Grief is a tricky process. You can think that you have it more or less under control, until something or someone triggers the unlocking of that part of your heart. That part that you have kept locked away, for fear of not being able to control it again if it is unleashed. The part of you that is still hurting, still wounded and seems to have no permanent salve. The wound that only temporarily closes over, in survival mode. For if you let the sadness, the loss, the utter despair of those wounds be given the chance to flow, you fear that the river will drown you, as it becomes a tsunami that swallows you whole.
They say that time heals all wounds; however, I disagree. I believe that some wounds never really heal, for they are so deep within your soul that they cannot be reached. The sting of them lessens, as the years and decades pass. You find better coping mechanisms and your self preservation instincts are activated. Survival or defeat are the only two outcomes. To quote the expression "whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger" is in fact true. As a species, survival is hard wired into our DNA. So, we find ways to exist, even if it’s not really living. We start by going through the motions of what we assume we are supposed to do. Many of us numb to all that is going on around us; simply acting as automatons, putting one foot in front of the other. Some of us even convince ourselves that it’s not real, that they are simply away on a trip and will be back soon. Anything to avoid the painful reality, that many of us cannot bring ourselves to bear.
I know there is the expression "that it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." Although I know many people would disagree, I am not one of those people. The sheer joy, happiness, and unconditional love, if truly experienced, is precious even if fleeting. I never would have guessed that I would only be granted 12 years with my father and 26 with my mother. However, I know countless people who still have both parents in their lives and don’t really have much of a relationship with them, or a mediocre one at best. As much as my heart misses them each and every day and I would give anything to have the chance to say goodbye, or tell them that I loved them, before they were abruptly taken from me; I wouldn’t trade the exceptional, albeit limited, number of years that I was blessed to have with them! I had no doubt in my mind that they loved me, or that they loved each other fiercely. I am so grateful for getting to experience what the unconditional love of a parent is like. I had the pleasure of witnessing and living the love and devotion of a family unit that chooses to recognize what is really important; that the greatest gift that we are given cannot be purchased, it is the time and opportunity to be together.
This year culminates 30 years that my dad has been gone, 16 for my mom. Had I known I would lose them so young; I would have asked so many more questions. I wouldn’t have taken their presence in my life for granted. I would have focused more on what was profoundly important, what they already knew, that time is precious, and life is fleeting. My dad used to say: "live each day as if it were your last, because one day it will be." As a child, I didn’t comprehend how profound a message that truly was for him to impart. In fact, it took me another 14 years, after losing my mom, for the gravity of the message to fully sink in. I had foolishly been so focused on quickly climbing the ladder in the corporate world, ambitious in the pursuit of my subsequent promotion or raise. It was only then, after her death, that I realized that it didn’t matter how far or fast I climbed that ladder, arriving at some preconceived accomplishment/destination. What was truly important, was how and with whom I shared the journey.
I thought back to a moment when I was working full time, yet still living at home. My mom had slipped a napkin with the last four lines of a poem written on it into my lunch bag. The profound words have echoed in my mind since: "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present." Most of my generation has been so concerned with making a name for themselves professionally, in some cases making expensive purchases, in an effort to "keep up with the Jones’. Many people have become car poor or house poor as a result. In this pursuit, we have lost sight of the fact that the journey is such an important part of our experience. It’s irrelevant how many ‘things’ we amass during that time. Since then I have learned the importance of collecting experiences, rather than possessions.
I spent a lot of time reflecting on what was important to me, really, with fewer filters clouding my judgement. I didn’t at first know how, although I realized that I wanted my life to mean something by the time it was over, to have made a difference in the lives of others. It percolated over the span of the next few years, as I stumbled my way through life. I had an epiphany…I realized that if I were to stay in the corporate world, my inbox would always be full and that if I were to leave, they would quickly and easily find someone else to replace me. They may even pay them less and give them less vacation time. It donned on me that I was merely a number, one of many, who the companies didn’t care about, or have any qualms about losing.
It took me quite a while to figure out how I was going to make a difference and make my life count for something. I tremendously respected the career my mom had chosen of being a teacher. She was truly the greatest teacher any child could ask for or be fortunate enough to be placed in her classroom. As my mother she was my perpetual teacher, my human encyclopedia, long before Google existed. After my dad’s death, we banded together against the world and she became the best friend I’ve ever had. I had and still have, so much respect and admiration for the incredible mother, teacher, and human she was. I have often said and stand by the claim, that I aspire to be a fraction of the woman she was. That if I can accomplish that, I will have achieved a great feat!
I realized that what I really enjoyed was helping people and needed to find something where I would be able to do so as a profession. After moving home to Canada, following a two-year stint studying, teaching, and working in Spain, I discovered where my path would begin. During my time in corporate, I had worked hard through diet, exercise, and perseverance to lose 85lbs on my own. I discovered a private fitness studio that unlike the big box gyms, would allow me to make each person more than just a number. I wanted to help people be healthier, live longer and have a greater vitality in life. I wanted people to know that although it could be a challenge, that it was achievable. I wanted them to see living proof of what they may have believed to be impossible. I wanted to help show them all the important pieces that I had learned over the years, to get to the fast track of success and results. I felt comfortable with pursuing a career that helped people to have a better quality of life and the ability to live it more fully. Having lived through the experience and the struggles that can come along with it, I was able to relate to real people’s real experiences.
It started as strictly motivating people to pursue a better diet and physical activity, through training and nutritional information. As the daughter of a teacher and a highly inquisitive person by nature, I recognized the need for perpetual learning. Especially in a field like health and fitness, which is advancing at a breakneck pace. I think it was Cicero who said: "A room without books is like a body without a soul". I will update that expression to my own modern interpretation which includes the internet: "A life without continued learning, is a life half lived. The more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know and still have yet to learn." As a result, I continued to read countless articles from all different sources like Prevention Magazine, the Mayo Clinic, Under Armour, Popular Science, Time Magazine, the NY Times, etc. I also watched documentaries from the BBC, CBC, and the like; most importantly, all credible sources with evidence-based research, on all things to do with health sciences, our bodies, fitness, health, nutrition, etc. I also took a variety of courses to pursue various avenues of helping people to have a more overall/holistic view of their health and wellness.
It has always been important to do a good job, to do anything to the best of my ability, which includes my career. I not only wanted to help provide the ‘Coles Notes’ version of the pertinent information pertaining to health and fitness, that most of my clients were too busy to pursue; I also wanted to help those individuals who had sustained injuries have some reprieve from their pain. Having suffered through a multitude of congenital, acute, and chronic issues/injuries/pain, I understood the limiting/restrictive impact it could have on your life. After undergoing a great deal of physiotherapy and other pain treatments, I started to get more into healing modalities. I’ve had the great fortune of learning a lot from my osteopath, who has been very generous with his time and wisdom. I ended up unwittingly falling into a form of physio/fitness rehab, to compliment the fitness training. Subsequently, through the suggestion of a friend, I found myself enrolled in my first Reiki course, which is an ancient form of energetic healing. It is often used in conjunction with other modalities to accelerate the body’s healing.
Moreover, I discovered that there were many people suffering with pain or autoimmune conditions, for which there seemed to be no cure and no reprieve, other than a series of pharmaceuticals.