Fitness therapy

imageSomething about being outside, feeling the cool breeze on my cheeks, having my nose run uncontrollably, and bounding along the sidewalks makes everything better. Dashing across the streets when there’s a break in traffic, feeling my heart race when I misjudge, it makes me come alive. Fitness is my therapy and it has become my savior. My old friend who pats me on the back when things don’t go the way I want. It’s also my enemy who challenges me to improve, to show my true colors. Because when the going gets tough, I can either shut down, lose control, or stand up tall and push forward. Fitness allows me to rise up to the occasion. It calms the choppy waves that arise from time to time.

I get lost in the challenges though and that’s when fitness becomes dangerous. I love the discomfort and the burn. When my legs are aching for me to stop, but I push forward anyway. When my breathing becomes shallow and my heart is beating loudly like a timpani. Those are the times I crave but know to be cautious. I’ve used fitness in the past to punish myself. To feel the agony and torture my mind cannot translate. To break myself and physically hurt in the way I emotionally do. Fitness is my lifeline. My serum. My therapy.

The challenge of tomorrow gives me a reason to get out of bed. I need to run, I need to bike, I need to feel my body twist and burn.

 

Reinventing in Southeast

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It’s been so long since I’ve updated this thing! Someone recently asked me why I hadn’t and I mentioned that nothing too exciting or out of the ordinary has happened so no need to update. But I think there’s a lot. What would have been my two year anniversary just came and went a week ago, and during the time I had recruits at Huntingdon. It was a good distraction, but just like most anniversaries, the lead up to it creates the most anxiety. The days leading up to September 19th were grueling, but when the 19th came, I felt good. Relaxed. Happy. I thought about George, I missed George, but I also remind myself how the love I have for him still has helped me improve and better myself. I’ve said it once and I’ll always say it, I am so lucky to have experienced a love like his. I can only wish when I leave this earth someone loves me as much as I love him.

I’ve been in Alabama for 2 months now, and I LOVE IT! In New Jersey there was this cloud of death and sadness that hovered around me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t shake it. I played by the grieving handbook and didn’t make any major life decisions in the first year of widowhood, but when this opportunity came about I did think it was George pointing me in the direction to reclaim my life. And I think I have. When someone dies, no one can prepare you for the financial aftermath and I was lucky to have support of my parents, and to have a great emergency nest. But the reality came that Drew paid me really poorly, and I never was able to recover financially from George’s passing. I was scraping by. Being down here for 2 months I’ve already rebounded back, and though I don’t think money provides happiness, it does provide security which helps with overall happiness.

In New Jersey I learned to cope with the emotions of losing George, but now I’m learning how to live without him. I am so glad I took this risk to move to Montgomery, because I feel so free and independent. There was an adjustment period, but it was because the culture and people of the South are so different than the North. I’m coaching the sport I love, interacting with passionate and determined young women, meeting all sorts of people from different walks of life, and last but not least, I am teaching spin classes at a gym nearby and every time I am on that bike, I know George is smiling at me. Life it good here in the gump. Plus I met a sweet Air Force fellow at the dog park, and Bodie and his dog have become best friends while we started dating. Can’t really complain. My bouts of grief only last minutes now rather than days. That’s one thing worth noting.

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I was eating a carrot

Georgetown for George’s 48th

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It’s been quite awhile since I’ve updated this thing. I was planning on updating this with a post near George’s birthday back on July 12th, but I ran into some physical issues right around then. Basically my knees started hurting in ways I have never felt before, and I was certain that I blew out my meniscus or ACL in some unexplained way. But now 3 weeks later, I feel much better but still suffer a little bit. Turns out it’s from the flight mixed with hiking. Okay, moving on:

George’s birthday landed on a Sunday this year and it was the same weekend as a big lacrosse tournament out in Colorado so I basically spent his weekend in Colorado. I had never been to Colorado, and George and I had talked about vacationing there, so I made sure to attend this tournament and then honor him on his birthday. For those of you who have read this from way back when I first started this blog, I recall flying over the Rocky Mountains the first Christmas I spent without George and staring down at the mountains and seeing them in all their beauty and glory. Then finally in June of 2014, I headed to Switzerland and went into the Alps and once again I yearned to visit the Rockies. George and I hiked in New Mexico and I remember how wonderful it was trekking through the mountains with him and seeing the snow, or trekking down to a hot spring. It always felt so mystical. So finally, I grabbed a flight and booked a hotel and it was Colorado full speed ahead.

