In October 2016, I decided to do something different with my fitness. I was a year in to riding my bike through neighborhoods and parks and had recently lost 30 pounds. I thought as a caregiver, I needed to up my game and continue to grow in my health and wellbeing. So what exactly did I do? I signed up for my very first spin class. Yes, a 60 minute heart-pumping, sweat-dripping spin class at my gym. I mean, how hard could it be? I was biking through the week and doing strength training, this would be a breeze. Well, what I didn’t know, was that a random stranger was about to give me a special gift, a gift to sustain me through my walk as a caregiver.
I remember the month so well, because it was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and our gym was showing support in its classes. I had reserved a bike in the back of the room, so I could experiment and hide, in case I couldn’t hang. I quietly sneaked in and scurried to my bike with excitement. As I adjusted my seat and handles, I jumped on and looked up and this tiny, fit energetic instructor was smiling and starting the class with this introduction, “It is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I have developed a playlist in support of all those who are fighting. I want you to take this hour and ride for someone, fight for someone or fight for yourself.” I could feel the moisture forming within my eyes and told myself, “girl, get it together, you cannot bust out crying in this class in front of all these people.” This instructor did not know what was happening in my life or what I had been through in the last year. But she was using her voice to send out words of power into the atmosphere.
As the instructor turned on her playlist, the very first song was of course, “Fight Song“. If you are a caregiver, this song was written especially for you. I started my ride and these lyrics penetrated my heart:
“This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me”
Needless to say the tears flowed like a river, a release of pain dripped out of my eyes and dropped on my handle bars. The next 60 minutes of riding included beautiful fight songs with a inspirational instructor encouraging, pushing and lifting up the class. Every word that came out of her mouth was molding the pieces of my heart back together again. You see, my mom is dying and every day she loses a memory or an ability, and my heart tears apart. I entered this class broken and shattered but when I left that day, I was filled with hope, strength and a sense of community.
After class, I was completely wiped and drove home in silence, thinking of the power behind the words of this instructor. She could have played some music and honored those surviving or still fighting breast cancer. However, she took it a step further and applied it to all our lives.
Because we are human beings, we carry so much emotion within us, joy, love, pain and sorrow. You do not know what is going on with that person sitting next to you in a class, at the grocery store, at your school, wherever you may be. What an impact you can have by giving the gift of a kind word to a stranger. It could switch the direction in someone’s life forever. I am now an spinning-addict and get to a class whenever I can, but especially this instructors class. Not only am I working on my physical health through this class, but my emotional health as well. Its a time just for me, to release the stress and gain the strength I need to continue in this caregiver role.
Sandy Smith Barefield, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me the gift of healing through your classes. Your words and songs reached a soul who was searching for peace and respite. You gave me a gift that I will carry with me not only through my caregiving journey, but throughout my life.
Recently, my instructor played “This is Me.” from “The Greatest Showman”, and the tears began to run softly down my cheeks, with my eyes closed and my feet on my pedals. I dedicate this song to you, Sandy:
“Another round of bullets hits my skin
Well, fire away ’cause today, I won’t let the shame sink in
We are bursting through the barricades and
Reaching for the sun (we are warriors)
Yeah, that’s what we’ve become”