7 Min ReadSelf 11 May 2020
We all have experiences in our lives that can influence us forever, even though we may not realize it in the moment. One such event for me took place when I was about 11 years old, about my daughter's age. I was a small, scraggly, malnourished kid that had escaped one bad foster home just to get stuck in another. The main difference was that this foster family just happened to live across the street from a park, so I would run across the street to that park every day to untangle myself from the crosshairs of their dysfunction.
I was a small, scraggly, malnourished kid that had escaped one bad foster home just to get stuck in another.
Oftentimes, there would be an old man sitting on a park bench just passing the time. It started with just a "Hi," then turned into longer conversations. Then, one day, out of the blue he said, "I have a surprise for you in my car!" Of course, my spidey senses woke up, but for some reason, I followed him anyway. He had one of those big grandpa type cars with a huge trunk. He pointed to the trunk and said, "Stand right here and close your eyes."
I know. This is the part in a horror movie when you shout "NO!" at the screen. For some reason, I did as he asked. The trunk popped open, I opened my eyes, and I saw an enormous rectangular cake that had "Happy Birthday Lillie!" written across the top in frosting. At that point in my life, my birthday was just a regular day. I had never even tasted birthday cake, much less had one specifically for me. My name may have been spelled wrong, but no biggie. We both ate as much cake as we could and parted ways. I just assumed that I'd see him at the park the next day, but I never saw him again.
That old man could have had an underlying sinister ideas, but at that moment, it didn't materialize.
The many facets of this event generated different emotions within me through various stages of my life.
The excitement of my first cake ever in my child brain.
The kindness of strangers in my teenage brain.
How I may have cheated death in my single lady brain.
Incredulity at the idea of ever letting my daughter go to the park alone in my new mother brain.
And in my researcher's brain, how something as simple as cake can bring relief amidst the chaos of childhood and the correlation with how we try to replicate that same feeling with alcohol, drugs, and food as adults.
For the next few decades after the cake in the park, as I gathered the ingredients of supposed happiness: education, job, marriage, home, exotic vacations, and charitable acts, I also began to gradually suppress who I was and where I was from. I ended up in an environment where assimilation was paramount. An environment that is uncomfortable with showing pain or voicing an opposing opinion. So, I stifled it all inside myself. I was just a concocted version of me that was presentable to the outside world.
Eventually, a rumbling started within. I wasn't exactly sure what it was, but it felt like a combination of dissatisfaction, irritation, and confusion. I'd lash out at whoever was closest to me thinking they were the source. I would push the rumbling down by getting angry at myself for not being grateful for how far I'd come. I tried to guilt myself into feeling content. How could someone who came from nothing and now seems to have everything feel this way?
I was just a concocted version of me that was presentable to the outside world.
After years of escaping scary situations, and even the authorities, I couldn't escape this feeling that I was not living an authentic life. So I blew up my life in the ugliest way. I'll spare the details with respect to others involved. But after I finished victimizing myself and hit rock bottom through my own self-destructive behavior, I developed a curiosity for why I did what I did and how I could have avoided it.
Technically, my life is no different than millions of others. It's a part of the human condition to experience trauma. We have all suffered in our lives. We've been ignored. We've felt insignificant. We've doubted ourselves and our worth. So we spend years experiencing and then building up a tolerance to pain, and then we spend the next few trying to protect ourselves from it. Somewhere along the way, we have to figure out who we really are and do some real work on ourselves. In mechanic's terms, work on the engine instead of the body. Understanding that process allows a person to work on things gradually rather than just self-imploding like I did.
After years of escaping scary situations, and even the authorities, I couldn't escape this feeling that I was not living an authentic life.
Here's the thing, I have more street cred than anyone in my neighborhood and am definitely more gangster than any of my mom-friends, so it's awkward to admit that I needed to work on myself. Where I'm from, people get beat up for talking like that! To get ahead of it all, my research morphed from how to deal with pain to healing from pain by finding the most efficient way to do the most repair in the shortest amount of time and with minimal discomfort. So, we can all get on with our lives. Afterall, we all have somewhere to go, things to do, and money to make.
I went out and tried practically every therapeutic method out there and when I found what worked, I studied it intensely. The methods that were most effective for me involved going deep within myself to make repairs at the source — usually, this was rooted in reflection, meditation, and hypnosis.
This was a confusing process for me; I am a natural skeptic. How could change really happen by just thinking or not thinking? Everything I did usually required some form of blood, sweat, and tears. I went along with it, and then, much to my surprise, I started to see results. Some were immediate and some were gradual. Things didn't bother me as much anymore. I was more focused on my goals. I felt like I was actually standing taller because I wasn't carrying all that extra baggage.
We spend years experiencing and then building up a tolerance to pain, and then we spend the next few trying to protect ourselves from it. Somewhere along the way, we have to figure out who we really are and do some real work on ourselves.
When I focused on the source within me that had been causing my discomfort, I was able to fix it. I didn't have to deal with it again. I used to just blame someone or something else for my problems. Or I would distract myself with alcohol, drugs, shopping, gossip, or even just zoning out and staring at a screen. All that did was push it to the next day. That's why I started Chunkybrain.
