My journey to a healthier me

Tales of my life

Without the downs, you can’t appreciate the ups

Most days when I’m at the gym, I’m feeling pretty good. Even when I’m drenched in sweat. Even when Tyler is kicking my butt. I get excited when I can do something I’ve never done before, when I do something faster or better than before. I feel like I’m on cloud nine when Tyler tells me I’m doing something perfect or when he’s blown away at how well I do something he’s instructed me to do. I feel like I can fly when others tell me how impressed they are by me, that I’m an inspiration to them. If you’ve never felt that before, it’s one of the most amazing feelings ever.

But then there are those other days. The days where everything feels like a struggle, where I can’t seem to do anything like I’ve done before. Those days where I want to give up. Those days where I just want to stay in bed. Those days when I wonder why am I doing this, what difference does it make? Those days when I don’t feel like I’m making any progress, I’m not getting any better. I wonder is it all worth it, why am I putting myself through all this, what is the point of it all?

It wasn’t until I was speaking with a lady named Carol one day at the gym that I began to make the connection. This particular day I was having a bit of a bad day. I was struggling both emotionally and physically. I was beginning to have those doubts again about why I was even there. She was telling me how impressed she is with me and my progress. How much of a difference she can see in me from when I first started at the gym. She asked how I was feeling about it all. I told her how I feel really good most days, but on that day I was struggling a bit. She told me that “without the downs, we can’t appreciate the ups”. I thought that was pretty good. If we are up all the time, we don’t necessarily see how far we’ve come, see just how well we are doing. We can’t really see how much progress we’ve made, how big of a difference it makes.

So on those days when I’m struggling, when I’m having a bad day, when I can’t seem to get things right, I remember what she said. I remember where I started. I tell myself that it’s okay, I’m just having an off day. Everyone has them. I remind myself what I’ve been able to accomplish. And that it’s all good, and to just try again tomorrow.

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Relay For Life 2012

I started writing this post during this year’s event, and continued writing it through the weekend.
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I have been doing this walk for many years now, having lost my stepdad to lung cancer. Of course, now I also do it for me. I look forward to this event with great anticipation. If you have never attended this kind of event, you should put it on your To Do list. It’s awe-inspiring and motivational. The number of people who take time out of their busy schedules to honour someone they know who either lost their fight or is still fighting or who won their battle is just amazing. Not just those that walk, but also those that volunteer their time or just come out to support those who do. It’s hard to describe the feeling of it all. It’s something everyone should experience.

As I stood in line to purchase luminaries in memory of my stepdad Warren, my husband’s dad David (who lost his battle long before I met my husband), and to honour my friend Jeff’s dad Alan, I met a lovely woman named Mika. She had already purchased several but needed to get 2 more. She was upset because she only had enough cash to get one and you could only pay cash. I immediately told her I would get the other one for her. She was so touched that she started to tear up. She asked me my name and said I would forever be in her prayers. She herself is a two-time survivor. We chatted for a few moments before I had to leave to start my volunteer work. What a lovely lady. Later she came into the Survivors Tent to get her shirt and came over to thank me again.

I saw and chatted with many wonderful people this year. Many I had seen before. Many remembered me from past years. We don’t always know each others names, but we at all there for a common cause so we are almost like family. I ran into a couple of ladies I know from the gym. I saw people I used to be on a team with. They said they almost didn’t recognize me. It had been almost a year since they had seen me last. I’ve changed a lot in that year.

The team I walked with this year was a friend named Doug, whom my husband plays softball with, and his family. By the end of the night, I sort of felt like they were my family too. A great bunch of people. I felt honored to be a member of their team.

Doug was volunteering as well this year. He as shuttling survivors who had trouble walking to and from the Survivors Tent. He also had the privilege of driving a couple of survivors around the track during the Survivors Lap, which kicks off the event. One lady he had in his cart cut the ribbon to start the event. Another lady was 92 years old and a survivor for 55 years. How amazing is that!

Another friend named Dale, whom Doug and Dan also play ball with, came out for a few hours just to support us. He even walked several laps with me. He was like my pseudo-trainer, keeping me going, giving me support, encouraging me to keep going when I wasn’t sure I could.

