Living the WELL Life

New Year's Resolutions... Who needs 'Em?!?! - by Jami Appenzeller

Monday, December 28, 2009

I guess I do. It’s just that as I type, I’m not feeling particularly optimistic in my ability to see them through. In fact, I’m calling 2009 an official fourth quarter bust. Just as everything was feeling pretty dreamy, the volatility of life went and bit me in the butt…again. But, have no fear, as I remain optimistic and determined to turn my frown upside down.

Over the past five years, I have managed to carve out a little niche called PhillyFIT Magazine, which has blessed me with a successful career reflective of my own challenges, joys and sorrows. It was born in hopes of inspiring readers to think about their own daily choices with more depth and introspection. But, I’ve never found myself stumbling with a blank page...until now. I wanted to write a more personal and poignant Publisher’s Page, but the topic I’m thinking about is too all encompassing to even begin to scratch the surface. So I am going to get right to the point folks!

You and I better think about joining a gym for personal growth. It matters more than you might think. It matters to your family, friends and even to yourself. If you want your life to be gratifying, have purpose and stay on course, read on. Sure, I made resolutions in December 2008 (even committed them to paper) and things were looking really positive for the first half of the year, then life simply got in the way and as a result, my head is now hangin’ a bit low. I’m disappointed in my inability to remain in (what I thought was) a happy place. Admittedly, it took me a good number of years to get to the intersection of Waytogo Avenue and Bliss Lane. Thankfully, I had driven by there a few times in my past and I am certain that I can get there again, even without a GPS. They say negative things happen in threes, but in my case, it feels like they’ve been happening in thirty-threes. The holiday cake that I make this year just might be adorned with three layers of icing (just to make me feel better), and you can bet that I’ll be washing it down with a tiny bit of self-pity and disillusionment. I know, I’m acting like such a Debbie Downer. Sorry. This is so out of character. But, is it okay that perhaps I am having a moment, above and beyond my typical blonde ones, for once?

I have found that my Publisher’s Page forces me to gather my thoughts and make sense of them, along with you, (the heartfelt feedback you provide lifts my spirits to the stratosphere). Okay, maybe only two layers of icing. I truly believe that life’s curve balls are thrown for a reason. They must be taken seriously and lessons must be honed from them. I know, I know, how many times have you heard that in your life? But seriously, as I (try to gracefully) age here…I am starting to realize, there really IS something to it all. Maybe I’ll start calling these curve balls “signs,” or red flags. You catch my drift? Just when we start to celebrate conquering a hurdle, another whopper comes along – just to keep it real. I mean, come on, for what other reason must these challenges arise? Haven’t some of us “earned” our way to happiness by mid-life? Can’t we just coast every now and then?

Not long ago, I leased a billboard on I-95 that read: “PhillyFAT? Not anymore…PhillyFIT!” I wonder if I ought to take a dose of my own marketing medicine because my hardcore gym days were way too few in 2009. Thankfully, blessed genetics have carried me through, but gosh darn it! – I’ve got to get my ass in gear and get my body (and my head) back in the game. I’m betting a Franklin that the release of those magical endorphins will inevitably help with what’s currently ailing me. Ever notice how good an amazing workout can really make you feel – no matter how hard life has recently been? It seems to wash away doom and gloom that was cemented to your heavy heart only an hour prior. I need to get back in the saddle without the help of my “friends” Ben and Jerry. I am grieving. I’m longing for a life I knew only months ago. My mental and physical energy levels (a strong cornerstone of how I typically chart my life’s goals) have sunk to an abysmal low. In short, this year bit the big one – but again, I’m determined that the sun will rise again. Perplexed? Let me explain. See, the collapse of a seemingly untouchable true friendship and the loss of two loved-ones—well, that pretty much sums up the later part of 2009. I had experienced three mind-numbing losses within a two-week span…and I’m still feeling pretty jolted, helpless and distraught.

