Dawn Declines to Break

Happy Exhaustion has been in the spin-cycle.

I got restless around the time schools let out. My lifestyle was feeling stale, and it scared me on *all* the levels. I was afraid boredom would breed contempt and derail everything I’ve earned through blood, sweat and tears. So, I decided to mix up my fitness and wellness game. I aimed to conquer new challenges, to have fresh adventures.

Unfortunately, the challenges did not go according to plan. I changed gears too fast and too frequently. I lost my balance.

Rapid weight-gain, misery-diets, workouts interrupted by injuries, scary drops in blood pressure, on and on. If the challenges achieved anything, it was a reminder that stale beats spinning every time.

My old nemesis ‘Me Against My Body’ began to flicker around the edges. And in those days when I’m more Exhausted than Happy, I reach out from the shadows to find a source of light – something to aim for. A beacon. A lighthouse.

Then, there she was.

A lighthouse turned in my direction. And just like that, all of the goodness, all of the purpose driving all of my work came rushing back.

Her name is Dawn. (How perfect is that??)

Dawn and I connected over social media. She was in People’s ‘I Lost 100 lbs’ feature the year before me. A few of us from different years were kicking around the idea of meeting in person to build a community of riders on a fairly unique roller coaster.

I liked her right off the bat. She is kind, enthusiastic, and similarly dedicated to maintaining her fit lifestyle. I enjoyed the posts about her workouts. We exchanged a couple of messages. I knew that if we ever met in the real world we’d get on like a house on fire, but I have never even heard the sound of her voice.

In all the noise of social media, I didn’t notice that Dawn’s Joyfully Sweating posts had gone quiet.

Then, she came back. With this:

WHY IS MY NEW FRIEND IN A HOSPITAL BED?!?!

WHY IS MY NEW FRIEND IN A HOSPITAL BED?!?!

This is what she wrote:
“A story isn’t a story unless it’s shared, otherwise it’s just an untold memory. Untold memories don’t change lives. If I’m going to go through scary and angering bullshit, then someone will find hope in the story; I’m determined. It’s the only thing that keeps me moving forward. And I’m maniacal about forward momentum. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason; I believe life happens, and sometimes it sucks and hurts and makes you yell and cry. But I believe that how we respond is a CHOICE.

I went in for surgery on a severely herniated disk on June 12 (an unavoidable result of a dozen-plus years of back issues), and needed nerve decompression because of extreme pain and numbness in my left leg. Following the surgery, which was more involved than anticipated, a bad hematoma developed at the incision site, making my most of my right leg and foot numb. So…another emergency surgery. After several days of high blood pressure, blackouts, tachycardia and dizziness, they finally found two blood clots in my left lung. It’s been a whirlwind, and according to some I should have permanent nerve damage impeding my ability to walk normally, or that the blood clots could’ve killed me. This story will all unfold over time, but for now, THANK YOU TO EVERYONE, the surgeons, doctors, nurses, therapists, assistants, friends, family…everyone who has cheered me on this far, and who advocated for me…there’s a long way to go, and I’ll share it all here.

So…here’s to tenacity, drive, friendship, and a commitment to giving people hope.”

Despite her upbeat tone, I couldn’t get past this thought: My new friend is living my nightmare – Healthy & Strong Gets Side-Swiped.

Nothing hooks me up with a panic attack quite like the thought of sudden system failure – the strokes, the heart attacks, the aneurysms, the ‘unforeseen complications’ of the world.

This fear is the evil spawn of my own brush with mortality – unforeseen complications in childbirth. Happy Exhaustion almost died on the table. I’m here to tell ya – nothing can shake your soul quite like your doctor saying ‘we almost lost you.’

Since that day, the thought of an average Tuesday slamming headlong into life-and-death scares the crap out of me.

And Dawn was there – in that nightmare place.

I was scared for her. I imagined her fear, her pain, her loss. And, because of what we share in common, I worried that this trauma would steal her Healthy & Strong lifestyle. I mean – if ever anyone has an excuse to phone it in, it’s the woman in the hospital bed! Talk about a Free Pass!

Not this warrior woman. This force of nature in the form of a Midwestern redhead promptly declined to surrender.

People encouraged her to go easy, to rest, to take it slow. But Dawn didn’t want to sleep. Dawn wanted to FIGHT.

So, this:

This is what inspiration looks like.

This is what inspiration looks like.

“Keep going. Because, in the end, whether it comes fast or slow, I win. I win because I never, ever quit. Happy or sad. Laughter or tears. Tired or alert. Good days or bad days. I refuse to stop short of the uncountable possibilities. I refuse.”

And later:

Progress. Beautiful, earned, luminous PROGRESS.

Progress. Beautiful, earned, luminous PROGRESS.

“Those might just look like my feet, but you’re seeing PROGRESS. Just a few days ago, I couldn’t lift my right foot up to a 90 degree angle. Tonight, I could do it repeatedly. Now if I could just stop it from leaning to the left. Project: fix the foot drop.”

The sheer force of her grit, strength, and determination pointed Dawn’s lighthouse in my direction. She reminded me of the fire. When my candle was fading, a woman with a walker fanned my flicker into a bonfire.

I began this journey because my size was putting my life in danger. I was a stroke waiting to happen, and that fear pushed me to heights I didn’t know I could reach. I arrived at the mountaintop. I celebrated. I paid it forward. And then I began to take it for granted. I clicked into cruise control.

Dawn, you gorgeous phoenix, thank you for rebooting my Healthy & Strong. GAME ON, WOMAN! If you can go straight from a hospital bed to a four mile walk with a walker then I damn well better not phone it in.

These precious, fragile lives of ours are just a series of days, hours, minutes. The choices we make in these moments build us. Dawn reminded me that when you have the chance to choose well, you should always choose well. The very option of choice is a blessing.

Choose well. Choose to follow the light. Chase the Dawn.

To follow the progress of the phoenix, you can follow her!

Instagram & Twitter: @simplydawnb

Facebook: dawn.m.bryant

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2 thoughts on “Dawn Declines to Break

  1. I personally know Dawn as a long time acquaintance and she is just wonderful. Having known her since before her weight loss, and struggling with weight as I do, I have closely followed her journey. Inspired by the young death of a friend who started trying to gain health a little too late and seeing Dawn’s success, I began my own journey in May 2014. Using Beachbody programs and online community support. I was rocking it, but in the back of my head, I always had that fear of something setting me back and not being able to get going again. This past winter, the holidays and a major life stress did me in, and once again, I fell off the wagon. I just haven’t been able to get back going again. It’s paralyzing in many ways. I’ve gained all my weight back that I had lost and I’m afraid to get going again for fear of failing again. Thank you for sharing your journey and how Dawn has been an inspiration to you.

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