When I was gearing up for the walk this year, I set a goal of 50 laps. The track is 400 metres long, so 50 laps would be 20 kilometres. I knew it was a very lofty goal. In all the years I’ve been doing the walk, if I add up all the laps I’ve done each year, I don’t think it adds up to 50. So I knew it was going to be hard, but I’ve never been as strong as I am now. I really wanted to prove to myself that I could do something so big. I tried really hard, pushing myself each time I was on the track. The music they had playing was good motivation. The fellowship of the other walkers helped keep me going as well. I did as many laps as I could before stopping for a rest and going back out.

We stopped for a short while to light the candles in the luminaries and have a moment of silence to remember those who lost their battle and honour those still fighting and those who have won. Such an amazing moment.

Back to walking. My feet hurt a lot. I was so glad I had on my gym shoes. My shoulders started hurting, which I thought was a little weird. I used a couple moves from my stretch class to help with that. I wished I had my yoga mat so I could have done more stretching. I’ll have to remember that for next year. I got a foot massage at one point which was awesome. Definitely need to do that again next year!

In the end, I managed to walk 30 laps, which is equal to 12 kilometres. Even though I didn’t meet my goal, I can’t be too upset with myself. It’s still more than I ever walked before. I’m pretty proud of myself. I think I did really well. But look out for next year. I’m going to amaze everyone!!

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Bucket List

I’ve been thinking about goals lately. Not weight loss goals or working out goals, but life goals. Things I want to accomplish in my life, places I want to go, things I want to see. The healthier I become, the more I want to get out and do stuff. In 2010, Dan and I fulfilled one of our dreams when we took a trip to Barcelona, Spain. It was fantastic! We had such a wonderful time. I want to do more stuff like that. So with that, I decided I would write a Bucket List. I will add stuff to the list as I think of things I want to do, and mark stuff off as I get to do them. So here goes:

1) visit Paris, France

2) visit London, England

3) take a cruise

4) learn to make pasta sauce

5) take a spin class

6) visit every U.S. state at least once

7) last more than 5 minutes on the elliptical

8) see Garth Brooks in concert

9) see Harry Connick Jr in concert

10) visit Atlantic City

11) take a train trip somewhere

12) visit each Canadian province & territory at least once

13) complete a 5k walk/run — COMPLETED 7/15/12 Run for Reece

14) walk 50 laps at the Relay For Life event

15) write a book

16) visit Disney World in Florida

17) visit Italy

18) visit Greece

19) learn to make really great salsa

20) learn to speak some French

21) attend a Denver Broncos football game in Denver

22) learn to play either the piano or drums

23) attend a Stanley Cup playoff/finals game

24) attend a Super Bowl

25) learn to sew

Okay, it’s not a really long list … At least not yet. These are just a few things I’ve been wanting to do. I’m sure I will add to the list as time goes on. I can hardly wait to start marking things off the list!

What about you? Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?

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Feeling empowered!

I’ve really been feeling good lately. Both mentally and physically. I’ve been working hard at the gym and I think it’s really doing wonders. I’m feeling stronger than I ever have before. Sure I still have times when I struggle, but they have been very few lately. I hope it stays that way. And I think my workouts have been better too. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it deserves to be repeated — the better I feel before I work out, the better I feel after I’m done. Even when my whole body is shaking and I feel like I might pass out, I know it was an amazing workout and that makes me feel good! When I first started at the gym, everything seemed so hard. And it seemed like I couldn’t workout for very long. But the more I went, the easier some things seemed to get. And once I hooked up with Tyler, things really got better. I saw something online not long ago that said, “It doesn’t get easier, you just get better”. I get excited when I can do something for the first time or when I can do something faster than I could before or I can lift heavier weights or go faster on the treadmill. It’s such a rush!! Tyler shows me how to do something and I give it a try. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes he has to show me again or make slight corrections to my form. But it’s the moments when he tells me things like “that was perfect!” that I feel like I could fly! Or he shows me something and I think (and sometimes say) “you have got to be kidding! No way I can do that!”. And then I try it and SURPRISE!! I can do it!! If you’ve never experienced that feeling before, you don’t know what you’re missing. That feeling is so empowering! You feel like you can take on the world. What’s more empowering than that is when someone, anyone comes up to you and tells you that you are looking great. Yesterday after I finished my workout with Tyler, a guy walked over to us and told me how great he thinks I’m doing and that I should be really proud of myself. After he left, Tyler told me he has said that to him before. Sort of made me feel like a super hero! The more I hear stuff like that, the better and more empowered I feel. And the more empowered I feel, the more I want to do and try and work for. It makes me feel inspired and motivated. I find myself smiling more, laughing more, loving life more. It’s a great feeling. Even though I still felt a little tired when I got up, I felt so amazing. I don’t think I’ve stopped smiling all day. And today is Tyler’s birthday so I got to spoil him a little. It makes me happy to make my friends happy. I hope Tyler had a great day. I’m meeting up with friends tonight who are on their own journeys. We all met a few months ago when we did the weight loss challenge that inspired me to join the gym. It will be nice to great to see everyone and hear how they are progressing. I made some good friends doing the challenge. They all inspire me in many ways. Truly amazing group of people.

