Friday April 5,  5:24am – Chicago

365 – that number keeps ruminating in my head. 365, 365…

I’m not even sure where to start – so many thoughts are racing through my mind right now. I remember my ex leaving for work around 7 am and me deciding to go back to bed. I remember starting to hear lots of sirens and thinking to myself, “something big must be going down somewhere near here –hope it’s not too serious.” I remember my dog, Hemingway, starting to bark. I remember getting up around 7:30 am to calm him down. As soon as I exited the bedroom, I was inundated with smoke. I remember running towards the stove to make sure there wasn’t a fire. Then I went to the door to check to see if it was warm (thank you all those PSA’s during cartoons as a kid!). And finally, I went to both my back window and out onto my front balcony. Both sights confirmed the “something big going down” was in my building. I immediately called the front desk and was told to evacuate. I then called my ex to relay the situation, filled a backpack with our essential papers, etc., and leashed the dogs. Just as I was heading toward the door, the emergency speaker system announced a change in plan and to “Please shelter in place until notified otherwise. Fireman had arrived, the situation was being handled and that they needed the stairwells clear.” So, I gave the dogs a bone, sat down at the table and started to think through anything else I may need to pack. A friend then sent me a text showing the live news coverage of the events unfolding and I had no idea the fire was as severe as it was. I didn’t panic, nor was scared. My building was a concrete structure, there were at least 30 fire trucks parked outside, and double or maybe even triple that number of personnel. I felt very confident in the fire department; that they knew what they were doing, and we would be evacuated safely, properly, and in a timely manner.

I spent the next several hours communicating with the insurance company, researching temporary and long-term temporary housing, and moving items aways from the walls. The fire was seven floors up, but directly above me, so once the fire hoses started flowing, I needed to move as much as I could out of the pathway of the runoff water. At about 2pm, a message came over the loudspeaker announcing that building and fire personnel would be escorting us out of the building floor by floor. When it was our turn, I walked out the door assuming I would take the dogs and the valuables to my ex who waiting in the car, and I would walk back up grab the suitcase of basic clothes, toiletries, etc. I had packed for us and meet them at the hotel.

I lived on the 20th floor. As I was walking down, my legs started hurting at floor 15, and my calves cramping at 13. I felt winded. I couldn’t believe how much pain I was in and was bargaining with God to just get me to the bottom. In a million years I never would have guessed that walking down those stairs would be SO difficult. When I got to the bottom, I handed the bag and dogs over to my husband and then made my way back into the building to get the rest. The second I overheard the maintenance staff debating whether or not to let people back up to their units, I made the decision to leave. I’d like to say it was because of the logistical challenges of coordinating returning to my unit – nope. I knew I would NEVER be able to walk back up and down those stairs, and for sure not lugging a suitcase!

Instead, we went to Target – bought the necessities, checked into a nearby hotel and went to Gibson’s Steakhouse for dinner. After a Cosmo, a few glasses of wine, and a classic steak dinner I was feeling pretty good – – and then the next morning came… (as they always do)

I woke up in a great mood. It was my 52nd birthday, the sun was shining and everything that was truly important to me was alive and well. But, as soon as I put my feet to the floor I was riddled with excruciating pain in my calves and legs. Walking was going to be interesting. I can’t say I had an ‘aha’ moment exactly, but something deep inside broke open, and a knowing settled into my soul — I couldn’t go on like this. It took me a few more weeks to form a plan of action to take shape. Partly, because it was 5-6 days before I was walking normally, and partly because I needed to clarify exactly what my goals and objectives would be. Here is what happened.

I decided I needed to work out even if I never lost any weight. I wasn’t getting any younger, and I needed to improve my functional strength at the bare minimum. I did not want to grow feeble as I aged. I committed to a beginner program online for people who had never worked out before. That was humbling! I mean I had been a dancer, and multi-sport athlete in my youth. But I knew I had to start slowly – no sore muscles or I’d quit immediately. It was 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week for 3 weeks. And after those three weeks, I felt better than I had in years, and so I kept going, choosing increasingly more challenging programs.

I also knew I needed to change my relationship with food. Lord knows I had tried every diet, so upon research I decided to intermittent fast. However, I tailored it a bit. I gave myself true permission to eat whatever I wanted, with the only caveats being time restriction (eating window) and, I had to stop when I was physically full regardless of how much food was left. In the first two months I lost 6lbs. – to many that would seem a failure, but to me it was the foundation to where I am today. In those two months some crucial shifts happened. First, I slowly stopped obsessing about food. In the beginning fasting was hard – feeling hunger pains and not satisfying them was super challenging, but because I could eat WHATEVER I wanted or craved once my eating window opened, the struggle was bearable. Second, by fasting consistently – pushing through bouts of physical hunger and more importantly, not immediately escaping/medicating emotional frustration, pain, anxiety, etc. with food, it slowly started to lose its hold over me as my drug of choice. Food was no longer “good or bad”, or a measure of my moral character, it just was. Now let’s be honest, in the beginning, I binged a bit – ate too much, too quickly, too ravenously. But as I settled into the process, I relaxed. And as that happened, what I craved changed, and my obsessing about “cheat” foods ceased. Sure, I still feasted on pizza and ice cream some days (still do!), but I also started wanting vegetables – lots of them! – and chicken, fish, fresh fruit, and whole grains. I had always liked and enjoyed body fueling foods, but never craved them. By the time month three was over, I had lost a total of 20lbs.

I hate to do this because there is so much more to this story I want to share. But I have to go so I can get in my workout for the day (either ironically or fortuitously its leg day!) and then walk the stairs in my condo building to commemorate the significance of that event in my life. I’m going to post it to Instagram today so check it out when you get a chance.

I promise to pick up where I left off tomorrow.
365 days…