Hi BodyRock fitfam.
The last time I wrote to you guys was to update you on the showdown that I had with my mother-in-law (MIL) at our extended family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I didn’t intend to have a tug of war over the mashed potatoes, but I stood my ground, and I felt like I left that night having established new boundaries with my MIL.
To be honest, I haven’t had a lot of time to revel in my victory. We had a covid outbreak in the family that kept us locked down in quarantine (everyone recovered) and then we got right into the general busyness of the holidays. I’ve always loved everything about Christmas, and having my husband and girls getting into the spirit after such a challenging and crazy year was something that I had been looking forward to all year. The one thing that I definitely wasn’t looking forward to was dinner at my MIL’s. Out of all of the big family dinners that she hosts every year, Christmas is the big one. Everyone comes, and it’s not uncommon to have 20 adults and at least half as many kids at Christmas dinner - not exactly where you want to hash out resentments, and I had a feeling that my MIL might be looking for an opportunity for a rematch after what went down at Thanksgiving.
Going into Christmas, I felt more confident than I have ever felt, not just because I stood my ground at Thanksgiving, but also because I feel that I have a new ally in the family besides my husband. One of my sister-in laws has started working out on BodyRockPlus with me and following the female version of the Intermittent Fasting Plan. We touch base over text a few times per week, sharing the workouts that we are streaming, and generally encouraging each other. We weren’t particularly close when this started, but over the last few weeks, something approaching a real friendship has started to form between us, and it feels really good to have someone who is fighting her own battles join up so that we can support each other. She’s convinced a friend from her mom’s group to start, and they are doing the Beginner Bootcamp series together to kick off the New Year. It feels incredibly rewarding to know that the spark of this incredibly rewarding movement is catching, and that I played a small part in helping people get started, based on the example that I set just trying to find my own best version of myself.
So the long and short of it was that I felt good going into this Christmas season, and I felt that there might be something to this ‘sharing the spark’ of fitness, but first I had to check in with myself and get as honest as possible about how I feel about my MIL.
There have been times in my life where I have thought that I legit hated my MIL. Hate is a strong word for me, because I’ve tried to live the kind of life where I don’t hate anyone. I know how heavy hate can be. I grew up in a house where verbal and emotional abuse were so common that it barely registered. I was expected to just get over whatever was said, but there were times when that wasn’t possible, and I would hold the anger, fear and resentment until I either silently cried it out, or I could bury it so deep down inside that even I couldn’t feel it anymore. Except you can’t ever really make things go away, something that I discovered after a lot of therapy in my twenties. Part of the reason that I can’t just keep my eyes averted, and brush off the cruel comments, is that I’m no longer willing to make myself small, or minimize myself to accommodate other peoples abusive behavior. I’ve done a lot of work on myself, and once you cross that line, you can’t fit back into that shape anymore, no more than you can fit into a pair of shoes that you wore as a kid - you grow inside if you do the work to heal, and you end up expecting more from life.
When I examined how I felt about my MIL, I realized that I didn’t hate this woman. I had a hard time even saying that I disliked her. Has she lashed out? Yes. Has she tried to diminish me publically and in front of the entire extended family? Yes, absolutely. She has behaved badly to put it modestly. But then something curious happened. I felt a surge of compassion towards this woman. Maybe, she was doing the best that she could. Maybe she wasn’t encouraged in her own life. Maybe, with all of the kids that this woman birthed into the world, she didn’t have the space or time to pursue her own interests or her own life. Despite all of the conflict that we’ve had between us, she did raise my husband, and he’s a beautiful, caring and loving partner. My MIL has been a generous and loving grandmother to our kids, and even though her attitude towards me and some of the limiting beliefs that she seems to hold make me nervous, my kids seem to know the score there and are able to hold love for their grandmother even when they see her acting out.
There was something about me, and my fitness, that clearly challenges my MIL. I asked my husband more questions about my MIL, and it turned out that she ran track as a girl. He didn’t know too much about it, other than she had won some ribbons in high school. I have to admit, I was fascinated. The woman that liked to show her destain for my fitness, had once been a runner. What else didn’t I know?
