Tuesday, August 16, 2016

One Wild and Precious Life

I'm sitting here, trying not to think about fact that my arms are on fire. If they burn this bad right now, how bad is tomorrow going to be!? This is the result of me attending my first boxing class tonight. Learning to box is something I’ve had on my brain for the past two years, but I’ve always found a reason not to do it. It’s too much money. I can’t find a place that isn’t a hard core boxing gym. I’m too fat to keep up with the class. That gym is too far away. The excuses go on and on and on and on… that is… until late Sunday night, lying in bed playing on my phone, I googled “womens boxing in the twin cities” for the millionth time, and this time, I found it: Pink Gloves Boxing. As I started reading their website, I felt an all too familiar feeling rise up in me: fear. The second I felt it, I knew I’d be boxing this week.

Let me back this train up to last September. Late one night my friend Katie called me to break some terrible news. My friend Ryan’s wife, Kate, had passed away unexpectedly in her sleep. Kate was 31. A mom of two small kids. A woman who I followed on social media, and respected, because she was one of the few Christians in my peripheral who didn’t drive me crazy with her love for Jesus. And as quickly as she was posting photos of her day adventures with her two children, she was gone. Just like that. I didn’t really feel much at first, but knew I need to fly home for the funeral regardless. During her funeral, I found myself feeling something I did not expect to feel; I was jealous. Not because I myself wanted to die, but rather because this girl had lived. Story after story was told about this magnificent woman’s life, and I couldn’t help but feel envious. And then it struck me: I was jealous of someone who was not even alive anymore. I knew, sitting in that church on that weekend, that something needed to drastically change in my life.

Three weeks later I quit my job at the college I was working at. I had been unhappy for some time, and I knew that staying in such a toxic environment wasn’t good for me. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much damage it had already done to my soul. I worked in an office where people weren’t very kind and I was worked to my max every single day and paid less than a social worker’s wage to do it. Not everyone was mean, but quite a few made me feel in subtle and overt ways like there was something wrong with me. Literally, in my going away card, someone actually wrote “although it may not have seemed like it, I enjoyed working with you”. When the team was asked to share something they liked about me during one of my last days, two people didn't say anything and one said they liked “my hair”. Forget the countless hours I had spent trying to help underrepresented students afford college, my hair is what this person found of value in me. Although some said very nice things about me, I heard the things others didn’t say about me louder than the things that they did.

So I started my new job, and although I don’t love it, the people there were starkly different. They were warm and caring and thought I was a good worker. It felt weird to have people ask how my weekend was; to hear stories about their kids and families and lives. I knew right away I made the right decision to jump ship, but I could so clearly see the damage that had been done.

I had left one job in order to create a life I wanted, the life that Kate had lived… a life on purpose. I quickly learned this new job was not going to provide that for me, yet in the same breath, I knew that God had me there for a specific reason. Annoying how he does that. I decided instead to make the most of my non-working hours. A question had stuck with me from something I read once in a poem:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

So I decided to start living my one wild and precious life. At first, it was making date nights more special, weekends more fun. It slowly morphed into getting out of the house more, getting the bikes out, going for rides. I had drastically changed my diet, and was starting to feel better, so I decided to dip my toe into something active: I asked David to go paddle boating with me. It’s funny how something as simple has paddle boating can make a grown woman scared to death. I was afraid I was too heavy for the paddle boat. Guess what? I wasn’t. It went just fine. So next, I kayaked with my friend Nichole in a double kayak. Again, I was so afraid I would be too heavy for the kayak. But guess what? I wasn’t. Then David and I went to the batting cages. Again, I was too afraid that it had been too long since I’d swung a bat, and everyone there would laugh at me and judge me. Guess what? They didn’t. I hit damn near every ball. This past weekend we went on a ten mile bike ride, and I didn’t die. I then kayaked in a single kayak after the bike ride (again, I was still worried I’d be too heavy for it), and I didn’t sink the boat. This leads me to boxing. It’s one thing to tool around in a kayak, it’s another to go to a boxing  class. A 50 minute class I can’t control the pace of? And I can’t leave or stop when I want? And did I mention its BOXING; one of the most bad ass things ever? I’m not bad ass! But I’ve learned that living in a place of fear, is not really living. Living in fear means I create limits for myself that are far too small for someone who wants a life on purpose. So, I drove an hour in Uptown traffic (I hate you Uptown!) on a rainy night and worked my ass out. I now can’t feel my arms and I’ve never felt more exhilarated.

So thank you Kate, for inspiring me. I’m sorry it took you leaving us way too soon for this to happen, but please know that I think about you every single day, and I am learning from the example your life set. Thank you for loving Jesus in a way that actually looked like love. Thank you for loving my friend Ryan. And thank you for encouraging me to live my life on purpose and without fear.