I feel so empowered today. Truly an amazing day.

What makes you feel empowered? Leave a comment or send me a message. I hope you have an amazing day!

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Motivation

(This topic was suggested by my sister-in-law Trish)

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I’ll warn you now, this may be a long post. But I hope you will keep reading.

Not too long ago, I was looking for topics for my blog. My wonderful sister-in-law Trish suggested I post about things that keep me motivated along my journey. There are days we all have trouble staying motivated (no matter what we are working on), so I thought it was a good topic to write about.

Several people have asked me about motivation over the past couple of years. What motivated me to start? What keeps me motivated? What do I do for motivation on those dark days? There are days when I have to remind myself of the answers.

Motivation is different for everyone. What helps one person may or may not help someone else. Everyone who embarks on a journey to improve themselves does so for a different reason. But it basically comes down to this: if you want to succeed, you need to do it for yourself. Sure, you can say you are doing it for your spouse, your family, your doctor, but in reality you have to do it for yourself. You can be inspired by someone else, but you ultimately need to do it for you.

In my opinion, motivation and inspiration go hand in hand. They can work separately or together. Some of what I’m going to write about here, I also wrote about in my post about inspiration. But I think it deserves to be repeated.

This is the story of how I finally became motivated to change my life:

I’ve been overweight almost my entire life. I started gaining weight when I was about 5 years old. I had severe asthma as a child and it really limited my activity. I was also extremely shy, so I didn’t have many friends. I was made fun of a lot and was a favourite target of bullies, so I turned to food for comfort. My parents tried to help me several times over the years, but it never worked for long. I always went back to my bad habits. I felt like almost everyone around me was giving up on me, so I gave up on me.

I had really low self-esteem. I was always down on myself. I continued to turn to food for comfort. I had a few close friends who always told me how amazing I was, but I’m not sure I ever truly believed it. I tried a few times to lose weight and be healthier, but the motivation wasn’t really there, so I would ultimately fail.

Then something amazing happened. I met the love of my life. Dan and I met in a chat room on the Internet. I was not looking for love, it just found me. At the time, I was living with a roommate who was making my life miserable. I started chatting on line hoping to find some intelligent conversation. And somehow Dan ended up in the same chat room. We started chatting and became friends. We chatted nearly every day. Slowly our friendship turned into love. The next year we got married. This year, we will be married for 14 years. I love him more than he will ever know. He loves me no matter what. He accepts me no matter what. I’m not sure he realizes how much that means to me.

After getting married, Dan and I both gained weight. It was just the two of us, so we ate out a lot or we ate a lot of processed foods. Dan is a vegetarian, but I’m not, so eating out or eating tv dinners was just easier for us. We just weren’t paying attention to our health. I’m not sure how much weight we each gained, but it was enough that neither of us was very happy. But we had not yet had the motivation to do something about it.

And then I started getting sick. We had been married just over 10 years. I tried not dealing with it for a while, hoping it would just go away, but that didn’t work. It finally got to the point where I could not ignore it anymore. I finally had the courage to talk to my family doctor. He sent me for tests and then another test. And then 2 weeks before my 39th birthday, I was diagnosed with cancer. I was lucky in that it was found very early. I knew in that moment I would have to change my life if I wanted to stick around.

