It’s been a rough couple of months. I’ve been preoccupied with the drama, negative messages, and surviving the impossible schedule I’ve created for myself. One night recently I was feeling down, stressed out, and defeated. I made my sleepy tea and went to bed early. But I couldn’t fall asleep. I cried. An hour after I shut off the light, I was still struggling to sleep. Just as I dozed off, I was startled awake by a voice – my mother’s voice. “I raised you to be strong and smart. What are you doing letting people mess with your head? Before morning, you will be visited by three ghosts. Don’t be your usual stubborn self. Listen and LEARN.” What the heck? No way. It was just a dream. Back to sleep.
An hour later and I awakened again, and this time, it was really weird. Who was that standing there?? Richard Simmons – I kid you not. I’d recognize that afro and stripped short shorts anywhere. “It’s sweatin’ time! Get that body up! I’m your Ghost of Fitness Past and we have some work to do!”
Oh I know where he came from. I used to have a “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” video. Hahahaha! There isn’t anyone better to be a tour guide to my past. He took me all the way back to the 1980’s when I first discovered weight training. I was a huge Cory Everson fan. I wanted to train, but I didn’t have the discipline. I wanted to party. Big hair, big earrings, and short skirts. Fast forward to 1990. Mom’s funeral. I see myself sitting there in the church, in shock. She was only 56. How could this happen? I know she wasn’t taking care of herself, but she had so much time left. How could she just die?
Richard explains. “She worked long hours. She smoked. She didn’t eat right. She had a rough divorce. Your father was toxic to her and that went on for decades. Stress killed her.” Fast forward again. It’s March 2009. Richard and I are standing in the emergency room at Renown looking at me on a gurney with an IV, oxygen, electrodes, machines, and Paul sitting next to me. He looked very sad. Richard shouts in my ear while he jogs in place. “Look at you! 200 pounds, high blood pressure, high cholesterol – you worked too much” (Annoying little bouncy man. ) “If you don’t make changes – permanent changes – about how you take care of yourself, you will die and leave that man alone. Just like how your mother left you.” Wow. But I didn’t have a heart attack that day. It was an anxiety attack. Not real. I could have easily chosen to ignore it and not change. Richard brings me back to my bedroom and sings me to sleep with a little “Beyond the Sea” because he knew that was my favorite ‘oldie’ from that video.
Exactly an hour later, I’m awakened by a poke in the side and a loud “GET UP!” It’s Jillian Michaels. “Hey – I’m your Ghost of Fitness Present. You’ve done NOTHING different. Let’s get real – NOW.”
I’m up. Suddenly, she and I are in my classroom watching me at my desk. It’s 5:00 pm and I’m working long hours, as usual. I get up and walk around, getting things ready for tomorrow’s lesson. I’m heavier than I was in 2009. Looks like I continued to gain at the rate of 20 pounds a year. I’m up to about 250 now. My hair is gray. My skin is pale. My gait is awkward from the extra flesh I have on my thighs. My knees appear to bother me. My back is stiff. There is a double chin – no wait – it’s almost a triple. Somehow I know that I don’t want to go home. Paul and I are fighting a lot because I’m miserable. I carry that stress with me everywhere. I’m still on high blood pressure meds and I still believe all the ‘smart people’ who told me that women my age can’t lose weight. As I look at myself in that alternate present time, I start to cry.
Jillian whispers in my ear, “Don’t blame anyone or anything for your situation or problems. When you do that, you are saying that you are powerless over your own life – which is utter crap. An empowering step to reclaiming your life is taking responsibility. Be brave and be patient. Have establishment in yourself; trust in the significance of your life. ‘Selfish’ isn’t a dirty word. It means we take care of ourselves and are able to give back.”
I hear her. I see me. I really SEE me. And I scream…“I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS!”
At that moment, Jillian is gone and I’m back in my bed. Wow. That was a harsh dream. I know that death is certain for us all, but I don’t want to die young like my mother. Even if I do, even if something kills me that is not a lifestyle induced catastrophe, like maybe getting hit by a bus, I want to be HAPPY. I want to be VITAL and really, really ALIVE. I want to face my fears and conquer them. I cry a little, pray a lot, and fall back to sleep.
OK – this is getting really annoying – who is waking me up now? OMG!! It’s Cory Everson!!! Still my hero. “Hey Tammy! I’m your Ghost of Fitness Yet to Come. You’re going to like this. Close your eyes.”
When I open them, I’m in a gym. I’m lifting heavy and loving it. As Cory is spotting me she says “We are very similar you know. Both Scandinavian. But you’re not as tall as I am, so you will be able to build muscle faster. C’mon!! You can do this. ” When that set was done she says “Close your eyes again – you’re really going to like this…” Now I’m on a stage. I’m posing to Usher’s song “More”. (Love this song. The first time I heard it, those lyrics described how I felt when I started lifting. I wanted more. “Beast, animal, monster in the mirror…”)
Hahaha! I made it!!!! It’s my first show. At the end, they hand me a trophy – but it’s not a statue, it’s a sword. How cool is that?? That first show is really a short term goal and Cory knows that. “One more time, sweetie. Close ‘em! Now open.” Where am I? Back in the gym. Only this time, I’m the trainer. My client is a 50-something woman who is just starting her adventure. I’m overcome with emotion watching her. She’s so brave. It’s a big deal to show up every day. It’s a big deal to be disciplined enough to take care of herself so her family won’t have to bury her early. Cory then shows me my home. My husband is healthy and happy. Now tears are streaming down my face. He and I are older and active. Life isn’t perfect, but we are able to handle it because we share this life together. I’m so very proud of him. I look beside me and Cory is still standing there smiling. I reach out and hug her. When I let go, I’m back in my bed.
Nice dream. Very nice dream. And the best part, it that it’s not really a dream. It’s real. It’s happening.
Alarm goes off and it’s time to head to the gym. Perfect way to start a new day of my new life.
(The quotes by Jillian are real. The rest is just what I imagine those people would say to me. My dream, right?)