I was in the throes of a life crisis when I met my hair stylist– only I didn’t know how to call it that then. I’d recently separated, my job had me stressed to the point I couldn’t see straight, and I’d lost about 50lbs– so even my body felt strange to me. She gave me the professional cut I wanted, though she herself had fantastic purple hair. I silently envied her and her hair. She cut all my hair off when I’d had enough with… everything, and understood it was a freedom cry. She smiled when I took a new job and grew it back out again, and cut it off when again it was time to revise who I thought I was. She only mildly rolled her eyes when I told her I wanted to go blonde, despite having just gotten the nice deep red color we’d been working towards for months. Every time I’ve not known what to do with myself or my life, she’s given me the hair I needed. But yesterday, sensing that I was in another, somehow different place, she dyed the front of it blues, greens, and purples– which I love possibly more than any other ‘do I’ve had. I realized on the drive home, when I was trying very hard not to make my hair catch the sunlight so I could see it in the rearview mirror, that she’s my people. She gets me and supports me no matter where I am. But more than that, she imagines possibilites for my wild and precious life that I don’t always see for myself.
We need people in our corner, especially when it comes to becoming healthy. One of the places where I repeatedly failed at losing weight was believing that I could do it alone. I would try to eat “healthier” and then cave when I was alone and my emotions wound up tasting like Ben & Jerry’s. I’d start every morning telling myself I’d go to the gym, but my resolve had usually melted by 10 or 11 a.m. when I was already so tired from carrying myself around through the day. If I made it to the gym, I played around on the machines until I felt a bead of sweat, and then justified coming home. I picked machines not because I knew what they did, but because they were on the perimeter of the gym, where I wouldn’t be as likely to get noticed. Or worse, I justified the “healthy” frozen yogurt store on the way home– with its dazzling array of brightly colored, sugary toppings. (But hey, I earned a “small” treat.) I could go on and on (andonandon…this is the song that doesn’t end, yes it goes on and on my friend!) with examples.
Once I finally started working out with a trainer, my world changed. He was the first of my fitness tribe but really, he just helped open the door to me meeting the rest of them. But at least while talking or training with him, I had one person who believed in what I was doing. There was one person that was as passionate about my success as I would finally learn to be. There was one person who, when I wanted to quit on my dream, would make me reconsider. As I got in the gym though, my tribe grew. Day after day, I’d see the same people– and they became family. They would ask how it was going. They’d cheer me on when I was trying to figure out how to lift all.the. heavy. things, while at the same time not dying and attempting with one finger to let my trainer know how very much I liked that workout. They noticed if I didn’t show up for several days, or when I seemed tired or discouraged. Whatever I thought about people judging me in the gym turned out to be the farthest thing from reality.
As I became a trainer, my tribe grew again. This time, it expanded to include men and women who didn’t always have the answers (which is why they came to me) but who just wouldn’t give up. Later, it began to include a group of women (all moms, most several years older than I was) who trained hard together several times a week. They’d done a lot more cardio than I had, and they were fitter than I was– and they made me work for it to feel like I had a place. They made me better.
After trying and failing for most of my life, I finally found something that works. The meal plans were a huge part and the training helped me do things I never imagined possible (like a real, hands forward, chin clears the bar, smooth like buttah chin-up.) But without people, my people, my tribe, I know I never would have done it.
Find YOUR tribe. You’ll know them when you see them. They’re the ones with eyes
on goals in the same direction as yours. They’re the ones with a fire inside them, or at least that same stubborn refusal to quit. They’re the ones who will offer a word to lift you up and challenge you, when all you remember how to do is frump around. And they’re the ones who, as someone said to me years ago, “love you to the best of YOUR intentions.”