Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Lady With A Smile

There was a lady at the gym with the most infectious smile. She was tiny. Probably 75 pounds with her coat on. A Japanese woman that could run, no sprint for  forever! I would watch her sometimes as I waited for a class to begin, or if I was riding a bike. Those skinny legs spun around so fast I thought I would get dizzy.  I don't think she ever broke a sweat. She was there all the time. At least every time I was there. She was quite famous. I mean, when you see someone sprinting on a treadmill for twenty minutes it catches your attention. I didn't know her name, but she always greeted me with a smile. At first I thought she was smiling at the person behind me because I didn't know her, and, why on earth would she be smiling at me? Then I realized, that she was that way with everyone. It didn't matter if she knew your name. She was happy to see you.

I go to the gym to work out. I rarely socialize and few people would know me. I never minded this before. I liked it that way, actually. I have a lot to do and I want to get in and out without making a scene, check that box, and get on with my day. Until yesterday. That was when I went to the gym and learned that this sweet lady had died. I learned  that behind that big smile was a woman suffering with a lot of pain and  struggling with personal trials so large they seemed overwhelming. My heart broke for her. My heart broke for her family. And yes, beyond that, my heart broke for all of us that will not have that smile greeting us as we step into class, or climb onto a treadmill anymore.

Today, I found myself looking for her. Wanting to see her smile. I realized how much it had meant to me and that I never really reciprocated her kindness. In my selfish ways, I seldom started up a conversation, even as she was pleading with her eyes for someone to talk to her. I never even asked her name. A few weeks ago she asked to trade  places in Zumba because she hadn't been to that class for a while and wanted to follow me. I laughed and assured her I would only lead her astray. I asked where she'd been and she informed me that she had gotten hurt and this was her first week back. I said I was sorry to hear it but was glad she was back. That was as far as our conversation went.

So back to today. She wasn't there. She wasn't on the treadmill, or standing beside me in class. I find myself looking for her. Expecting to walk in a room and be met by her beautiful smile. Half way through class I noticed something. There, next to me,  in the very middle of the room, was an empty spot. This was unusual because the class was full. To the rim. If you've been to body pump you'll know what I mean. Like people fight to get a spot. And yet, there beside me  was this gaping hole. I wondered if she knew that she was missed, that there was  indeed a spot just for her. Could she hear my thoughts and those of half the class, as her absence was jolting to so many  people? Did she know that we did love her?

I guess I just want to say that life is hard. But it is also fragile. When it gets really unbearable we have to put our heads down and fight to get through it. It reminds me of the weight class today. My legs were shaking and I just wanted to quit, and the lady teaching the class yelled over our heads, "How bad do you want this? How bad do you want this!!!" Well, I want it... bad. So, I put my head down and finished the work out because I want this! I want this life with all the pain and disappointment and hurt and all the crap that gets thrown at us. I want this life where nothing comes easy and you have to work really hard to get what you want, and even then you may not get it. Because it may not be God's plan for you.

Because, beyond the struggle, and the fight, and the pain, and blood and sweat, there is a beautiful sunrise to be seen; an owl crossing your path as the dawn begins. It is your child hugging you and kissing your cheek and telling you that you are the best mom in the world. It is  love and jokes and funny stories that make your stomach hurt and your eyes to tear from laughing. It is the brush of someone's hand wiping your hurt away. A hug, a cuddle, a passionate kiss from your lover. It is crossing the finish line of a race, and the bite of cherry pie you've been anticipating for months. It is worth it. All of it. Remember, after the pain, there is a cool down: a child's pose, a brief respite, and eventually, toned muscles and a healthy heart. And that makes everything else bearable. As our instructor says, "We're making diamonds out of coal." We are chunks of coal in desperate need of reshaping, our trials are the very thing that helps in this process and in the end we will have our reward, diamonds.

Shine bright, Midori. May heaven be blessed with your eternal smile.

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