When I first got my first (and yes, Mom, only) tattoo, my best friend sort of used it as a thing on which to blame the goofy things I did… As in “Oh, the Phoenix made you do it?” Then it sort of evolved into something we’d say if either of us didn’t want to take credit (errr… blame) for something… you know, sort of like people like to blame dogs for things, even when they aren’t in the room. As in “Nope, not me. Phoenix.” This piece of art on my body sort of took on a life of its own– which was fitting, since I got it as a celebration of being fully alive, and rising above a past that no doubt made me who I am. (Also no doubt provided job security for my gray-hiding magician of a hair lady!)
I got the tattoo a year ago (at 35– i.e… when it was well thought-out!) , as part of the victory dance of this new life I’m in. Partly it was the weight loss, partly finding a career that I love, partly turning away from some tough stuff that happened. Because that’s what Phoenixes do: they rise, they fly, they become something so much more. The fire that consumes these mythological creatures might feel like their ending, but really it’s only a beginning.
When the picture popped up on my Facebook feed this week, I remembered all the feels that went with it: the intensity for which I searched for the perfect phoenix, the uhem *slight* anxiety at what it would feel like and if I’d be able to stand it, the bad-assery of having survived, and finally the love of seeing its true colors emerge as it healed. I wanted it on my shoulder so that when I wore tank tops in the gym, I’d catch glimpses of it as a reminder of what I’m about.
But I wanted to see it especially in the gym for another reason: because it stands for the thing that more than anything I want to gift to my clients. I can talk about healthy eating, and getting out of your comfort zone in the gym, and reducing the stress in your life, and about how health is so much more than a number on a scale, and all. of. the. things. I cannot, though, teach them the most important things: the deep down joy of watching yourself transform and the indomitable spirit it takes to get there.
Is transformation easy? No. Is it painful? It can be– in the sense that things don’t always go as planned, and some times you need– and life gives you– a kick in the pants. But there is also something completely magnificent about the process– and even if every single, sweaty, determined moment doesn’t bring you joy, the freedom of real possibility that comes from this process is something that is unreplicated anywhere else.
Have I wanted to quit? Sure. Most of us have. It’s been hard, and inconvenient, and has required determination that I didn’t always think I had. The results have sometimes been slow in coming. But that’s where the indomitable spirit comes in, and where I’ve failed so many times before. This time around, I realized it wasn’t about any program. It was about me, and how much of my own buh-loney I was willing to take. I finally got good and tired of myself, I guess, and finally I wanted something more than I wanted to keep my life just as it was.
Clients sometimes ask me how I keep going, why I keep pushing, how I find the time to make healthy meals– and there are 100s of things I want to say: That I want to fly and not let life (and me) keep me on the ground. That this change saved my life. That I still have goals that I haven’t met. That I’ve never been as happy or as free as I am right now. That I learned in the gym that I was strong enough to handle my life. That I’m doing things I never imagined, and want to be able to do even more. That I’ve fallen in love with transforming. That I’ve fallen in love with my life, and my not-yet-perfect-but-still-amazing body. And sometimes I do say one or two of these things.
But I always smile, because the answer is simpler than any of those truths: the Phoenix made me do it. And not, as it turns out, the beautiful, fiery one on my shoulder.