So that was my motivation to start my journey to be a healthier me. As ugly and as painful as that day was in 2009, it was the day that ultimately would save my life. I knew that things would be different this time. It had to be different.

So you might be asking yourself if that’s the motivation that started my journey, what keeps me motivated?

When I’m having a bad day or I start to get down on myself, I think back to that day. I remember what it was like sitting in that doctor’s office, hearing those words, and I NEVER want to be there again. So that’s one thing that keeps me motivated.

Having the support of my wonderful husband helps keep me motivated too. I know he loves me no matter what, but it’s great that he is there for me as I navigate through my journey. My cancer scared us both and we are both trying to be healthier people as a result.

And of course my friends keep me motivated as well. Friends I’ve had for 15 years and more, who always told me how amazing I am, which now I’m beginning to believe. And friends I’ve only had a few years who tell me what a great job I’m doing. And new friends I’ve made in just the last few months who say they are inspired by me and say I’m looking great. Every one of them keeps me motivated.

When I do something I’ve never been able to do before, it motivates me to continue. When I can do something longer than I could before, it motivates me to continue. When I can do something faster than I could before, it motivates me to continue. When I get better at doing something, it motivates me to continue.

When I have to buy new clothes because what I have is too big, it motivates me to continue. Each time I have to buy a smaller size, it motivates me to continue. When I look in the mirror and think I look cute in whatever I’m wearing, it motivates me to continue. When I step on that scale and watch a lower number come up, it motivates me to continue.

And what about those dark days? The days when everything feels like a struggle, even just getting out of bed … the days when it feels like I can’t do anything … the days when I just want to give up. What do I do on those days to keep myself motivated?

Those are the days that I really need help with motivation. I need to find that extra something to keep me going, to help me do one more rep, one more minute on the treadmill, one more sec of a plank.

I dig deep and think back to why I started this journey to begin with and that sometimes helps me find that extra motivation I need.

Or I reach out to my friend Jeff. He is easily one of the dearest friends I have. I wish everyone could have a friend like him. He has this amazing way of knowing when I need a laugh, or a pick-me-up speech, or a drill sergeant speech. Because he’s on his own journey, he understands the triumphs and trials, the ups and downs. It’s great having someone like that when you need them. He really helps keep me motivated.

And then there’s Tyler. He may be my trainer, but he is also my friend. His belief in me, his confidence in me is a huge boost to my motivation. When I’m doubting myself, when I really don’t think I can, he tells me I can. Sometimes he has to tell me a few times, but I start to believe that I can do it. The doubt fades away and I do it. And when I do, it motivates me to keep going, to do more.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I talk about Jeff and Tyler a lot. They are both a big part of my journey. Both of them keep me inspired and motivated. I owe a lot of my success to them. I’m sure they’ll say no, it’s all me, that I’m doing all the work. Sure that is true, but without their help and support, I’m not sure I would be as far along as I am. I’ve not had many people in my life who believe in me as much as these two do. That is HUGE motivation.

The key is to have more good days than bad. But when you do have a bad day, it’s okay. Everyone has a bad day. Remember that. Everyone has a bad day. Try not to let it get you down. Pick yourself up and brush yourself off. And if you need help staying motivated, think about why you started to begin with, think about where you want to go, think about all you have accomplished up to now. And if you still need help, remember your family and friends. And hopefully, you all have friends like Jeff and Tyler.

Motivation is different for everyone. Remember that what works for one person may or may not work for another. These are the things that work for me. I’d like to know what motivates you. Please leave me a comment or send me a message.

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“There is a reason everything happens”

“There is a reason everything happens.”

I read that a couple of weeks ago in a very interesting and thought-provoking blog called The Book of Eames written by Nick Eames. Nick quite eloquently explains the difference between the old “everything happens for a reason” and “there is a reason everything happens”, and why the latter is so much better. I would highly recommend everyone give his blog a good read. He makes a lot of sense. And reading his might help you understand this one a little better. Whether you agree with what he says or not, he makes you think. It immediately struck a cord with me. Anyway, I’ve had that line in the back of my mind ever since I read it. I’ve been mulling it over and decided that it would make an interesting blog post. So here goes:

I used to think that everything happens for a reason until I read the above mentioned blog. It really changed the way I think about things. It makes so much more sense. Until I read that, I had been struggling with why certain things have happened to me. I’ve had a rough couple of years and I used to think that if everything happens for a reason, what could possibly be the reason for making my life so hard lately! It just didn’t make sense to me. But now that I’ve changed my thinking, I think I can come to terms with most everything that has happened.