That small tid-bit of information was enough for me to make up my mind. This Christmas was going to be different.
In the week leading up to Christmas Day dinner, I fell into the holidays. Our tree this year looked more beautiful than ever, and I enjoyed my evenings at home with my husband and kids listening to carols and watching all of the Christmas stories on TV. I felt calm and at peace.
Christmas Day came, and after a big breakfast and opening the presents, we packed up the car and headed over to my MIL’s house in the late afternoon. The house was bursting at the seams with family. It was amazing to see everyone, especially some of the family that had made longer journeys to be there. The feeling of togetherness is something that I really cherish, especially at Christmas.
My MIL greeted the kids warmly, hugged her son, and gave me one of her customary ‘chilly’ hugs. Once the coats had been piled up in a spare room and the kids had disappeared off with their cousins to play, I asked if I might speak with my MIL, indicating that I wanted a moment alone with her. She seemed a bit weary, but we sat down on the edge of the bed that had been piled up with everyone’s winter coats, scarves and wooly hats. I said “I know that you and I have had our moments, and I’m sorry if I didn’t handle myself as well as I should have, but the truth is, you are an important part of our lives, as the mother of my husband, and the grandmother to our children”.
I had dropped my eyes as I spoke. We were sitting almost knees touching on the bed, close enough that when I reached out and took her hand in mine, I chanced a look up into her eyes. They were rimmed with tears, which made my eyes spill down my cheeks. I kept going, shocked that I was holding her hand, and how loving the gesture felt. “I know that you liked to run when you were a girl, and that you had even won some ribbons”, she took her hand away, but only to redirect some tears. “Yeah, she said, I use to run like the wind.” I pulled the gift wrapped box from under my coat. “I got this for you”.
She took the box and hefted the weight of it in her hands, unwrapping the Santa wrapping paper. Inside was a new pink, 6lb vest, just like the one I wear when I do my BodyRock workouts. She broke out into a little launch, mixed with some sniffles. I explained to her that once an athlete, always an athlete. I told her that learning about her running track had inspired me to reach out with the spark, and that being strong is something that we could have in common and share with each other and the girls. She got up from the edge of the bed, and went over to a dresser in the corner of the room, opening up a drawer near the top. She carefully handed me a stack of photos. “That was me when I was 17”. I cradled a black and white photo in my hands of my MIL in the bloom of her youth, poised to begin a race, a look of incredible determination set on her features. She was young, beautiful and so strong looking. I couldn’t believe what I was looking at.
Next she put a faded yellow ribbon in my hands and explained that she had won this ribbon at that race. “I want you to have this, and keep it for the girls to have. I want them to know that their grandmother could once run like the wind.’ It was at this moment that there was a soft knock at the door and my husband popped in his head. I’m not sure what he expected to see, but the two of us standing closely and crying joyful tears wasn’t likely it.
The three of us went back to join the rest of the family, with my MIL actually wearing the vest, and happily letting everyone know that I had gifted it to her. Those few minutes were a Christmas miracle, and even though I have more questions than answers, I felt a closeness and connection to my MIL that didn’t exist between us before. I believe that ‘sharing the spark’ was a big part of what allowed us to find a common ground, and I’m glad that I took the risk. More than anything, I want to learn more about my MIL, and what happened to her pursuit of movement and fitness. That will have to wait maybe until the next update. In the meantime, I can tell you that she has started walking with the vest, and doing her household chores with it on. We are going to all do the Beginner Bootcamp series together in the new year, and it feels like there has been the start of something truly magical to begin the New Year.
Thank you for letting me share my story with you and the community.
Wishing you all the happiness and love possible.
WOW! I have been following this story since the beginning & this is such GREAT news! It had me crying like crazy. I really hope that this will continue on a positive note! Thank you for sharing once again!
This is GREAT news! I have been following this story and loved getting tge updates. I choked up while reading this. You are both a great writer because I could feel the emotions in this story and you are genuine. I do hope this is not the last you write. Please keep us posted on everyone’s fitness quest! Happy New Year!