I didn't have the bandwidth to focus inward until I was able to get a handle on the daily struggles of my life. But along the way of helping myself, I also began to focus my formal education so I could help others. As a result, I blended meditation and self-hypnosis, which I call focused meditation, to share this new technique with my clients so they can deal with their own daily struggles and get in the right frame of mind to do the long-term repairs they need on themselves.
I call it focused meditation because it can get someone to a relaxed, meditative state while also clearing out their mental blocks and focusing on certain goals as in hypnosis. Throughout this process, the more I embraced all forms of myself, intelligent me, street me, scared me, recovering me, authentic me... the more helpful I was to others.
When I focused on the source within me that had been causing my discomfort, I was able to fix it. I didn't have to deal with it again.
Chunkybrain is a twist on regular meditation, and it's not for the faint of heart. You know what they say, you can take the girl off the street, but you can't take the street out of the girl. In the recordings, I have a little fun with some foul language and slang, but it doesn't take away from the purpose. I feel like this connects better with people more like me. I utilize the science behind working with the subconscious, but I do it while using everyday language. It's a little less "woo-woo," and it helps with feeling less like an imposter.
To me, ChunkyBrain is scientifically sharing the relief I got from that cake all those years ago without the calories or the crash. Namafuckenste. (In the most respectful way possible!)
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If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today.
In 2010, I was a wife, a mother of three, and had filtered in and out of jobs depending on what my family needed from me. At different points in my career, I've worked in the corporate world, been a stay-at-home mom, and even started my own daycare center. Fitness has always been a part of my life, but at that point being a mom was my main priority. Then, life threw a curveball. My husband and I separated, leading to a very difficult divorce.
These were difficult times. I lost myself in the uncertainty of my future and the stress that comes with a divorce and found myself battling anorexia. Over a matter of months, I lost 40 lbs. and felt surrounded by darkness. I was no longer participating in my health and all efforts to stay active came to a halt. I didn't want to leave my home, I didn't' want to talk to people, and I really did not want to see men. Seeing my struggles, first my sister and then a friend, approached me and invited me to visit the gym.
After months of avoiding it, my sister started taking me to the gym right before closing when it wasn't too busy. We started slow, on the elliptical or the treadmill. This routine got me out of the house and slowly we worked to regain my strength and my self-esteem. When my sister moved away, my good friend and personal trainer started working out with me one-on-one early in the morning, taking time out of her busy schedule to keep me on track toward living a healthy life once again. Even when I didn't want to leave the house, she would encourage me to push myself and I knew I didn't want to let her down. She helped me every step of the way. My sister and my friend brought fitness back into my everyday routine. They saved my life.
I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again. My friend has since moved away, but, these two women made me feel loved, confident and strong with their empowerment and commitment to me. They made such an incredible impact on me; I knew I needed to pay it forward. I wanted to have the same impact on women in my community. I started by doing little things, like running with a woman who just had a baby to keep her inspired and let her know she's not alone. I made sure not to skip my regular runs, just in case there was a woman watching who needed the inspiration to keep going. These small steps of paying it forward helped me find purpose and belonging. This gave me a new mentality that put me on a path to the opportunity of a lifetime – opening a women's only kickboxing gym, 30 Minute Hit.
About four years ago, I was officially an empty nester. It was time to get myself out of the house too and find what I was truly passionate about, which is easier said than done. Sitting behind a desk, in a cubicle, simply didn't cut it. It was hard to go from an active and chaotic schedule to a very slow paced, uneventful work week. I felt sluggish. Even when I moved to another company where I got to plan events and travel, it was enjoyable, but not fulfilling. I wanted to be a source of comfort to those struggling, as my sister and dear friend had been to me. I wanted to impact others in a way that couldn't be done from behind a desk.
I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again.
When I heard about 30 Minute Hit, I was nervous to take the leap. But the more I learned about the concept, the more I knew it was the perfect fit for me. Opening my own gym where women can come to let go of their struggles, rely on one another and meet new people is the best way for me to pass on the lessons I learned during my darkest times.
Kickboxing is empowering in itself. Add to it a high energy, female-only environment, and you have yourself a powerhouse! The 30 Minute Hit concept is franchised all over North America, acting as a source of release for women who are just trying to get through their day. I see women of all ages come into my gym, kick the heck out of a punching bag and leave with a smile on their face, often times alongside a new friend. 30 Minute Hit offers a convenient schedule for all women, from busy moms to working women, to students and senior citizens. A schedule-free model allows members to come in whenever they have a free half hour to dedicate to themselves. Offering certified training in kickboxing and a safe environment to let go, 30 Minute Hit is the place for women empowerment and personal growth.
Through my journey, I have learned that everyone is going through something – everyone is on their own path. My motivating factor is knowing that I can touch people's lives everyday just by creating the space for encouragement and community. It's so easy to show people you care. That's the type of environment my team, clients and myself have worked hard to create at our 30 Minute Hit location.
Fitness saved my life. If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today. The perfect example of women empowering women – the foundation to invincibility.
This article was originally published September 12, 2019.