Here’s what I mean:

As you all should know by now, I’m a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with uterine cancer in August 2009. Cancer does not run in my family, so I never really gave it that much thought. That is until the day I was sitting in that doctor’s office listening to him tell me that I had it. If I had not been sitting down, I’m pretty sure I would have fallen down. Undoubtedly the worst day of my entire life. So if everything happens for a reason, what possible reason could there be to give someone such a horrible diagnosis? Who would want someone to suffer like that?! I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy! I just couldn’t wrap my head around it … still can’t. But in changing my thinking to “there is a reason everything happens”, I think I can. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I had never had cancer, but having it made me change my life. Admittedly, I was very lucky. My cancer was found very early, in Stage 1. When the tumour was found, it was approximately 2 cm. I was also lucky enough to be referred to one of the top cancer doctors in the country. I opted for surgery, which removed all of the cancer, and I did not need chemo or radiation. I also have a very low chance of it returning. Again, lucky lucky lucky. Before my diagnosis, I knew I was not leading a healthy lifestyle. I was very overweight (still am, but working hard on that), not eating properly, not exercising much (if at all), basically not taking care of myself at all. In the past, I occasionally tried to do something about it, but gave up and went back to my old ways. I just didn’t have the motivation or drive or desire to change. Nothing, not even my mom getting sick, seemed to click that I was headed for disaster. So I think my cancer diagnosis was the universe’s way of smacking me upside the head and forcing me to realize that I needed to change my life. So the “reason” is I needed to change my life and start taking care of myself.

And there is more to it.

Within days of my diagnosis, my mom had hip replacement surgery. She was in poor health and the surgery was extra risky for her. She came through the surgery just fine, although she did have a few problems afterward. In October 2009, I had my cancer surgery. The surgery went well, but I had a long recovery. By February 2010, I felt like I was getting back to normal. And then in April 2010, I get a phone call from my mom, who got a phone call from my stepmom saying my dad would be having a triple bypass the next morning. I immediately called my stepmom to confirm the details. I live far away so I knew it would take some work to get there. The day after his surgery I was sitting in his hospital room hoping he would be okay. I got the chance to speak with his doctor who said that he came incredibly close to having a massive heart attack that he probably would not have survived. Thankfully he recovered quite well and again, things appeared to go back to normal. Then in July 2010, tragedy struck. My stepmom died suddenly. We were all devastated. I don’t think I had ever seen my dad so broken, so vulnerable. Again, things slowly went back to normal. In October 2010, Dan and I took a dream vacation to Barcelona, Spain. It was incredible! We had a great time. I wish we could have stayed longer than we did. We returned to find one of our cats sick. We rushed him to the vet, but they could not save him. He died 3 days later. He was 12 years old. I was devastated. We had him since he was a tiny baby and had been my constant companion. In December 2010, my dad was forced to move from his home so he came to stay with us. It was a big adjustment. In January 2011, another bump in the road. Another one of our cats got sick and died. Devastation once again. I felt like every time things seemed to be going well, something bad had to happen. But once again, things seemed to return to normal. I began a new exercise regimen, mainly just walking around the block. But at least I was getting out and doing something. I was feeling good. It was June 2011 and I was getting myself ready to do the annual Relay For Life walk for the Canadian Cancer Society. The morning of the Relay, I got a call from my brother. My mom died. I almost fainted. I was in shock. I knew that my life was never going to be the same. I felt completely derailed. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. I took me a long time to come out of that, but by January 2012, I felt like I was becoming somewhat normal again. Things have been going really well (knock on wood). I have been going to the gym, watching what I’ve been eating, and found myself an amazing trainer. Life is good. And despite the challenges of the past couple of years, I feel rather blessed. (Look for that in another post).

So what’s my point to all this, you might be asking. Well my point is this: Going back to the theme of this post, that there is a reason everything happens, I think the “reason” is to prove to myself that I’m a strong person, much stronger than I ever knew; that I can handle whatever is thrown at me; that I can become a better/healthier person no matter what obstacles are put in my way.

