I. Did. It.
I’m still a little amazed myself, that on Saturday I walked on stage in front of hundreds of people in less than 1 yard of fabric (I might be exaggerating…..but I’m damn close). As I learned early on though, and as was the topic of conversation with many of the other women on that day, it wasn’t about that. It was about so much more.
“Peak week” started with receipt of my menu: 6 meals per day. 4 of chicken and leafy greens. 2 of white fish and leafy greens. Deplete your water intake starting Thursday, until Saturday you get just a “sip”. Ok. I’ve made it this far. I can do this. By Tuesday, I had to start to tell myself that if I were in prison I would think this fish and broccoli were a gourmet meal. Honestly, the thought of it now is making me gag and I may never eat white fish again. I certainly won’t be cooking it in my home anytime soon. The week was an exciting frenzy of femininity. Lashes. Waxing. Haircut. Makeup. Photoshoot. I’m not a girly girl so it was kind of a fun time. But the biggest part of that week was the camaraderie. At any point in the gym, at the photo studio, at the hotel, I was surrounded by more women than I ever had been in my life. Women from 16 to 62, some who’d been here before and some like me for whom it was thier first time. We’d all worked hard and sacrificed, and looked to our family, friends, and each other for support and here we were. I started to have a feeling of deja vu, and it took me a little while to realize why this seemed so familiar.
The day and a half at the show was completely surreal. I was glazed and glued. I was spray tanned. Three times. (I could have done it four times but at that point I was over it). I spent a LOT of time standing around in 5″ heels. There were countless women doing the same thing but everyone was so kind and supportive. I know it might seem naive, but it’s true. It was a competition, but I experienced nothing but support and laughter. Maybe it was because everyone could clearly see I wasn’t a threat to them winning a trophy? Who knows. Who cares. It was euphoric. I had no idea that my “team” would be such an integral part of my experience. There were a lot of women that I met that were there alone and weren’t connected with a gym. They seemed to crave the support/connection that our women (and the other teams) had and it was so wonderful to see everyone making the space for that to happen. I couldn’t imagine being there by myself, so kudos to those girls. The most common sentiment I heard from everyone to each other was “I wish I would have gotten to know you better earlier.” I’m going to remember that as I blow through life from this point forward. I think there is a way to connect to almost everyone if we focus outward and take a moment to look. Seeing someone can happen in an instant, but the impact can last for good.
My first time on stage in the morning, I think I blacked out. I don’t remember if I posed correctly. I could have fallen over and I wouldn’t have known. My legs were shaking and my heart was beating so loud that I could hear it in my ears. I was feeling something that I rarely ever feel: Fear. I was almost immobilized by it. I have been in sales for close to 30 years and have been on stage in front of hundreds of people numerous times. I’m pretty comfortable in most situations, and I guess it’s clear that I don’t give myself many opportunities to step outside of that safe space. I didn’t even realize it until later in the morning when I thoughtfully had to process what those emotions were that I felt. How silly, right? At then, at the evening show when I saw about 30-40 of my closest friends and family in the audience with thier matching tshirts there to cheer me on, I felt like my heart literally exploded.
Many people this week have asked me “Hey! How did you do?” My answer is “I think I came in 15th out of 14 in my division.” Maybe those with a competitive streak don’t understand how to me that is winning. It’s not about a trophy for me. I’ve always deemed myself successful if the outcome is being a better version of myself. It is not defined by someone else. It was never about that. It was about stretching, growing, committing, and finishing strong.
When I was in my early 30’s I did one of those experiential workshops. Like EST or Lifespring in the 70’s, or Landmark now. In a nutshell, you are with a group of people that you don’t know, you are guided through exercises that pull you so outside your comfort zone and force you to be in situations where you must open up. If you have a positive experience, which I did, you usually come through it feeling transformed in some way. Your perspective is blown wide apart, you feel an accelerated sense of connection to the other participants, and you see the unlimited possibility within yourself and others. In fairness and like anything, many people do not have a positive experience and these courses are very controversial. I’m guessing just like these competitions.
I realized that was where the deja vu was coming from. I was feeling so connected to these women. I was opening up about my feelings, what I was scared or insecure about, and what I was excited about. It was very liberating for me to be able to put myself in the passeger seat and let others drive. I (think) I was also being supportive of them in a way that usually only happens with lifelong friends or family. It was wonderful. But like the training schedule and diet over the last half of a year, it couldn’t be sustainable ALL THE TIME. I personally would be exhausted being so emotionally open and vulnerable constantly. But what I realized is, like the road that got me here, I now had a visceral understanding of what it feels like to be there, and I can tap into it easily and fluidly. I am different. I am back at the gym, I’m still prepping my meals, and I’m loving that for the first time in my life I feel like this healthy lifestyle is just part of me. It doesn’t have to be drastic. I don’t need to incessantly talk about it. It’s just who I am. I was telling a good friend about the actual physical results I had and his response was “You realize you just added ten years on to your life, right?” Wow. When I looked at it that way, there was such a sense of peace and calm that washed over me. How could I not continue? Another friend asked if I kept even “some” of my fat clothes. Nope. They’re all donated.
At the end of the day, this experience was like anything in life. It was what you make of it. Say “I could never do that” and you’ll be right. “I’m too old.” “Since I hit menopause I can’t lose weight.” “I don’t have the time.” “I could never give up [cheese/wine/fill in the blank].” Check. Check. And check. You’ll be right every single time. This is not judgement. Just say you choose not to do something, don’t limit yourself. It’s completely acceptable to reply “Yea, thanks but no thanks….not interested.” We are always stronger than we think but the first hurdle to conquer is the false chatter in your mind. Human beings are so resiliant and if you don’t believe me you should take a moment to scroll through the Breast Cancer 2 Bikini Facebook page and watch the news stories of these incredible women who walked the stage to 18 standing ovations on Saturday night. If you think there’s something you’re not capable of, take a minute to read my blog from the beginning and count the number of times I wanted to quit. Find a village or start small and find a single champion who will remind you that “you can”.
If you’ve followed my journey on this blog, thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to share my story with you. I’d like to continue writing this but I have no idea what it will look like from this point forward. So if you’d like, stick with me.
Start to finish: January to June