My bestie does this annoying thing where he recommends a movie with lessons neatly tucked into them. He’s good. I get sucked in and love the movie rec, temporarily forget this annoying tendency, and then wham-o. I get slapped in the face by a character who has to learn whatever it is he’s been trying to tell me. So his recent recommendation, Overboard (yes, the 80’s flick with Goldie Hawn) should have come as no surprise. I loved it, I laughed (errr…snorted… errr… ok, ok… cackled) out loud. It was just what I needed that night– a crawl in bed very early with some sort of weird tiredness that’s been going on too long sort of night. My body has been misbehaving lately, and it was getting to me a little bit. I watched 85% of the movie and thought maybe it was actually just a recommendation for a funny flick. Then the wham-o. I don’t want to tell you much, because you should see the movie, but in this scene Goldie Hawn’ character talks to her former butler about a decision she needs to make. He says “most of us go through life with blinders on. Knowing only that little station to which we were born. But you madam, have had the… rare privilege of escaping your bonds for just a spell. To see life from an entirely new perspective. How you choose to use that information is entirely up to you.”
Hmmmph. Bestie= 1, Kim =0. But to his credit, he wasn’t wrong. He knows I have been going through a rough patch with my body on several fronts, and that possibly my attitude isn’t always 100% positive. And he helpfully reminds me that I used to be 100lbs heavier, because while my brain knows it, I don’t always act like my brain knows it. I don’t always use the information on my new perspective well.
He reminds me that I couldn’t do a real pushup, or that I couldn’t squat more than 4″ with only my body weight, because of bad knees. A single inverted row, which is a step to my then ridiculous goal of doing a dead hang, pronated grip chin-up, was out of the question. He reminds me than a 12 minute workout with nothing higher than an 8lb dumbbell put me on the ground when I started.
What he doesn’t have to say because he knows I know this part is that he just watched while I did not only one armed push ups, but one armed inverted rows. (And I can now do not just one, but two real, dead hang, chin ups.) He doesn’t say that I’m doing workouts that people much smaller than me couldn’t do. (64 Inverted Rows, 64 Box hops, 128 Chest to grass pushups, 128 jump squats, 192 mountain climbers, and 192 crunches… in 24 minutes.) He doesn’t mention that not too long ago, even with bad knees, I did 8 sets of 8 reps on the leg press… with 11 plates. (That’s just shy of 600lbs.) And he doesn’t say, “For crying out loud, Kim, you just had a phoenix tattooed on your back to remind you of where you’ve been, what you’ve been through, and that you are, in all the ways that matter, a completely different person.”
I was 35 when I got that tattoo, my first one. I’d wanted it for years, but the time wasn’t right. My story still felt more like a movie I was watching than my life. But even though I’m still changing (and still not totally where I want to be), I’m finally to the point that I can appreciate what I have already become. I’ve made myself a promise that I will keep choosing beauty and strength over wallowing in the ashes of would’ve/could’ve/should’ve. I’ve made myself a promise that I will keep getting up, keep spreading my wings, and keep becoming, no matter what tries to knock me to the ground. Some days, I have to fight to keep that promise.
I jokingly tell my clients, “Hey! Walk in strong and crawl out stronger!” and ask them at the end of very hard workouts that they both simultaneously love and hate “But did you die?” Every single workout, at least once, but maybe 5 or 10 or as many times as it takes, I say “You are stronger than you think.” I talk to them about setting “ridiculous goals” and then blowing them up. And they are starting to get it.
One wants to be able to hang with me on a leg workout. The other day she saw a bar with a 45 on each side, and said “I just want to see if I could squat that one time.” On the day I told her to try it, she slapped a 45 on each side of a bar and got a very determined look on her face. 6 reps, clean and below parallel, later– she felt like a rockstar. She and her twin sister also decided they were going to do a 5k, and they did– but they never imagined they could. And the others in the class are doing versions of my workouts– workouts where they swear they are going to die after the first three minute round, but they keep digging deep and finding more and more to give. They all do things they never believed they could do.
They all, little by little, show up for themselves. They all, without knowing it, adopt what I’ve started calling the Phoenix Promise– that thing inside which won’t let you quit, the thing that nags, and truth be told, burns, a little. The thing that reminds you that you are more than what has happened to you, more than even what you have done to yourself, more than your weaknesses. The thing that won’t let you go until it’s satisfied that you have given it your all. (And it turns around at the very next opportunity and asks you to rise higher, to give even more– more than you ever dreamed you had.)
They all rise right above their beliefs about what they can’t do, above what the world thinks they can’t do, above anything that attempts to stand in their way. It turns out that a Phoenix has no time to sit in the ashes. It’s too busy becoming the amazing thing.
And they are starting to understand. This is what it takes to succeed: A day by day choosing to transform, even when it’s a lot easier to stay the same. An indominable spirit which squashes even the ugliest of pity parties. Flying, when the word expects you to keep your feet on the ground. Soaring, when there are 1000s of people (sometimes including you, if you’re really honest) and things who want to weigh you down.
Maybe you were born one way or the other. And maybe you’ve made some bad decisions along the way. Maybe your life has had several “plot twists”. Maybe you’ve quit on yourself, or quit believing in yourself. Maybe you have more excuses than you have extra pounds.
But that doesn’t have to be your whole story. Because maybe you were meant to fly.
Is today your day, Phoenix?
And if it isn’t today, then when?