This is Amy is my dear friend. A new friend. A friend who without knowing, helped me along through a difficult time. It was her smile. Her welcoming heart and hug that made all the difference. At the time, I didn't know she had a story of her own. But one we all need to hear and remember that we are all in this together. I love her dearly, and although I've only known her for a few short months.
Months ago, I found myself moving to Utah from my home in Chicago for a portion of summer to serve my sweet father, only 68, as he was preparing to pass from this life to the next. He'd been diagnosed with terminal cancer 12 weeks earlier. It was all-consuming. Even as a stranger, Amy, then turned instant friend, is the one who helped me keep my healthy habits in check.
A few days into my stay in Utah, I realized, cancer was infiltrating my family's lives. Everything came to a halt. I couldn't remember if had I eaten that day, let alone drank enough water. And exercise, where would I fit that in and how could I leave my dad? The internal dialogue went round and round. I heard the words I'd been coaching and saying for years to all of my members, "If you don't take care of you, then how will you take care of anyone else?"
Ya, but this is hard. Really hard.
Courage. I need courage.
I googled the closest gym. Found it. 3 miles.
I walked into a studio class not knowing a soul, and there was Amy, our instructor. Her smile was bright, and her eye contact said, I see you. I stayed in the back of the class, even found myself in the equipment closest because sometimes the thoughts of my father created instant tears and I wanted to hide.
But I kept going back; her energy was magnetic and encouraging. Throughout the day, I'd find myself reflecting back to the gym. She got me there. She helped me forget that my life was hard and seemingly unbearable at the moment. I could focus. I could let it out and move my body to the beat of the music and right through the hurt. It was healing. I can't thank her enough.
But little did I know. She had a story too. I'd like to feature her and her story.
Her name is Amy Haws, from Provo, Utah, an expert in loving herself, passionate about her daughters, being positive, and living by, "Love is all you need."
"Amiable Amy. That is what everyone called me when I was younger. Yeah, I was friendly, but little did anyone know that I was fighting demons every day to just keep a smile on my face. I struggled for years with bulimia, drug addiction, alcoholism, and plagued my life with whatever bad decision I could make. I welcomed the consequence because, once again, I could blame something or someone for whatever was happening in my life. I thought that being a victim made everyone else feel sorry for me and when people feel sorry for you, you don’t have to be accountable.
That mentality lasted a long time, but my life didn’t change, and I went downhill fast. From psych ward stays, suicide attempts, drug-induced comas, damaging relationships, arrests, jail time, rehab, alcohol and drug withdrawals, and severe anxiety and depression, experiencing the shame of what I was causing around me hurt the worst. I had a family, friends, a child, myself, and it wasn’t enough to help me realize that I was of worth – that I mattered.
Here I am 12 years later. I am happy, sober, loved, forgiven, and whole. As I look back, I could pick a number of struggles I have overcome, but self-love is what rings loudly now. When I have felt the most pain in my life it has always been when I have had so much self-loathing. I know that when I forgave myself for my wrongs, took accountability for my actions, and accepted myself for the beautiful work in progress I am, I healed. The more I have released the self-loathing and allowed myself to love me for me, I have been able to make good decisions and truly love others and LIVE.
These last few years have been a true test of my abilities to stay happy. I had a baby 2 years ago after a 16-year gap with my other daughter. I had always worked and/or been in school. Being home and taking care of a baby threw me for a loop. I went downhill fast. I stayed in my room and didn’t leave the house very often. I had gained a lot of weight and hadn’t had a steady workout regime for years. My husband challenged me to exercise for 2 weeks and if I couldn’t shake the depression, then we would get more help. It worked, and I felt better. I didn’t care about weight loss, it was what I needed to survive. I have realized that what exercise brings into my life is a necessity. The same feelings that I had experienced before but had turned to substances could be curbed by exercising. It really has been such an eye-opening experience and the clarity it has given me is something that will save me throughout my life.
Over the last 12 years, I have had many ups and downs, but I know the things that keep me going. Exercise is my self-therapy. I love High Fitness, weightlifting, and yoga. Having a diverse workout routine gives me variety and is also good for my body so I am making sure I am pushing myself in different ways and stretching! I also need to be constantly learning. It keeps me from being stagnant. Service gets me out of my pity parties (yes, I still have those). I love to take dinner to people. It is so easy to make a little extra and deliver it to someone. My spirituality and a connection to my Higher Power keep me aligned with what matters. I lose focus often and look at how clean my house is or what I am wearing and forget to care more about spending time with loved ones or just being grateful for what I have. That is a huge key.
I can’t express how important self-love is. Look at yourself every morning and tell yourself 3 things that you love about you. When you find yourself upset at someone, think of 3 things that you like about them. Oh, and try this, my daughters and I do it ALL the time. Yell out the windows of your car positive affirmations about yourself as loud as you can and better yet, tell someone else how amazing they are. Who doesn’t want to hear “You are amazing” from a random stranger yelling from their car?? I use this tactic as my pep talk when I am nervous about something or simply just to feel REALLY, REALLY good. It can make any day better even if it was already good. So, love yourself and love others, because it’s true, love is all you need."
Amy and I both have a story. But then I was reminded, well, don't we all have a story? And when the moment is right for you, you will find it's not only freeing but also healing to share it. Stories have the power to inspire, uplift, and restore.
Just like Amy's smile had an impact far beyond what she knew at that moment, I believe something like a simple smile does go a long way; it's like sunshine. The sunshine you bring into a room loses nothing by sharing its warmth; it only gets brighter. Life isn’t always full of reasons to smile. But your smile is a reason for someone else to smile and perhaps the only “sunshine” they might see on a “cloudy” day.
So Friends... SHINE ON!