1) I’m in a state of mourning and sorrow over “what once was.” I’m telling ya, I feel like Mary without Rhoda, Natalie without Tootie, Brenda without Kelly, LC without Heidi. What to do when a BFF relationship turns into an RIP situation? My girlfriend isn’tdead, but our friendship pretty much is. One of my closest girlfriends just can’t seem to get her @#!% together when it comes to being honest! And, I’m sick of it! Enough is enough, so I have decided to call it quits…for now anyway. Stick a fork in me, I’m done. And I feel bad about the loss, but I feel worse being lied to — I’m simply stuck. This time around, I think we need real therapy, not merely retail therapy. Sorry Nordtroms. I am suffering the “loss” of a friendship. As a middle-aged woman, I can tell you that good girlfriends are hard to come by. My friend and I have a history. We’ve shared lots of good times and tears too. We share silly private jokes, crazy antics and flashbacks that still make me smile until my cheeks hurt. All that is gone now. I am issuing an Amber Alert on my heart. Our friendship has disintegrated faster than Tiger Wood’s reputation.


2) My 21 year old son Derek, whom so many of you have met at our PhillyFIT BASH events, lost his dear friend Robby (who was ALWAYS at the bashes too, helping all of the participating vendors unload their cars and carry belongings to the respective booths) back in November, at the young age of 20. A horrid car accident, shaky circumstances, and endless questions as to “why” continue to ensue. I encountered the most spiritual moment of my entire life during this unforgettable, young man’s funeral. Overcome and overjoyed at the same time at the “celebration” of Robby’s life with hundreds of young folks (many around 20 years old) truly made me a humble woman. I became noticeably lost in this very devout experience and awakened with a new sense of welcomed spirituality. This changed me for the better. I felt the power of pain and love in unison (quite a head-trip.) But this epiphany wasn’t commanding enough to get me over the blues. I’m reflecting on his mom and her pain and his dad with his tortured anger over his son snatched right out from under him. Man, if I could only find a way to take some of their pain away, I’d carry it for them. I so badly want to help.

Robby’s mother has graciously accepted my offer to “please call me anytime you need a friend.” She is truly suffering. Witnessing a mother handle the loss of her young son will always remind me that when I’m really upset with someone or something in my least I still have them here to be mad at (Robby died 2 weeks before his 21st birthday). She lost her son in the middle of the night, only to go through 24-hours of bewilderment, denial and confusion, her torment is palpable.  Daily, she struggles to find purpose through her morose. She confessed that she has to find a way to make it through each day, and I don’t mean just dealing with extreme pathos, I mean putting one foot forward, and then the next. She almost needs someone to help her just walk. So, my son and about ten of Robby’s friends have committed to “being there” for Robby’s parents. They do potluck dinners at their home and sit around and just “talk.” They all meet at his gravesite weekly and share stories/feelings. When Robby’s parents pull up in his tricked out Honda S2000 (Robby’s baby) there are cheers and tears all round.

No one is ready to let go of Robby. There have been fundraisers and car meets all in his memory. Friends and family have made customized t-shirts and car stickers celebrating his life and about30 of his friends are now sporting a “Robby” tattoo and that number is growing! No one is forgetting. It’s the most BEAUTIFUL outpouring you can imagine. Talk about true friendship! This powerful sense of unity, formed as a by-product of a terrible, untimely loss has me thinking and has me reprioritizing…WTF? My own personal troubles now seem trite and trivial in comparison to the sadness that ensues over heartbreaking tragedies. The image of the massive line of cars in the procession line will forever be burned in my brain. The string of endless cars, making their way to the burial site had to be commandeered by police escorts because traffic was standstill. The wait at the traffic light intersections was over 15 minutes for impatient spectators. All of Robby’s friends pulled out in their hot rods…one by one. Each car does the biggest burnout (yup, wheels squealing like you have never seen) one...then another, another...the smoke is so thick you can’t see across the street. I swear, call me nuts...but I swear, once I saw the image of Robby (basically what I am calling the spirit of LOVE) swirling and lingering, hovering over the entire stretch as far as the eye could see. The kids were screaming, their tires screeching, everyone crying, celebrating in despair, all in hopes that Robby would hear or see them and their love for him.  I still cry as I type this. It’s been two months and my emotions are still raw. I cannot let go of this pain; it envelops me and almost cradles me. It’s sort of a gift serving as a potent reminder the power of love and WHAT “IT’S” REALLY ALL ABOUT.

