How losing my Dad helped me find my Muchness.
I haven’t written since my dad passed away. Although I’m a chick who loves pouring her heart out on paper, his death extinguished my passion. I was afraid of what might come out, what feelings would arise if I attempted to put the experience into words. So I avoided it, focused my energy on other interests and allowed that part of me to slowly diminish. But now, over a year later, I found myself ready to go deep, to reflect and uncover how losing my dad helped become a better woman, how ironically through death, a well of my own Muchness has been discovered.
When I was 10 years old, my father had a heart attack. Before that day, our family was not conscious of diet. We ate healthfully, always veggies and salads at dinner, but we did enjoy our share of fried foods, desserts and other indulgences. For such a young age, I remember the entire experience so vividly and frightening, especially seeing him in the hospital and sensing the nervousness of my mother. This was a time before heart disease was as popular and deadly as it is today but thankfully, it did force change into our home. Chicken became baked, bread became limited, desserts only on special occasions….well, most of the time.
Unfortunately, these small changes didn’t do enough to help my dad. He was a chronic worker, leaving our home as early as 6am and not returning until 7pm. He sat at his desk with little to no movement, aside from walking from his office to car and back again. Being an entrepreneur and business owner, he had extremely high levels of stress. He also took no interest in physical activity. I remember for years my family and I trying to convince my dad to take better care of his health, pleading, crying, struggling with little to no avail. Because he worked so much, his main enjoyment in life was food. My dad LOVED going out for dinner, savoring a few glasses of wine with the breadbasket, a large serving of pasta or meat, and of course more wine and/or a decadent dessert. It was hard to argue his point; he did work hard and had no other vices, aside from going to church every morning.
For the last two years of his life, my father’s health took a serious decline. It was obvious from an outsider’s perspective that he was sick. He spoke little, his color a grayish-yellow, his spark for life fading. Any physical movement was extremely difficult. He could not lift or even play with his grandchildren. He was unable to walk a block without getting winded or feeling discomfort and weak. It was painful and sad to watch such a young man in his late 50s appear to be that on a 90 year old.
I became more aggressive in my attempts to intervene. As a personal trainer and yoga instructor, I help people like him for a living. I have had tremendous success with my clients in weight loss, lifestyle change and modifications and improvements in health and wellbeing. I couldn’t understand why I was unable to help my own father. I tried everything. I offered free personal training. I took him to an Ayurvedic specialist, I wrote letters and cards. I sent him a reusable water bottle to encourage better hydration. I called him weekly to check in. And in a final attempt, I had a heart to heart begging him to change. I voiced my desire for him to walk him down the aisle on my wedding day, to one day see my children and for them to know the great man that he was. I cried hysterically, sobbing in sadness, frustration and pain because I just wanted to dad to be healthy and live. “Do it for me, Dad. Do it for your wife. Your grandchildren. Love yourself enough to change.” I think I got to him, I saw it in his eyes, but whether or not that was enough to inspire change remained to be seen.
That honest, open talk with my father was a major turning point in my life. I felt relieved that everything I wanted to ever say to him, I did. No holding back. I voiced my fears, concerns and hopes. I put myself out there, more vulnerable than I had ever been. And after leaving him that day, I knew that no matter what, I would have no regrets.
He did change a little but sadly, it was too late. Years of damage and lack of self-care mounted an attack that my father was too weak to fight. He continued to decline rapidly, so much so that a month later when I saw him, I remember thinking that he looked as though he was dying. And while I never wanted to believe that, a few weeks later, he did. Even though I sensed it, my hope overrode any possibility that it might happen. It still felt sudden, shocking and wrong. I was too young to lose my father. I wasn’t married yet, he hasn’t seen me as a mother, he wont see my big life dreams realized. It won’t be there to hug me when my business becomes wildly successful, when I win awards for spreading goodness to others, when I become the woman that I am meant to become.
I felt like a failure. How could I have helped my father more? What did I do wrong? How can my profession be targeted at helping people live healthier lives focused on diet and exercise yet I couldn’t even reach my own father? I wanted to quit, to hole up in a ball under my covers and never seek light again. It felt like a blur, time stopped, a raging nightmare. I wondered if Iwould ever know happiness again for the grief was raw, real, tender. Overwhelming, palpable, I-feel-like-I-might-die kind of pain. For someone who is usually so full of Muchness, I didn’t feel like much at all.