On his birthday, I wanted to be in the Rockies, not some strange tributary (I don’t know the correct word for this) off of it. So I looked at a map for a good point of attack and there it was: Georgetown. I got in the car and I drove almost 2 hours upward to the little valley where Georgetown rested. IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! Not only that but strangely enough Georgetown was known for it’s incredible meatballs (George loved meatballs, vegan or not), and the elevation was 8,519ft. Why is this 8,519 a special number, I’m sure many are wondering. Well because George graduated from HS in 1985 the same year I was born. We found that funny. Number 19 is my favorite number and oddly enough George’s HS hockey number, so we made sure to get married on the 19th. Plus there was this crazy bike race going on that day, and we all know George loved bikes. So there you have it, 8519 glared at me as if I was meant to be there. As if George was waiting for me to finally arrive in Georgetown. I walked all over the little town, and finally I headed toward the Rockies. I brought some of George’s cremations with me so he could enjoy the experience with me as well. And together we climbed 12,000ft and enjoyed the picturesque backdrop I knew these magical mountains would provide. It was beautiful, and the greatest way I could have imagined spending his 48th birthday. IMG_1861

Having Courage

Well with my time winding down here in New Jersey, I have decided to spend my Thursday mornings at SoulCycle, again. I’ll miss it, but hopefully the company will decided it’s time to set up shop in Montgomery. We’ll see. I’ve professed my admiration for this cult-like indoor cycling class many times-because it got me started on the road to a healthier lifestyle- but today my reigning #WCW for over a year, Erika, said something that really stuck with me. There was one song where we were turning up our resistance and over the blast of the music she asked the class if we were at our limit yet? I have never stepped away from a challenge so of course I reached down and turned the knob to the right at add more gear. But she continued to voice her encouragement to the class. “In order to know your real strength, what you can do, you need to go places you’ve never gone before and that will show your real courage. It takes courage to go further, to take a risk.”

After the class I told her I loved what she said because I felt like it related to me. Regardless of the upcoming move, there are situations in my life that I am encountering where I initial feel like I can’t do this. I’ve been on my own for over a year and a half, but I had a group of friends to support me in and around the NYC area. But now, I’m embarking on the next great journey. I’m looking to establish my own business when I never thought I could. I feel more stable than I ever have before. I look around me, and think about the future more. I am ready to be alive and carve my path.

The only way I can possibly describe my current mindset and feeling is for a long time I felt like I was chasing a shadow. I would walk a path and in front of me is a shadow of what I believed was me. Staring down at it’s every move and figuring a way to trap it and call it my own. The dark outlines, and same cadence and leading me to where I thought I need to be going. Leading me to where I was SUPPOSED to go. But now my gaze is ascending and the sun is shining above my head. I see the horizon, rimmed in gold, glowing so bright and in front of me is possibilities. I’m taking a risk, and with all my heart I know it will have great reward. Through this entire widow journey, I knew it would stretch me to my limit and then past it to find strength and hold on to it, but I never realized that I needed to find my courage to want to push along as well.

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Another Spring Season

Toward the end of last year’s lacrosse season I started to have some major grief issues. The lacrosse season allowed me to stay busy and keep my mind off of what I had lost. This year there was a lot of highs and lows, and though my team is awaiting to hear if we had made it into the post-season tournament, things feel a little unsettled like they did a season ago. When the season is over, my normal routines get altered and I lose a little bit of purpose in my life. I can’t explain it, but I have this unnerving feeling of not sure what comes next.

We lost a must-win game on Saturday and after the game, I just wished George was alive so badly so I could vent to him. All season long, his absence was felt so much more this year than last. I would come home from practice and just want to tell him everything that’s gone on. All the good news and the bad. Just a need to talk to him. After Saturday’s game I wanted to tell him how disappointed I was, and how I felt I had let my team down. But through the wanting to have him return to me, having all his small trinkets and some of his stuff around me in the apartment, I knew this is a piece of this journey that going at it alone was best. Something that will prepare me and make me stronger for the future. Whenever I want to breakdown and just fall apart, I remember how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown and changed. And regardless of outcomes, and petty conflicts, no one can take my strength away from me. It is a part of me, and has made me who I am now.

So just like I did last year at this time, I’m turning to fitness. Running, biking, lifting, and swimming. It just makes me feel alive. I want to look as strong as I feel. And I’m closing in on that goal. So much has changed since that dreadful morning of November 25, 2013.

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Best Anniversary Imaginable

I was dreading my one year anniversary. There was so many emotions that were swirling inside of me in the weeks leading up to it, but there was one event that I had my eye on; Times Square Takeover with Cycle For Survival. It was the second annual Times Square Takeover and it was such a coincidence that it fell on George and my one year anniversary. I love Cycle for Survival because I know where all the money raised goes, and it’s for a wonderful cause. All the money raised goes to further rare cancer research and clinical trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. It’s the hospital where George was being treated, and well, I want to raise money so hopefully they can find a way to cure George’s disease and another family doesn’t have to go through this miserable grief that cancer has given me.

I don’t want this post to sound like an advertisement but it’s just so important to me. Having an event like that suspends grief and the hurt for days, even weeks. There’s no bandage big enough to cover up my pain, but there is movements like Cycle for Survival that kills the pain for a bit. I went to NYC on Friday and two days later I’m still in awe of what happened, and how many strong and amazing people I got to meet. When I rode with my team in February I was so raw from George’s passing, but now I’m almost at the 10 months widowed, and it was an entirely different experience. In February I was just so broken, but now I’m kind of figuring out this new life and I know what works for my grief and what doesn’t. Exercise is the best remedy for me.