3) Then there was the untimely passing of my brother-in-law, Reno, who I had just recently met (and ADORED)! Reno and my sister came to visit me this past summer (Sept/Oct ‘09 Pub Page: Sister’s reunited after 31 years) and then two weeks later, he was gone—another jarring curve ball that shook me to the core. How could it be? One minute we were all laughing and talking over Mu Shoo Chicken and next moment – he’s no longer here! It just didn’t/doesn’t compute. My grieving Derek lost his dear friend and his uncle within a 12-day span. His pain was enough to make me forget my own, but as any mother will tell you, his hurt is my hurt – we’re connected in very deep ways. These deaths have put us all in touch with our own mortalities… and confirm what I have believed for a long time—life really is fragile.

My question is: Who has time for lies anyway? Whatever your belief—and by no means am I trying to get all holy on you—I think there is a reason why we are supposed to live as honest and humble people. So, back to the BFF problem for a sec. Now, after two more losses coupled with her absence in my life, I’m starting to think about this all a little differently. Sure, I miss the random mid-day texts of her hilarious trash talkin’ stories. She’d bitch about pesky work colleagues and read me emails sent to boys who infuriated her. She is still single, so I lived vicariously through her nutty, laughable escapades. She’d continually ask my advice on what her next move should be. She’d always be there to split a salad and a decadent dessert when I really just needed a friend. Hey, what happens at Cheesecake Factory stays at Cheesecake Factory. We’d reminisce and tell stories over cheap wine as times were tight for us. We went into our friendship against all sensible odds as we were/are polar opposites on many levels. She was curly, I was straight. She was demonic, I angelic (well, okay, not quite). She was a meat eater and I always trembled like SuperSize Me’s Morgan Spurlock as she’d pull into fast-food drive troughs like it was nothing. She was a little bit country and I was a little bit rock-and-roll, but together, it really worked. She supported me and I supported her, and that was all that mattered. But sometimes – gosh darn it – you just can’t change a leopard’s spots. In sharing my story with you, I’m realizing that my journey started with acceptance. I think I was enamored with the idea of finding rare and true friendship.

But now what’s a gal to do? Well, I’ll tell ya, I’m through with the mopey-shmopey, woe-is-me doldrums. It’s all finally in perspective. I’m going to pick myself up by my bootstraps (or rather, my Nikes) and get back on that horse (I wish it were my long lost pony “Seagull”). But, I’m only human. I, too, need a little encouragement from time to time. So I’ve decided to lean on a few of our readers for inspiration. I know I’m not the only one dealing with personal pain, discontent, emptiness and conflict. And even more so, I KNOW that I’ve been blessed with amazing gifts, just so much to be thankful for. I feel selfish complaining even just a little bit! So, I will not allow any “bite” to get the best of me. Chances are everyone goes through a hail storm sooner or later, and somehow the human spirit prevails. I will commit to seeing that proverbial glass as being half-full, not half-empty and I will be working hard over the next few months to get my mojo back. I’m not even sure I can, or even want to attempt to make any resolutions this year. Maybe I can issue myself a “redo” of last year’s resolution – a pardon if you will.

At the end of this article, there are a few real life snippets from random, every-day people who have triumphed in the face of adversity. Just when you think you “have it rough”…well, think again. For every sad story, there’s one sadder. I found these stories humbling. The hardships that other’s face can certainly give one perspective and reason for pause. I think we can all learn a bit from one of these profiles. Oh, and don’t worry about me! You better believe that this blonde has enough moxie to come out the other side even better than ever. Thanks to everyone who was brave enough to contribute to this piece, I can attest to the fact that it’s not always easy to step forward with personal anecdotes for the world to judge. Your stories of perseverance will surely help me, and others, as we move into 2010. My spirits will be lifted soon. I cannot bring back the loss of Robby or Reno, but thankfully, my friend and I are both still here and with each passing day there is a new opportunity to turn the corner and walk on the sunny side of the street.

So, what have we learned throughout all of the misery? Well, to me it’s about getting over the dumb crap. We need these curve ball wakeup calls to remind us all how fragile life is. There is something much bigger and better than “us” out there. Humans are flawed. This much I know. But in 2010 if we all try a little harder to be a little more kind, a little more sensitive and a little more compassionate, we’ll all go into 2011 more spirited and renewed. By focusing more on doing things FOR others, not what others do TO you, maybe we can get out of life’s funks and we can all be less obsessive and less dramatic about little stumbles along the way. I just want to be good at living my life with purpose, perhaps it’s my kids and this magazine that sustains me and keeps me focused. And, by the way, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one in the gym wearing a smile.

"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." -E. E. Cummings


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