As you may know, I have been going through divorce over the last year. A disconcerting process which bounces between deeply painful, wonderfully illuminating, and nearly unintelligible. Bounce is the operative word, like a ball thrown back and forth where sometimes you are the one bouncing the ball and sometimes you are the ball.
I have concluded that my learning is this: Choice. However I be bounced, I definitely get a choice about how I am going to experience this ball toss. I may not be able to choose the outcome, but I do have a choice about my response.
Last September, after a particular tiring back and forth, I seriously contemplated my choice. What do I want from divorce? I let my mind run wild, bouncing around all kinds of possibilities from the mystical (a trip to Shambala) to the mundane (a new sofa), from the unlikely (a sports car) to the unkind (a muzzle for you-know-who).
I decided I wanted something that would have great personal meaning for me and me alone. I did not want to compromise and I wanted something obtainable. I wanted to be over-the-moon excited. I wanted a door to my future, rising up out of the ashes of my past. And it had to be red.
One night, my choice came to me. Struck by the proverbial lightning bolt of deep realization, I knew what I wanted from this bouncing: a sexy red dress. Yep. A sexy red dress. No doubt. A sexy red dress. AND, I realized, if I am getting my sexy red dress, then I needed something else: the body to go in my sexy red dress.
I confess I have struggled with my weight for a very long time, at least 20 years. By declaring the desire for the sexy red dress and by declaring my intention to have the body for the sexy red dress, I was picking something both very significant for me and something that had always been illusive and seemingly unobtainable.
The sexy red dress was exactly what I wanted. This sexy red dress was my dream, the light at what was turning into a very long tunnel. Decision made, I committed to myself and to my sexy red dress. Come what may, I knew that I had to find a way to create my path towards this sexy red dress.
I started telling friends about my decision. I started thinking about what kind of sexy red dress I wanted. My sexy red dress began to feel real and possible. For almost the first time in 20 years, I was losing weight and I was feeling better and better about myself with every bounce and with every encouragement and with every thought of my sexy red dress.
I knew I was on the right track for myself. Out shopping with a friend, I asked should I buy these earrings? Her answer “Yes, they will be perfect with your sexy red dress!” Others started sending me pictures of sexy red dress possibilities, while others held back on cookie and cake offers. Everyone smiled with me, visualizing me in my sexy red dress. I began a vision board on a kitchen cabinet door, hanging sexy red dress pictures in clear view. I could feel my dress moving towards me, joining me in my new life, offering the very real possibility of dreams fulfilled.
In November, I spent most of the month in Japan thinking about how to get the body to go in the dress. I decided I needed to locate someone who knew how to help me find within myself the body to go in my sexy red dress. I began a search for a gym and a personal trainer. I worked myself around the fear and doubt that came up because I had never spent that much time in a gym. I decided the best place to try was the closest: a 2 minute walk from my apartment where I met Collin.
Oh, Collin! I now call him O Merciful One! He has been amazing! Just what I needed at exactly the right time. He is smart and nerdy and cute and funny and really, really knowledgeable about what makes the body tick and how to get off those pesky pounds efficiently and with flair. I knew I was in the right place when after only a moment’s hesitation to his question of goals I blurted out the dream of the sexy red dress. He smiled, blushed a bit, and then allowed as how that was a great goal and very doable!
Everything was going great until one day Collin introduced me to my new nemesis: failure. Yep, FAILURE!!
You see, up until this point in my journey, I had either been exercising by counting repetitions or by measuring time. Now Collin wanted me to do an exercise to failure. Meaning, do whatever exercise I was doing until I literally couldn’t do it anymore. Crunches until I could not lift my head off the floor again. Biceps curls with weights until my arms went rubbery. Walking lunges until I was beyond one more. Seriously, I thought he was crazy. Turns out he was brilliant!
If you are anything like me, failure is something you work diligently to avoid. Failure means that something is missing, that I am lacking something vital and key and necessary. Whatever I do, I steer clear of failure. So strongly ingrained in me, when Collin first presented this idea, I truly could not understand. I wanted to say no. I caught myself before “no” rolled off my tongue and instead asked how and when. When was easy: now. How boiled down to one question: in this moment, can I do one more?
I gave it a whirl. At first, I wasn’t good at letting go of either my presumption about or my resistance to failure. My critical voice became really loud. My solution? Ignored the voice, slamming the door in its face. All of my exercise became focused on this one question to myself: in this moment, can I do one more? In this moment, what can I do? Now — who am I in this one motion?
Somewhere deep inside of me, something irrevocably ruptured. I shifted and broke free. I let go. I began living the same life, never to be the same again.
Through this dance with failure, Collin helped me bring all of my talk literally into my walk. This exercise right now became a powerful moment of spiritual shift for me as I literally brought all of who I am spiritually into the service of everything I am physically. Here, now, in this present moment, what can I do with my body even if my mind is screaming no? Am I willing to try, risking nothing more than complete failure?
Who knew that the road to a sexy red dress would run straight through failure? I emerged on the other side of failure fully intact, highly functioning, willing to try anything. I no longer hold myself back because maybe, just maybe, I might fail. And I did fail over and over again (and still do), but only in the sense that at some point the answer is no, I cannot do one more!
Yet failure also brought success. I went from 20 reps to 50 to 100. I went from barely holding my body off the ground to many seconds in mid air. I went from the little girl weights of 8 and 10 pounds to the big girl weights of 20 and 25 pounds. Today I did arm pulls with 45 pounds! Every day I challenge myself to do something I couldn’t do yesterday or have never done ever before. My whole concept of who I am physically is now completely different from when I first began. I realize that I am truly physically capable of so much more than I ever imagined.
And it doesn’t end there. Early on, Collin figured very shrewdly how to encourage me to try one more, to not give up. One day as I was struggling with whatever it was, he said, “Cheryl, you know what you are?” I looked at him, “What?” He declared, “You are a strong woman!!” Then as I continued to struggle, he asked, “Cheryl, what are you?” I looked at him and said rather weakly, “A strong woman?” He smiled in triumphant, “Yes! Now say it louder!” I did, though a bit amused, certainly doubtful.
However, every day since, not a day of training has gone by that Collin hasn’t demanded an answer. Taking some time to bring this into my comfort zone, but now I yell with confidence, “I am a strong woman!!” And what got me here was failure. I am strong because I stepped right into failure and found the best of me.
Can I do one more? This question brings you face to face with both your success and your failure, your weakness and your strength. Either way does not make a difference. In this moment now, all that matters is that you give yourself the chance to find out. The previous moment and the next do not matter. Whether you have already done one or a hundred does not matter. All that matters is honestly looking in your heart and feeling into the strength of your body and giving yourself the chance of one more. Either way you go is success. When you work to failure, failure paradoxically becomes opportunity to find the best of yourself. Definitions shift and ignoring or disregarding this opportunity to fail becomes failure.
After years of talking about the power of this moment, my focus on the physical experience of Now has become my most powerful learning moment. Using the strength of failure to empower myself and fuel my dreams was entirely unexpected. I still marvel at the journey! A journey begun but not yet finished if only because my vision of my sexy red dress has shifted to match the potential of my dance with failure.
A year ago I thought my life had come to an end. Instead I made a choice, “What do you want, Cheryl?” A sexy red dress, I decided, and the body to wear it, not realizing where this would lead. Like a butterfly emerging, I feel myself unfurling beautiful wings for this new life I am ecstatic to be meeting in my sexy red dress. Thank you Collin! Thank you failure!
PS — When I find my sexy red dress, I promise to send a picture — with me in it! I am still some pounds away and now I am holding out for the best I can imagine!