over the next couple months. I remember him sitting in his recliner chair in the basement of my house, “his” room, in the dark, with the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up over his head. He was so sad, reflecting on the amazing life he had built for himself and his family, and how it was all deteriorating away, and he had no control over it. He was a pharmacist, and before he lost cognitive skills, knew what would be happening to him. It broke my heart, seeing him so sad, it was so unfair. No one should ever have to endure the suffering he did.
Brain cancer is the scariest thing you can possibly imagine. My Dad’s personality changed, his ability to function cognitively declined, he lost many motor skills, even his voice changed completely. It was like another person was in my Dad’s body. I did everything in my power to stay strong for my Mom even though I was falling apart inside. Eventually, he went to hospice and could not walk or talk. My father died August 25th, 2012. Just when I thought I couldn’t lose anything else, my Dad was gone. A month later, my husband proceeded with the divorce. My Nana died that November, 2012. This was my breaking point.
As I was going through all of this, one thing in my life kept me going, one thing brought me happiness, one thing gave me a feeling of accomplishment, and that was fitness. Exercise became my life line, the reason I could get myself out of bed each day. When you lose so much, you feel like an empty shell. No power, no control over your life. However, I knew that if I pushed myself to sweat, and released the sadness and stress, I could make it through the day. Even when it seemed impossible to begin a workout, once I did, my strength was renewed. I can’t deny that there were days I spent crying in bed with the drapes closed, crippled by grief and depression. Exercise was the only thing that motivated me to open the curtains and take that first step. The first step is always the hardest to take.
On my lowest day, I hit rock bottom. So much of my life had been taken from me. I was sitting on the ground against the wall of my bedroom, head in my hands, crying as hard as I could, trying to release the pain and grief that had become overwhelming to hold inside. My Mom called me as I was crying and told me to just workout, to make myself. She said, “You know that is what your Dad would tell you to do.” Even if my eyes were swollen from crying and my muscles weak from the pain, I knew I needed to fight and not give up on myself or life. As I did my cardio and strength workout that day, I felt myself crawl out of the deep dark hole I had been laying in only an hour before.
Exercise and fitness saved my life. It gave me the resiliency to overcome the unbelievable pain and obstacles I had been dealt. From that point, I knew I wanted to help others find the strength, hope, and determination to take control and change the trajectory of their own destiny. In the midst of darkness, loss, tragedy, and death, Resiliency Fitness was born. Why resiliency? I heard that word so many times from my mom as I was growing up. She not only preached it, but lived by her belief in resilience. There were quotes from Norman Vincent Peale on the fridge and the book “The Edge” on the coffee table at all times.
Resiliency is the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual bouncing back and overcoming life’s obstacles, thus restoring faith, hope, and determination. The word spoke to my soul. Resiliency was what got me through the pain and heartache of so much loss. I created Resiliency Fitness because I wanted to help others use fitness and wellness as fuel to rise above any obstacle, regardless of what it may be. Fitness, nutrition, wellness, and creating a healthy mind, body, and soul have become my life. Living in a constant state of survival mode is terrible, exhausting, and merciless. But, if I wasn’t forced to live in this state of being, I would not be where I am today. Fitness gave me a light to see through the darkness, and I know that it can enrich your life beyond what you think is possible.
So, I made the decision to become a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) and a Certified Health Coach (CHC) through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). I took my life into my own hands. Last November, I started training at LEAN Living with Jaime Brenkus, and my life has forever changed. I get to live my dream; and I refuse to stop until I change the culture of health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness (mentally and physically) as we know it. I want to help people find inner strength, worth, and love, stop tearing themselves apart inside, live a healthier, stronger, and better life, spread the love and joy of fitness, and give people the motivation and inspiration they need to persevere. You are capable of doing so much more than you think you can. Take control of your mind and your life. If fitness can save my life, it has the power to change yours. For me, the sky is the limit from here, and I know my Dad is with me, guiding me and leading me, just as he did when he was alive. I won’t let you down. Thank you for teaching me to be caring, strong, and resilient. I love you Daddy, now and forever.