But in my rubble of loss, in the midst of what my life was before such a devastating loss, I reflected on my father, his life and the manner in which he lived. Deep down, I didn’t want to close my heart. I didn’t want to live in a downward spiral of depression, loneliness and longing. I knew my dad wouldn’t want me to either. He would have wanted me to choose life, to be brave enough to keep my heart open.
And so I did. I sough out to find my Muchness again in things, people, and experiences that made me feel happy, grateful and fully alive. I leaned on family and friends and their astounding love reminded me of the extraordinary man my father was and how lucky I was to be his daughter, one of his greatest legacies. I listened to stories of the impact he had on others. I allowed my heart to be swelled from all the people who expressed their love and respect for him. I began to see and know my father in a deeper way and felt so very proud. My fiancé was a pillar of support, stepping up to fulfill a larger role as the male presence in my life. I allowed myself to be cared for, to be loved and held while I cried, processed, hurt. To be vulnerable; to be seen as my heart crumbled. I didn’t know Muchness could be found in honest expression of feeling but it reminded me that I am alive; I am experiencing what it means to be truly human.
Muchness also came when I took on a greater responsibility of caring for my mother. She and my dad were best friends, business partners, and a great example of a happy marriage. She was more devastated than anyone for she was the one that cared for him, took him to doctors visits, prepared his meals and medications, watched him slowly deteriorate as life as she knew it changed instantly. She grieved his loss, the loss of the life they shared and the loss of the life they will never have….retiring together, enjoying grandchildren, reaping the rewards of a lifetime of hard work. I suddenly become the adult and she, the child. She needed love, comfort and care. I found Muchness in learning how to support her, to be strong enough to lessen her burden and to be leaned on without myself crumbling. I found my Muchness in an inner strength I didn’t know I had, for it was never needed before and laid dormant somewhere deep in my being.
I also rediscovered parts of my Muchness by doing what I love, and that is helping others be healthy. I went back to work with a renewed sense of purpose and focus. I was going to continue my mission of being a positive role model of health and nutrition. I wasn’t going to let my father’s death deter me; rather, I used it as inspiration to become a better teacher, a better trainer, a better human being. I felt a larger responsibility to others and because of this my, Muchness started to blossom even more. I had a mission and a message with a renewed faith in myself and in my path. What a gift death can bring!
But probably the single most beneficial way I found my Muchness again was through my yoga practice. My mat was a place of solace, nonjudgmental grieving, processing, playing and healing. I was able to physically move the pain through my system, to feel where it was stuck and work to lessen the emotional toll my father’s death took on my body. Pain heals through movement and I was able to shed and work through the energy of loss. For weeks, I couldn’t shut my eyes in savasana, the final pose in yoga called corpse pose. It reminded me too much of seeing my dad lay still in a coffin. Instead I would stare up at the ceiling and wonder where in this universe my dad was, warm tears rolling down my cheeks as I listened to the heaviness of my breathing. But soon, through sweating and shedding, through the magic of yoga and how it makes me feel, empowered, loved, strong, I began to feel even more whole, even more thankful because I now understand the fragility of life. Stay present, be thankful, live in a state of love.
The more I find my Muchness, the better I feel. I am earning my wounds and learning from them for my Muchness is found within them. My father’s passing abounded me with gifts and lessons, for now I know that Muchness can change and wane, lessen and thrive but no matter what, I know how to find the spark and ignite inner happiness again and again. That is certainly the most treasured gift I have ever received and the best way for my to carry my father’s light and honor his spirit.
Amanda’s love of fitness began as a young teenager and has been her full-time passion and career ever since. Amanda has received numerous certifications and a Masters in Exercise Physiology to become a fitness instructor, yoga teacher and prenatal instructor, spending the last 12 years working for the fitness industry. Her workouts are creative, interactive, fun and inspiring as she teaches not only physical fitness but mental and spiritual health as well. Trying many forms of exercise over the years, Amanda discovered a passion for boxing. She trained diligently and competed in twelve amateur fights and won the 2008 Golden Gloves Championship. Then, a trip to India changed Amanda’s perspective and ignited a curiosity in yoga. She found herself a year later on a remote beach in Thailand immersed in a teacher training program. The transition from boxing to yoga has allowed Amanda to apply the same principles of discipline, commitment and focus from the boxing ring to the yoga mat. When Amanda isn’t running in Central Park, biking through the streets of Manhattan, or shopping in local farmer’s markets, she acts as a positive force in the world, empowering women and sharing her passion for health and wellness with others. She is an avid world traveler, passionate vegetarian, aspiring best-selling author and modern city chick with hippie roots!