I don’t know if what I’m saying makes sense to anyone else, but it does to me and that’s what matters. You may not agree with my thinking, you are entitled to your opinion, as am I and this is mine.

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Confidence

This post was suggested and inspired by Tyler

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What is confidence?

I think it’s the belief in yourself that you can do something; or the belief in someone else that they can do something.

Dictionary.com defines it as full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing.

Basically the same thing.

I’m not the most confident person. I doubt myself a lot. Perhaps it’s from growing up very shy. Perhaps it’s from years of people making fun of me. Perhaps it’s from not always having someone in my corner to support me. Perhaps it’s all of those things.

I’d like to have more confidence. And I’m working on it. As I get older and try new things, I feel more confident. As I get better at the things I do, I feel more confident. As people tell me over and over again at how great I look, how amazed they are by me, or how I inspire them, I feel more confident.

And then there are the dark days. The days where I doubt myself and feel like I can’t do anything. Somehow all my confidence disappears. And I don’t know where it went or how to get it back. I try doing something that I’ve done before or that should be fairly easy to do, but I can’t seem to do it. I get frustrated. I get angry. I sometimes break down.

And then something extraordinary happens.

A friend steps in and helps me find that confidence again.

There is a story that inspired this post.

It’s Thursday. That means I’ll be working out with Tyler. I work out with him twice a week – Tuesdays and Thursdays. We usually do upper body one day and legs the other. We are doing a leg workout on this day. Tyler likes to introduce new things into my workouts. We are starting with something new, sort of. Step-ups. I’ve done them before, but not like this. Step onto a small step, then up on a box. The box. I don’t like the box. It’s fine for sitting on, but not stepping up on. It’s tall. And I have short legs. I don’t like the look of this. But I’m determined to do it. I want to prove I can do it. To Tyler. And to myself. So I stand on the small step, put my foot on the box, and try to step up with the other. Nope. Not happening. I try again. Still nothing. I take Tyler’s hand for support and balance and try again. Nope. I’m getting frustrated and angry with myself. I step down. Curse words are flying. I can feel the tears welling up from the frustration. Tyler calms me down. He tells me to kick the box. I do. Felt good. He’s not giving up on me. He tells me I can do it. I try again. Still nothing. I step back again. Tyler is still trying to build my confidence. I tell him I’m afraid. He asks of what. Of falling, I say. He tells me a short story. It’s a little funny. I step up again. I decide to try the other leg first. Tyler’s there with his unwavering support. He stands in front of the box with his foot braced against it so it won’t go anywhere. He offers his hands for support. I put my hands in his. He counts down … 3 .. 2 .. 1 .. Almost but not quite. He urges me on. I try again. Countdown .. 3 .. 2 .. 1 .. I DID IT! Fuck yeah! I almost can’t believe it! I carefully step back down with one leg, leaving the other on the box. Up again. And again. And again. 8 times up and down. I did it. Amazing. Take a little rest. Try the other leg again. Countdown .. 3 .. 2 .. 1 .. Nope. Try again. Still frustrated that I can’t seem to do it. I am not confident I can do it. I don’t know why I can’t. I did one side, why can’t I do this one?! So frustrating. At some point Tyler says something extraordinary to me:

Sometimes we give our confidence to someone else. Don’t be afraid to ask for it back.

Wow. Powerful. And then he tells me that it’s a great idea for a blog post. I agree. So I started writing this in my head, as I do with all my posts. Back to the box. Try again. I don’t know how many times I tried, but I finally did it. I had the confidence to do it. Thanks to Tyler. I don’t know if he helped me find mine or lent me some of his. Or maybe both. But either way, it worked. I conquered the box. It felt good. I felt confident. I felt like I could do almost anything. And we continued with my work out.

It’s amazing to me how someone’s confidence in you can help you through something you find difficult. When you’ve lost or misplaced yours, they lend you some of theirs and it pulls you through. And somehow your confidence comes back. I’m not sure I could have conquered the box without Tyler’s help. The box. I still don’t like it. Stupid box. I’m sure we will meet again. And I WILL win.

And, Tyler, thanks for helping me find the confidence I needed. And thanks again for not giving up on me.

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