Learning From Loss

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This past weekend I was spending time with a close friend of mine who lost her husband last year. As we reminisced about the many memories of her late husband, our conversation unexpectedly shifted to the lessons we learned from this great man. Being a lover of life, he was also a man that always had a plan. He is a constant reminder that your life is exactly what you make of it.

When our visit was over, I couldn’t help but think about loss on different levels, how it affects us and how we grow from it…or how we decay from it. We all experience loss. It is inevitable in nearly every stage of our life. We lose loved ones, we lose jobs, we lose use of our body due to injury or illness, we lose confidence (even if only temporarily), we lose self-esteem, and often…we lose ourselves.

There is a great deal I have learned about loss in my (nearly) 47 years on this earth. Although there is more loss to come, bringing more lessons with each one, this is what I can share about a few of my own losses with hope that something resonates with you and helps you grow today.

• DEATH: When my best friend in college was brutally murdered, I learned that everyone deals with loss differently. Considering that this was my first true experience with loss/death, I was oblivious to this concept, and struggled to understand why some people pushed me away because I reminded them of her, while others smothered me in attempt to feel closer to her. After all, we all were in this together…right? Why couldn’t we all deal with it together, in the same way? It was a terrible time, and I found myself trying to make sense of something that would never make sense. I was desperate to feel close to her. I started doing all of the things that she did when SHE was alive, even though they didn’t all interest me before her death. It took a while to learn this lesson: TIME heals everyone. Tragedy hurts, but each person must embrace their own journey with it…and there is no “right path” to follow. Do things that bring joy to your day. LIVE, if nothing else, for the one you lost. They sure would be if they were still here with us! And sometimes you just have to separate yourself from people that choose to bury themselves in the sadness. You can’t save anyone that isn’t ready to be saved, so save yourself first. LIVE by example, it can be contagious. There have been many significant losses since my college friend, and each one has continued to teach me how valuable TIME is, and how time HEALS.

• EMPLOYMENT: Although I haven’t really lost a job, I have lost something that greatly impacted not only my job, but my life’s passion. As soon as I got settled into my first brick and mortar location for my business, the building I was leasing was pulled out from under me. It was a nightmare. Just as I was building my clientele base and getting momentum in my space, the rug was literally pulled out from under me when the landlord served me a notice they were tearing down my building & I had to move ASAP. As a gym owner, the last thing you want to tell your students is “we have to move, don’t know where yet, but don’t worry…keep paying me & it will work out”! This is the time you learn what you’re made of, and I discovered I had “grit” that had never been discovered. Over the next 3 years I would move my business 3 times, as seamlessly as possible with NO interruption. (I don’t suggest this to anyone, it’s incredibly stressful & expensive!) Losing a job would have been easy compared to the mental, physical, and financial stress during those 3 years…but I would have NEVER learned what I was capable of. I would have also never learned how powerful the community was with my members, friends & family that supported me and helped me get through that time. Lesson: When you help others, it ALWAYS comes back to you! 

• ILLNESS: Loss comes in many forms. For many years I have battled a nasty little thing called Ulcerative Colitis. It had been in remission for nearly 10 years when the stress of the 3 year business transition (mentioned above) wreaked havoc on me. Now 2.5 years after that dust has settled, I still haven’t gotten my system to calm down. That’s how powerful stress can be on the body. I have tried medicine (very expensive), acupuncture, & radical changes in diet. I tried everything I could, while ignoring what my “gut” was telling me to do all along. None of the “remedies” truly worked, at least not for long. But I kept working insane hours, rarely took days off, every waking thought (& sleeping thought) was about growing/maintaining my business & how I could have the biggest impact on others. I had lives to save! I didn’t listen to my body, my “gut”, and what it needed. I just kept giving to others instead. Then, for the first time in a long time, I got a few days off to spend at my most peaceful place on earth, the ocean. Only a few days, lots of sleep, and completely disconnected from everything…and my symptoms stopped. Not a trace. Not until I returned to my insane routine of giving all I could give to everyone else, too little sleep, stress, and no days off again. BOOM! All symptoms came back. Repeat same “miracle remedy” of ocean time again, and no shocker, symptoms stop again. It’s not rocket science, you can only go so long with high energy, stress, & no rest. Lesson: Give your body what it needs! Your body doesn’t fail you, you fail your body by abusing it and driving it into the ground. Now I still work insane hours and give all I’ve got…with a different attitude. When I can feel things building up, I just stop for a bit. Emails, marketing, planning…can all wait. I now allow myself space to “just be” and not have to get it all done every day.

• CONFIDENCE, SELF-ESTEEM, & SELF WORTH: People assume that because of my role as a leader in fitness, that I have never struggled with lack of confidence, a low self-esteem, or that I have never felt “good enough”. Truth is that I was a terribly shy child. I craved attention that I was not able to ask for. I felt weak & inadequate for a good bit of my youth. I was never an athlete, nothing even close! I was scrawny, and running to the end of the driveway left me wheezing. It was on a whim (& driving desire to change) after my senior year in high school that I started walking, then joined a gym, & then discovered how regular exercise made me feel. As I gained a little muscle, I gained confidence. As I gained ability to physically do things I had not done, my self-esteem rose higher and higher. Because I was physically stronger, I became mentally stronger and all the sudden, I WAS “good enough”. This transition grew stronger over the years and ultimately guided me like a compass to what I do today. I so much loved how I felt by taking control of my mind and body that I had to help others do the same. Lesson: Just because you don’t start with something, doesn’t mean you’ll never have it. All it takes is the decision to start something. Then take the necessary first step. And take another, and another. Every step adds up. Whatever you are lacking, and whatever you are dissatisfied with in your life…decide what you want to change and just start today!

When my friend & I were reminiscing of her late husband last weekend, we talked about his favorite and most recited quote: “LIFE IS GOOD”! It truly is, if you can see past the lessons we are forced to learn. There is ALWAYS a silver lining, and it’s rarely obvious. The challenges in our lives are put there for a reason. I believe they are there to make us stronger. One of our mantras at TFW Greensboro is “The STRUGGLE makes us STRONGER”! There is no doubt that I will face much more loss in my future. I expect it. And just as I have done until now, I will learn & grow from it.

If you are looking for a supportive community to help you thrive and grow, join our FAMILIA at TFW Greensboro. When you are surrounded by positive people on the same mission…ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! www.tfwgreensboro.com