I remember the day, like it was yesterday. Walking up the four floors of stairs to my apartment where my husband was waiting for me. I would be seeing him for the first time in 5 days. I was trying to ignore the fact staring me straight in the face that while he was gone, he also seemed to drop off of the face of the earth. He was not reachable by text message or phone calls. I was nervous. I was hopeful. I pushed away the memory that we were in turmoil. I was trying to forget that we were meeting briefly and would be going to our first couples therapy session to see if we could fix whatever it was that was broken in our marriage, in him, in me, in us.
I just wanted him to take me in his arms and whisper, ‘don’t worry, everything is going to be ok’.
He sat me down on the sofa and read for me a letter that he had written to help him express his feelings. While I remember the day like it was yesterday, at that moment I can only remember seeing his mouth moving and hearing him say “I have fallen out of love with you and I don’t want to try”. The sound in my ears was like a vacuum. It sounded and felt like my life was being sucked from my body, up through the pit up of my stomach, and through my oxygen deprived lungs. As tears rolled down my cheeks, I tried to breathe with an unbearable, crushing weight on my chest, the rushing sound of life in my head and a vice grip, strangling tight around my heart.
I remember one other thing; he did say to me ‘you’re going to be ok’.
I remember the day, like it was yesterday. I was at the gym, working out with my trainer.
After the separation, I desperately needed to do something about my body. Due to the divorce and all that it involves (stress, sleepless nights, anxiety, no appetite), I had lost 30 pounds. Around this same time I heard the saying “divorce diet”; while highly effective, I don’t recommend it. The fast and furious weight loss had left me looking gaunt and my skin saggy. I needed to fix this, fix myself. Being in the fitness industry, I knew a number of trainers. However, there was only one trainer that I trusted, literally with my life. I had known him for a couple of years, but did not know him well. We were connected in some inexplicable way and I knew he could help me. I had a lot of energy that I needed to use. Nervous energy. Anxiety. Sadness. Anger. Lots of anger. I knew that these training sessions would leave me feeling exposed and vulnerable. I knew that at some point I would no longer be able to hide my “brokenness”. I also knew that my trainer would be there for me. He would push me when all I wanted to do was stop and he would catch me when my heart completely broke open.
On this particular day, another trainer joined us for the session. She was there to observe and did not speak much so it was like any other session. As usual we talked, we laughed. I worked hard. Harder than I ever thought possible. Harder than I ever thought I was capable. As always, I channeled my energy to get through the workout. Seeing, feeling and hearing the images and words in my head, to help the strength grow and build. To heal. The end of my session was always reserved for some metabolic training; a series of very intense exercises that I would perform as fast and hard as I could for a short period of time. On this particular day (and often afterwards for symbolic reasons), the circuit ended with burpees. A burpee is a multifaceted, full body exercise consisting of jumping up reaching for the ceiling, and then dropping to the floor and performing a push up. Often vomit inducing, they are great for raising your heart rate. In my case, the jump portion of the burpee included jumping up onto a step, jumping off the step, and then down to the ground for the push up and then jumping back up onto the step…repeat and repeat again until the time runs out. Or until you throw up.
Round one went great. I was feeling strong. Round two, something started to crack. The first 3 exercises were good, solid and strong. Then I hit the battle ropes; think about the big, thick rope we used to have to climb in gym class, fold it in half and attach it to the wall, and take each end and basically play the drums, creating waves with the ropes. The ropes are heavy and it requires a strong core, and strong shoulders to get the desired effect. As the arms fall into a rhythm, the ropes beat the ground. With the right state of mind and focus, when you channel anger, when you start using your imagination the exercise becomes almost effortless, and very cathartic. It was during this second round of the battle ropes that I felt the crack in my heart open just a little bit. But time was up and I moved onto the burpees. Again, I found a rhythm but also felt a tightness in my chest. It was uncomfortable. It was different than a panic attack. I did not understand it. I was not sure I wanted to understand it. Thankfully, time was up.
During round three, it finally happened. What had been building up for a few weeks was finally going to happen. Only, I did not know it. I remained focused and strong during the battle ropes. I felt strong, I emulated strong. I was proud of myself. Look at me rocking this shit! I got to the burpees, found my rhythm and the tightness returned to my chest. Breathe. Jump. Breathe. Jump. Breathe. Push up. Jump. Jump. Push Up. Breathe. Jump. Breathe. Jump. Push up. Jump. Jump. Push up. Breathe. Jump. Breathe. Jump.
Keep it together. You’ve got this. Keep it together. Not now. Please not now. Don’t break open now. You can do this. I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this. Please not now.
Time ran out and I finished, intentionally with the push up. I stayed there. On the floor. I couldn’t breathe, there were tears, I was sobbing. The crack in my heart had opened, big and wide, releasing anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment. I was vulnerable to my core.
I was right. He was there to catch me.
After I got my shit together I remember saying “please tell her that you did not break me…it wasn’t the work out that brought my to my knees”.
It was me that had brought me to my knees. It was my strength and determination. It was pride. I didn’t realize it then, but I needed to break open, big and wide. I needed it to happen so that I could start healing, growing and get stronger, physically, mentally and emotionally. I needed to break open, to release the emotions, to make room for the strength.
Every time I see that trainer (she works at the studio now), I am reminded of that day, of that moment. The moment where I started to grow and heal and get stronger.
I had a moment today during my workout, during my push ups, where I realized how strong I truly am. Coincidentally, I saw her today, that trainer. My trainer and I talked about it. Again. As we have done so many times over the past two years. We remarked on how much time has passed, how much I have grown and changed.
I wish that he could see that. I wish he could see that I am no longer the woman he was married to. I wish that he could see that I am no longer the woman he left. I wish that he could see me for who I have become. I wish he could see that I am a strong woman more capable than she ever thought possible. I wish that he could see my determination, my dedication, my accomplishments, my confidence.
He was right. I was going to be ok.
I wish he could see that I am more than ok.