Today had a rough start. A restless nights sleep followed by a 5 am start to our day. Jeff is no longer walking without full support. This is a new development over the past month and he requires full-time use of his wheelchair. Today was his first day in the office with his power wheelchair. Can you recall the first day of a new job or even school? The first day is always hard. Fear. Nerves. Unwanted attention. All of this coupled with the acknowledgement that something serious is taking place. The words from Jeff’s neurologist still ring loud and clear in my mind “whatever is going on, you need to prepare yourself for something serious.”
So, on our first day out with the power wheelchair, we decided to make a grand entrance. I pulled into the freshly painted “VAN ACCESSIBLE” handicapped parking space at Jeff’s office. I tossed the keys and cell phone in the seat and shut the drivers side door. I went to open the side door to release the anchors from Jeff’s wheelchair. LOCKED. I checked the driver side door. LOCKED. Frantically I checked the passenger door, trunk and side door. LOCKED. LOCKED. LOCKED. Jeff inside. Me outside. Jeff anchored down in his wheelchair and me standing helpless on the other side of the glass peering in. Do I laugh or do I cry?! Panic. Fear. Now what?!?!?!
Jeff was able to unbuckle the shoulder strap and shimmy his way to the front of the vehicle to unlock the car, which in turn set off the alarm that I was unable to disarm for what seemed like an eternity. Perfect. More fear. More nerves. More unwanted attention. Roll out the red carpet (ramp) and sound the alarms: The Homan’s have arrived!!!!!!
Deep breath. We survived. As I sat in the parking lot, fighting back tears while I watched Jeff motor into the building, I glanced down at my watch. It displayed my resting heart rate. Your resting heart rate is a measure of how many times your heart beats per minute while at rest, and is a good measure of how fit you are. 60-100 is normal. A lower heart rate often suggests greater physical fitness. Mine is 47 beats per minute. So despite how I feel…despite the hurt in my chest, the broken and bruised and shattered heart that leaves me feeling weak and inadequate, my heart rate monitor says otherwise. It says I’m strong, healthy, capable and fit.
There is tremendous benefit when it comes to combining fitness with grief. There is something transformative with sprinting, climbing, lifting weights and flat out emptying your tank. I can feel the pain wash over me and the endorphins energize me, uplift me and encourage my soul. A good heart pumping, sweat session is a great place to release the daily emotions that come with grief, stress, anxiety and fear. Intense exercise has emotional benefits that reach far beyond physical fitness. I can sweat out toxins and process the hurt and pain.
You see, grief doesn’t just visit you on a memorable day or holiday. It moves in, unpacks, resides and puts down roots…and worse, it never leaves. As long as you have breath, it exists. Without warning grief makes an unwelcome appearance and it devastates the landscape of your heart, leaving you bruised and breathless and weary and then you have to rebuild it again…and again…and again.
You are forced to face your inability to do ANYTHING but feel it all and completely fall apart. There is nothing I can do to change this. This is our road. Its long and hard. This is not a momentary detour, it’s permanent. There is no way around it. Grief has interrupted our plans, changed relationships and rewritten the script for us.
Exercising (and even instructing classes) requires intense focus while giving me a sense of control. My life feels wildly out of control right now and I can walk into the studio for an hour and take back the reins. Exercise increases blood flow to your brain, allowing it to function better. It promotes feelings of calm and well-being. And…my absolute favorite… it also releases endorphins, which are powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Endorphins = the FEEL GOOD drug. I need it. I crave it. Oh, I still grieve. Tremendously. I still want to launch that cereal bowl against the wall, but now I can throw a punch in class or bicep curl a 20 pound weight or feel my lungs gasping for air and my legs burning after 60 seconds of all out burpees! Yes, I still grieve tremendously. I’m just stronger both physically and emotionally. My endurance, perseverance and grit are well developed. I can face life better, function well despite terrible odds, and LIVE. Growth is hard. It hurts. Building muscle is hard. It hurts. Giving your all is hard. It hurts. Pushing your absolute limits is hard. It hurts. And life is hard. It hurts. But…You’ll come out better and stronger.
LIVE. For “TODAY, is the best day.”