This year has no doubt been a challenging year for everyone, in different ways. For me, 2020 marked the fifth anniversary of my husband’s death. On January 7th, I observed the mind-numbing fact that my husband had in fact been gone for five full years. It was difficult for me to wrap my head around; how could I have made it so far, yet felt like I had barely taken any steps forward at all? The fifth anniversary managed to hit me hard mentally than any previous anniversary. Maybe because it was such a big milestone. In five years’ time, so much can happen. The baby I was pregnant with when my husband died would be starting kindergarten. Our two year old daughter had become a second grader who could read. It was surreal to think that so much time had passed and the world had been five whole years without Sean, but also that the same five years felt like no time at all.
Two days prior to January 7th, I decided to reflect upon what I needed and wanted out of my life. I started with the “need” part, since it was obvious there was plenty; I still had to allow myself to process from the previous five years. One of the things I decided I needed was to start taking care of myself.
What did taking care of myself actually look like to me? I reflected on a fitness journey I had started a few years back but quit after just two months. I had started my journey by eating better and getting in regular exercise. I recalled that I felt much better physically, but the most notable change?
My father commented on how happy I was. Apparently, it was obvious to many people that when I was working out and setting goals that my mental health was in a much more positive place.
I decided that I was going to make this 2020 New Year’s Resolution stick, no matter what. I knew the odds of getting past January; many people make fitness and a healthier lifestyle a resolution and don’t make it far before falling back into old habits.
I knew that for the sake of my own life, I had to push myself to stick with it. The first five years after my husband’s death had been nothing short of exhausting and I was determined that 2020 was going to be the start of the rest of my life – and that started with a healthier and fitter me.
I did something completely ridiculous in order to hold myself accountable. I set an alarm for 3:00am on January 6th so I could get up, wake myself up, and begin a workout by at least 4:00am. I cannot just “pop” out of bed so I had to give myself a window in which to coax myself to function.
And I did it. I was so proud of myself. That feeling of accomplishment led me to do it again the next morning.
And the next. And the next. I even made sure to get up early on the weekends in the beginning so that my body got so used to the schedule that it wouldn’t try to convince me to stay in bed.
Before I knew it, six weeks had passed and it was now a habit and a fixture in my life.
My physical body was getting much stronger and leaner, but the transformation over those six weeks did something to me mentally that I was not expecting.
“Fitness” had become more than just about my body. My mood had increased significantly and my ability to handle small things that used to overwhelm me and come close to sending me over the edge had also increased.
Again, it was time for reflection as to why.
I realized it was because even though I was getting up at 3:00am, I was taking time to begin my day with quiet and reflection. I would sit down with pre-workout or a cup of coffee and watch a TV show I had not had time to watch with the kids running around, all while allowing myself to wake up before my workout. I would be in a good mood because of the peace and quiet of the morning, so I would be energized to get up and complete my workout of choice. Then, I would shower and eat breakfast and take more time to myself – oftentimes, a devotional or another TV show.
Taking that time for me was what I needed. I needed to show myself that I was important, not just by working out and eating right but by physically giving myself the literal time of day.
Overall fitness truly incorporates the mind, and I had learned that in just the first six weeks.
As widows, we are so programmed to give our all to our children or our work or to whatever other purpose in our lives we feel we must live after the death of our spouses. Upon reflection, I learned that I never took time for myself until my body forced me to by shutting down completely.
My question to you today is this: what do you enjoy that you could take more time for? It may not be health related; rather, it may be music or writing or art or anything that starts a fire inside you.
In January 2020, I was in a very dark place. While work for me and school for the kids was beginning to settle down, my soul was not at rest. Allowing myself to reflect had become a necessity. Sometimes we can get into such a rut that we don’t stop to evaluate ourselves or our feelings. When you’ve suffered a loss such as the ones we have, we often feel we have no control over what happens to us in life but the challenge is allowing yourself the strength to take control of what you are able to and make it yours.
The fifth anniversary of my husband’s death sparked that internal monologue that led me to making much healthier decisions with not just fitness, but in my overall life. Having a conversation with myself and wanting more out of my life and leading me back to fitness saved my life. The first five years of my husband’s death were a blur. And now, for the first time in a long time, I think I can see clearly and walk forward with confidence.
Today, ten months later, I am still working on my fitness and have made so many steps forward with not just becoming physically stronger, but mentally stronger as well. I started with simple weight lifting and began to progress to trying new things, to include shadow boxing. I am now more open to trying things out of my comfort zone and I honestly feel this is due to the confidence I gained all around.
If you haven’t had a conversation with yourself lately, don’t be afraid to reflect and to ask the tough questions. For me, answering those questions pulled me out of a very dark mentality and brought me back to the path of living and not just surviving.
Stay happy and healthy, friends!