Working out made me miserable. “Running makes me feel so happy.” I called bullcrap to that and everyone who said it. Running, or any other exercise (besides tennis…tennis is good) makes me feel annoyed at my lungs in the moment and mad at my legs the next day. I tried everything. Lifting, zumba, running, classes, outside routines, gymnastics and they all left me feeling tired and not very coordinated.
I moved to Omaha with my husband when I was 23 and met a family with a beautiful two year old boy, Jett. He was born with a very rare syndrome that made his body unable to do most of the things a toddler should do. They lived only a few doors down from me in our complex of town houses. They were the type of people who were always doing something fun and adventurous. Most people slow down a little once they have kids because doing things (and I mean most anything) becomes a lot harder after those little ones arrive. But not them.
Even though Jett’s disabilities needed extra equipment and attention they wanted him to feel life’s excitement right down to his heart. They wanted his eyes to shine with wonder. They love to adventure, boat, waterski, dance, and workout. So did Jett. I watched the way he would smile and laugh as the wind blew his curly blonde hair when his Daddy sped him around on the boat. He cooed at his Mama as she exercised his sweet little legs on the grass outside, making them dance and run. They built him and bought him special seats and walkers, so he could use his body the way it was meant to be used as much as possible.
They followed their gut and gave him REAL food through a feeding tube, even when all the doctors suggested otherwise. His body soaked it all up, and I watched him grow and be happy and healthy and loved. Jett couldn’t talk much, but his parents understood him. They knew what he liked and what he loved. Anyone who met him felt his happiness and sweet, tender spirit.
One day I was miserable at a gym class, hating every minute and wondering why I even went. I drove home cursing all the people who say it improves moods. I got out of the car and started walking to my house when I saw Jett and his Mama outside. She was doing exercises with her sweet Jett.
Hopping those legs from side to side, making them go fast and slow. He was smiling up at her like she was the best thing in the whole world. She was making sure that his little body got to do some of the things it was meant to do, some of the things she so enjoyed about this life.
That moment changed my life in such a big way. It changed the way I saw working out. Using my body is a gift. The next day I went to the gym, and it was still hard. My lungs still told me to stop after a few minutes of cardio. My legs began to ache during squats. But, one BIG thing had changed. I watched my muscles working and my legs jumping in the mirror and all those negative feelings from before had changed into feelings of gratitude. This is hard, but my body is meant for this. My body needs this. My body loves this. I became so grateful for all the beautiful and fun ways I get to use this body of mine. Working out is not something I “have” to do or something I “should” do, but something I GET to do. That change of attitude is the only thing that made working out stick for me. Three years later, and I still love to exercise. Even when it is just at home in my living room with my little babes.
Gratitude. It is such a small and simple change that can be made to every area of our lives. There is an amazing podcast (you can listen to it or read it here) about how easy it is to forget all the small things making our lives easier every day, every second.
“The idea should be familiar to anyone who cycles or runs for exercise. Sometimes you’re running or cycling into the wind, and it’s not pleasant. You’re aware of it the whole time. It’s retarding your progress and you can’t wait until the course changes so that you get the wind at your back. And when that happens you’re grateful for about a minute. And very quickly, you no longer notice the wind at your back that’s helping push you along. And what’s true when it comes to running or cycling is true of life generally.”
Jett couldn’t say it, but I could feel the gratitude he had for life seeping out of him. His life was not easy by most standards. His parents could have focused on all the pain and work, but they didn’t. They chose to be his tailwind. He knew it, too. His dad was the wind beneath him when he took him flying so he could see the world from up high. His mom, the wind for his legs as he sped around on his back. They both were his tailwind most nights making sure he blew all the way to morning safely, monitoring his vitals and breathing. Sometimes little Jett had all the headwinds life can offer blowing so hard head on. His family focused on what was helping him blow forward, higher, better.
Next time you are doing something and feel like groaning or grumbling, take a minute and think of Jett. Who or what is your tail wind in that exact moment? Yes, traffic is the worst….but I have a working car. Oh how cleaning the kitchen can exhaust me at the end of the day…but I have food in my belly. How can a baby cry THAT much at night?…but I have something to love. The grocery line hasn’t moved in what feels like a century…but I didn’t have to chase down or hunt that food in my grocery cart.
I want to be the tailwind for my children. Not by making their lives so easy, but by teaching them gratitude. I’ll remind them of their strong muscles when they feel tired from walking. I will show them how hard it can be to dig a huge hole in the ground when they whine about cleaning an indoor and plumbed toilet. I will teach them about the joy of FRESH, CLEAN water when they cry for juice. I’ll say a prayer of gratitude that Daddy got home right when Mommy is being mean. I will help them understand the blessings of having a doctor to help heal them when they are scared of shots and casts. I will talk about Jesus’s love when they feel lonely after a friend doesn’t want to play with them.
Gratitude can change my day, my life, my home. Jett taught me the importance of all the small things. I don’t want my kids or me to get lost in every tiny or BIG gust of headwind that comes our way. I’ll turn around and remember all those tailwinds blowing, guiding, helping. And just be grateful.