My mom died just over 4 years ago from complications of alcoholism. Today would have been her 51st birthday.
It’s been hard.
It’s been hard to see my sister become the best mother, knowing my mom won’t ever get to watch her parent.
It’s been hard to fall in love knowing my mom will never meet my partner.
It’s been hard to watch my family change, feeling like I can’t remember my mom’s place in it.
I used to be pretty angry. I felt that my mom didn’t love us enough to change her habits, change her behaviors. I was mad that I didn’t find better ways to help her. I was angry that I wouldn’t have a mom for the rest of my life. And I was incredibly angry because of the pain her death caused me, the panic attacks, the depression and the loneliness.
Luckily I am no longer depressed or lonely, but it definitely took me a long time to fully come back to myself.
The anger is also much less now as it’s been a number of years, and I’ve really been able to think about the situation as a whole. And I mean full-on big picture.
When I think about it, from a really young age I understood that my mom’s one passion and purpose in life was to raise a family.
We had the BEST childhood. I really cannot find one fault in my upbringing – it was the happiest, most loving & supportive environment I could have asked for.
Everything revolved around my sisters and I, our well-being & our happiness. Our family did everything together and we truly had the inseparable bond that some families can only dream of.
My mom stayed home with us and taught us everything from reading to swimming to cooking to gymnastics. She taught us how to lead our lives with both a kindness and strength that only she knew we had within us. Her life revolved around making us happy, fulfilled & successful at whatever we wanted to do.
And then we grew up.
She struggled with depression off and on, but by the time I moved out of the house (I’m the youngest of my two older sisters), she had hit her worst.
She felt that she no longer had purpose in life. She wasn’t happy, and she lost a battle that was too big for her to fight alone.
But she wasn’t weak.
My mom raised 3 strong women. She showed us what true love looked like. She instilled this fire within us that will never waver. She lived an entire life purely just to nurture us – nothing else. She was strong.
I am the product of a strong woman.
I’m not really sure what drove me to write this. Maybe just the heavy year filled with grief. Maybe the strain we’ve felt on our mental health. Maybe it’s my need to try and keep my mom’s memory alive.
For a while after she died I felt like I shouldn’t talk about it. Some people judged our family and tried to make us feel ashamed.
I can tell you one thing for sure – I am not ashamed. My mom struggled with alcoholism and that did not make her less than worthy of respect, appreciation, sympathy and love.
Your loved ones are not defined by the ailments that took them.
They are defined by their passions they realized.
By their moments they shared.
By their uniqueness that makes them so missed.
And by the love you continue to feel for them.
Grief is relentless. It is life-shattering and cruel – painful in the deepest sense of the word.
My heart will always hurt for the death of my mom. But I am so proud of the children she raised and the lives we were able to build for ourselves because of her.
And that pride reminds my heart that this intensity of pain is rare. It’s valuable. It’s special.
I’m grateful for the pain as it means I had something worth caring about so deeply. Someone who meant the world to me.
And with time I can see that it’s made me 100x stronger than I ever would have been.
Because I’m the product of a strong woman.
I’ll relate this back to fitness, just so you’re not entirely confused.
Everyone asks me how I stay motivated. I, however, am not motivated most days to do a workout plan. It seems like the least important responsibility in my life sometimes.
But then I think about the big picture.
My mom ultimately didn’t successfully take care of herself, and as a result, she isn’t here today. I don’t think working out would have necessarily saved her life, but it would have been different.
The amount of research on the benefits of exercise for mental health is overwhelming. Consistent exercise can pull people out of depression, lessen anxiety, increase self-efficacy and provide individuals with a sense of purpose.
I want to be able to chase my future kids around outside. I want to wake up feeling energized and happy with my life. I want to decrease my risk of ahces, pains and diseases because I want to be here for a long time.
I want to be alive when my future kids grow up and achieve their goals. I want to achieve all of my goals in life – and I’ll need quite a few years for that.
My commitment to working out and treating my body well is not to have abs or a big butt. To look “good” in a cute outfit or bathing suit. My commitment for health and exercise comes from a deep understanding of the benefits – both short and long term – that are a lot more meaningful to me than simply not feeling like working out one morning.
Right after I wrote this, I saw a new post from Jordan Syatt (find it here). He makes an eye-opening and important connection to suffering.
In life, you are going to suffer. If you hate working out, that may be an area of suffering for you. And that’s OK, you definitely don’t have to love working out. Everyone has different things they love to do, obviously.
So exercise may be this sort of willful suffering you endure. Not because you want to do it, are determined or motivated. But simply because this willful suffering will, in fact, protect you from actual non-willful suffering down the road – from many possible adverse effects of NOT exercising (increased likelihood of obesity, decreased pulmonary function, decreased bone density, decreased cardiovascular health, declining mental health).
You exercise because you want to live a long and healthy life. That’s it. And this reward for a better quality of life is really all you could ask for.
So next time you’re lacking motivation, think back to this message. Watch Jordan’s video here. Remember your reasons for this willful suffering and do it for yourself.
And please, if you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, know that you are not alone. Unfortunately that is not willful suffering, and it is intense and crippling. I am always here if you need someone to talk to, and you should always reach out to a professional if it becomes too overwhelming.
Thanks for being here and allowing me to share with you.
Let’s be strong, mentally and physically, together.