mending while bending

Put a fork in me…

I’m done.

One thing people always tell me they love about my writing is that I’m honest, open, and vulnerable with my posts. Well, here you go. Complete, utter, and total honesty.

It’s been a year in my world. Hell, it’s been 18 months of crazy, exhaustion, emotional chaos, and total upheaval. It all started the night I got engaged, and it was not until recently that I allowed myself the grace to not be perfectly adjusted to all the changes that have happened in my life over the past 2-5 years.

I’m a strong woman.

Desperately strong.

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Sometimes my strength is my biggest downfall. Sometimes we convince ourselves we are strong when we should be stepping back and accepting the fact that it’s okay not always to be so strong. It’s okay to take things off your plate and not try to be everyone’s hero.

When I lost my husband I didn’t survive – I thrived. I dug deep, and I continued to raise our kids, and I made tough personal, business, and financial decisions. I got in shape, I ran a marathon, and I started One Fit Widow. I wanted to show others that while our grief and our pain are part of our journey – we could still find happiness within ourselves and with our lives post loss. Like any grieving person I had good days and I had bad days but I always tried to see my blessings and live our lives the way Mitch wanted to see them live.

My life was about to take an interesting twist.

Out of nowhere a handsome, sweet, and abundantly kind man walked into my life when I was not expecting it nor looking for new love. This guy screwed up my plans to do this thing alone for the next 15 years or so. I had rules I’d laid down for dating. I wouldn’t date anyone who was divorced, nobody with kids, nobody with their own complicated past because mine was complicated enough (where was I planning on finding this unicorn man with the perfect past?). Ugh, so much for my silly rules…they fell flat in the face of an incredible guy with an awesome smile and truly beautiful heart.

Rules are meant to be broken.

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So I said yes 18 months ago to Keith – whom I could now not imagine being without. At the time I didn’t realize that with my yes would come an entirely new set of emotions, grief, changes, and upheaval. I didn’t realize that I was stepping off one huge roller coaster onto another. If anyone tells you it’s easy to be in a relationship after loss, if they tell you how lucky you are to have MOVED ON – just go ahead and refer them to this blog post. There is nothing comfortable about making the conscious effort to go forward after the devastating loss of life. The emotions of death don’t die the minute you take new vows. One man does not replace the other. People are not replaceable and while you develop new bonds, new relationship, and new love – the love you had for those before never truly dies. I like to think love expands the heart. With great love my heart has expanded to allow for more great love. The two relationships are not mutually exclusive and while I love them both differently – I do indeed love them both.

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And so it began….

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Within 2 weeks of Keith and I’s wedding we moved to a new state. I left a huge village behind of support and love. The hole left with that move was palpable. Part of my being so deeply overjoyed that we were moving to a beautiful place, and part of my being excited for new roads, new scenery, new chapters. Yet part of my being empty at the distance of relationships built through tremendous emotional fires. To make matters more intense, being the owner of our own company, starting a nonprofit (wow, was that more than I ever imagined it would be), building a home and becoming a stepparent – all while adjusting to 4 kids at home rather than 2. I found myself floundering, exhausted, emotionally drawn, and completely overwhelmed by it all. For really the first time in my life I felt like I was not strong enough to handle all that was coming my way.

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The kids -wow, the kids.

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These kids have emotions that run the gamut. Kids of death and divorce – children of loss either way. My kids will never see their dad again. He is a memory in photographs; he is a story I tell again and again. I believe he loves them from afar, he guides their journey, and he sees their lives – regardless he is not present and that is not easy to live with or accept. We talk about Mitch often and the kids are free to express their feelings – both happy and sad. Keith children have different grief. They have both their mom and their dad lovingly in their lives but they spend two weeks in each home at a time and must adjust to different rules, new siblings, and sharing their parents more than they perhaps like to. I see the stain primarily in our girls right now – my daughter’s pain of loss and my stepdaughter’s pain of sharing her dad with new siblings. I’m not here to compare pain because ultimately it’s so unique and different but I’m the first to admit it makes for a complicated, and emotional existence. Our girls have worn me out this year yet I’m of the firm belief that with great challenges we grow, we evolve, we not only teach but we are taught.

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New schools, new parenting expectations, and new roles to fill left and right. It’s not been easy by any means. I’ve grown tremendously this year, and I’ve also seen many areas that still require a lot of reflection, time and grace as I navigate waters I never asked for or expected just five years ago. One thing life has taught me is that from our darkest moments comes some pretty special light – if we allow ourselves the growth.

To make matters worse, for months I let my fitness slide. The one thing that I believe from the bottom of my heart can be a game changer and I found myself putting it on the back burner. After all there were 4 lunches to make, clients to respond to, and visions for a nonprofit I’d dreamed of for 5 years. How could a woman who preaches every single day about the importance of fitness let her own fitness slide? How could I ever make that mistake? My energy slumped, my personal motivation waivered, and all the things that make me happy slow started to fall away. That bit about being happy with yourself so you can be happy with everything else in your life – it’s not just a gimmick that fit people try to sell you. It’s fact. Put yourself at the top of the daily list so you can be better for everything and everyone else on your list.

So a few months ago I realized I was overtaxed, overstressed, overworked, and undertrained. While I was still pretty in shape compared to me of five years ago – I was a far cry from the super fit woman I was just a year prior. Like I always tell you, “You define you” and I realized that I define me, and my future is determined by my daily choices.

I’ve picked this life.

I’ve chosen to be a stepparent – hard as it may be.

I’ve decided to live and love again after loss – hard as it may be.

I don’t regret my choices but I have learned (again) that overloading my plate and not taking time for me is a complete recipe for disaster. So I’m taking things off my plate. I’m making sweeping changes in my life. I’m getting back to what matters most. I’m putting fitness first, and I’m learning to ask for help when it is needed. One of the beautiful things about fitness is it’s always there. Even if you ignore it for awhile you can always go back and start again and it will welcome you with open arms. Fitness is a metaphor for life. When you are strong and healthy physically – you are often stronger and fitter emotionally, hence why I started One Fit Widow in the first place.

Is it a cure-all – NO.

Is it a huge asset in any life experiencing stress – YES.

So expect to see changes from me. Expect to see new direction in my writing, a resurgence of fitness talk on this page, new business transformations, and in the coming weeks I will launch our new blog – ‘Mending While Blending’ where I will share aspects of our lives as we do our best to navigate the tricky waters of blending a family while mending from loss. Yes, I will still write about grief and loss here on One Fit Widow, but I’m giving myself room to grow – as painful as it sometimes is.

Life’s a dance we learn as we go – so while I have days where I feel like I am done, I know that I am actually just getting started.

This is my life, and I’m going to make each day of my #365 count. The good, the bad, and the blended.

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Michelle

Michelle Steinke-Baumgard is a author, speaker, fitness coach, mother and a widow. After losing her husband Mitch in 2009 she turned to exercise as an outlet for grief and a way to handle stress. Michelle found it so powerful that she eventually quit her corporate job to become a fitness trainer. Since then Michelle has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Shape Magazine, contributed to articles for Prevention Magazine, The Huffington Post, and countless other media outlets. In addition to her virtual training business, Michelle recently launched her own nonprofit focused on helping widows and widowers complete bucket list dreams to honor their late spouse while moving boldly into their future. You can find out more about Michelle’s training programs at: 1fw Training