I knew waking up at 3:45 am for my 4:30 shift two mornings a week, which was a rollover from working the late shift the night before, was too much for our situation. But I didn’t feel like I had much choice, as I was hired as a coach, and those were the hours of fitness studios.
I got into fitness late in the game at 36 years old. So,having a job as a fitness coach I felt was an honor, and I didn’t want to mess it up. Furthermore, I was the only one working between the two of us at the time, as he was not well enough to hold down a job.
The guilt I felt every morning waking up, and not being there to make my kids’ lunches, or take them to school, crushed me. I hated coming home late at night after a long shift, walking in at 8:30 pm.
They all had had dinner, and I often just put a cup of soup on the boiler. I had missed catching up on what happened at school that day, because all I could do was stand in the shower, gulp down a cup of hot tomato vegetable soup, lie down and go to bed, to be up at 3:30 am the next day.
The schedule was grueling, and I knew I would never be able to sustain it, but I didn’t know any other way at the time. Putting one foot in front of the other was all I had.
What kind of life is this?
I remember driving through the fog past dark corn fields, dodging coyotes looking for their early morning meals. “What kind of life is this?” I would think to myself. A voice inside of me told me this wouldn’t last forever, just keep going.
I knew the toll this was taking on me, but I couldn’t brush aside the toll I am sure that was placed on my children, having their mother work overtime hours. That was the hardest part- missing my children, and what was this doing to them?
Then one morning, as I struggled to put my backpack in the car, and head back to the studio I had left less than eight hours before, there was this note on my steering wheel. It was from my daughter.
She was eight at the time. She had left this note for me the night before in my car, so I would wake up to it as I left for work the next morning. When I read the note, tears began to stream down my face, my heart began to break, and I hunched over my steering wheel, choking back the tears.
Sometimes pain can become our greatest teacher.
To this day, my children and I do not talk much about those years I missed. It’s too heartbreaking and painful. It makes me sad, angry, and crushed. Time is fleeting, and I have learned to live for and embrace every moment with my children.
My children were watching and learning.
As I look and reflect back on that note, I realize my children were watching and learning, perhaps more than I thought, the whole time. I hope they saw a mother that would do anything for them, and I hope watching us struggle and persevere through a hard time, shows them that they can do anything.
Sometimes small gestures become our greatest blessings.
The empathy and care my daughter shows me in this letter is one of the greatest gifts from the many years of tragedy. I am proud of the emotional understanding and empathy my children possess for other people.
Despite the many years and moments lost, I hold with pride that I feel we have raised two children who will care for others, even in life’s darkest moments.
VoicesInCourage is a community designed for those who have lived through tragedy, and are looking to find the good out of the storm. It’s a community designed for loved ones who have loved, lost, and sacrificed.
VoicesInCourage.com launching November 1, 2021.