I got to meet the co-founder of Cycle For Survival, David Linn, and he gave me a bag of wild berry skittles which he read from my last post. I was so moved by the gesture, and if it was months ago I would have started crying, but then I just shined a big grin. It’s amazing the support that’s offered there. So many people who can relate to your situation in a way. I just love it.

I came away from my wedding anniversary with hope. I know I can go on, I know things will progressively get better, and I know there’s so much support out there. Most importantly, I feel like I have been given a purpose. Through George’s death there’s been horrible days, but there’s also been a balance of extraordinary days. I feel he’s watching over me and wants to see me succeed until we’re reunited. Because then I’ll have good stories to tell him about.

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Strength in your heart

This morning I went to my usual morning SoulCycle class with my one of my favorite instructors, Erika, leading the class. I needed some major reflection after the weekend I had and the one thing I love about her classes is she pushes you hard but continues to reaffirm the “digging deep” is for a greater purpose. I like how it’s vague because it leaves room for interpretation because for some it can be to better their fitness, for others to balance themselves out, but for me I needed to hear the encouragement. I was emotionally detached/numb for most the weekend after spreading George’s ashes.

At one point on the bike today she asked us to put our hands on our hearts and take a moment to feel it beating. This is something that’s somewhat mundane at the end of classes, but for some reason today it was a trigger. Tears welled in my eyes as I felt my chest perpetually thump against my hand. Then I remember laying next to George in the hospital beds, watching tv and listening to his heart drum against my ear. Because of the IVs, I had to lay on his left side so I didn’t pull them out on accident or interfere with the nurses coming in to hook him up. Often times we would fall asleep holding each other and the metronome of his heart would be my white noise.

His heart wasn’t as strong though. If it was, he’d still be here and I wouldn’t have this blog. After class I couldn’t stop thinking about my heart and what I’ve done. Having George die is easily the hardest thing I’ll have to go through in my life. He gave me confidence and brought me so much happiness, and without him I lost both those things. So I had to learn how to do it myself and during the process I was introduced to SoulCycle, which certainly helped get the ball rolling. With this “new chapter,” I’m doing what brings me happiness and trying to better myself. I’m trying to strengthen myself physically and emotionally. I’m a work in progress.

After I spread George’s ashes, I was so defeated and sad. I reached out to my friend, Larry, who works as a personal trainer at Definitions and he said he would make a workout for me. With workouts it allows me to become disassociated from what lingers on in my mind on a daily basis and forces me to live in the here and now. Whatever the task is at hand, whether it’s lifting a heavy object and putting it down or swinging a weight, I have to be focused on it and what I’m doing. Cause if I’m not, I’d get hurt. It’s become imperative that I squeeze a workout in everyday.

I knew scattering the ashes was going to be hard, so I asked him to break me with a workout. And he did. It was long and brutal, and I’m still sore from it. Many times through it I thought I couldn’t do it because it was so tough and my muscles were screaming with hot pain, but he didn’t let me give up. He told me to get it done cause the other option of not doing it wasn’t acceptable. So I pushed through. And afterwards I was looking up at him as he was helping me stretch out and he asked if I liked it. I started crying. He broke me, but not in a bad way; I felt good. He also bought me a tropical smoothie afterwards, which ratified his status of the best personal trainer in NYC. Notorized and approved on 7/3/2014.

There’s a sense of accomplishment to overcome what you think would and could destroy you. When I have bad days, my brain can go into dark places. But sometimes I just need to feel my heart and remember there’s something greater out there waiting for me. I just have to find my way out of the grief maze.

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Why can’t my brain shut off?

Today was a pretty exciting day. I dropped a couple hundred dollars and registered to get certified in indoor cycling. I first started indoor cycling classes in 2010 and I remember telling George that I wanted to get certified to teach. I always talked about how I wanted to get certified, but never put my best foot forward to do so. Until now.

It was fun, but halfway through the 8 hour course, I started to really get sad. I wish he was around so I could tell him about the class. But he isn’t, and I just couldn’t stop thinking about how I wish he WAS home waiting for me. That goddamn empty apartment syndrome. It’s brutal as hell.

When we lived in Jersey City, our apartment complex had a few spin bikes, so once and awhile George would humor me and let me be the spin instructor and then afterwards he would critique how much he hated my music and how I talked too much. It was fun. We started to do spin circuits too, which consisted of you do a series of 3 exercises and then hop on the bike until the end of the song that was playing before starting the next round. We usually went for 10 rounds.

When I got home, I jumped in the shower, and immediately as the water started rushing down my back, I had a vivid flashback to one of the last bike rides we went on together; we biked to Hoboken and got lost and I got angry at him for getting us lost. I hate getting lost. He was always such a great sport about everything. I would get grumpy and he was always even keeled about it all. He allowed me to be mad, and just knew I would blow steam off and be back to normal. We used to always wonder if every George had a Julia and if every Julia had a George. I wish I still had my George. Why did my happiness have to be paired with something like this? This world can be brutally unfair, and I can’t help but wonder if I’m supposed to ever find peace? And at what price?

Grief has caught me in its unforgiving and menacing jaws tonight. Tomorrow, I might be slightly mangled, but I’ll get by. I’m a fucking survivor.

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