A visit to “Lynn’s Garage Gym”

When one walks down our street on any Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday morning, you will pass a house where the double garage doors are wide open.  You will hear the Alexa Amazon Band loudly playing a variety of tunes from Michael Jackson to Maranda Lambert to Bon Jovi at 9:30 am.  Such noise causes the dogs to bark and prepared humans to wear earplugs.   

Folks hear the racket from far away and wonder in this neighborhood of mostly older people, why there is such madness coming from the brick house on the corner.   Then it dawns on them who the house belongs to, and it begins to make sense.

Yep, you guessed it, it is ours.  After the gyms closed, I was determined not to be emergency airlifted to a hospital due to a chocolate chip cookie overdose.  I needed the inspiration to keep myself motivated to move to avoid such a fate.    I took my tape measure to my small garage to determine the number of friends I could spatially distance to exercise and remain safe.  No more than a total of five could participate.

“Lynn’s Garage Gym” opened in March, and it has saved a few of us from becoming slugs sitting on sofas surrounded by Tootsie Roll wrappers.   Every week I create exercise routines because boredom will surely kill any motivation. 

The girls know if I am upset over some goofy government decision, they will need to do extra rapidly counted jumping jacks.  They recognize when I am blue because the ab workouts are shorter, and the music is a bit softer.  But, when they hear Alexa belting “Beat It” by Jackson, or Gun’s N’ Roses, “Paradise City,”   they know what they are in for.

More than a gym

My gym became official when Mr. COVID decided to stick around for a while.  Even though some workout facilities opened, older folks have decided that it is not so safe for most of us.   One day, the girls surprised me with a custom-made black iron sign that reads between the molded weights, “Lynn’s Garage Gym.”  I adore that sign because even though it says, “Gym,” the garage has become much more.

We say prayers on days when the world outside the open doors seems bleak and dark.  We wave at the neighbors as they stroll by smiling at the crazy ladies who believe they are still only seventeen.  The girls and I rarely fully agree on politics or the breaking news, but we never let it make a difference in our friendships.

Many days we go over my column for the week, and I receive constructive, honest feedback.  We complain about the ugly rolls of a mysterious entity on our bodies that never seems to go away yet are grateful we are still around to see them.  We long to hug our grandchildren and gather at friends’ tables, but in the end, we are thankful we have each other and the gym.

I can tell when one of the girls is down or tired, so I crack my whip harder, and the blues seem to float to the sky.  We laugh when a bird decides to fly into the gym for a visit, or a stranger almost runs over a mailbox when he hears moans and groans along with Alexa Amazon screaming, “Pink Cadillac.”

Motivation amid sorrow

There is a much to be said about finding motivation amid sorrow.  It is so difficult not to succumb to the 2020 doom and gloom.  We bemoan the loss of ordinary days and long for their return.   Would not that be wonderful?!  However, there are a few things I hope we never do again.

I would hope that we nevermore return to ingratitude.  I hope that we have learned that complaining is quite useless and that prayer is quite essential.  May we forever remember that life can change on a moment’s notice, so enjoy every moment of even the most mundane days.

When I watch my workout sisters as the sweat pours off their brows, I witness abundant life and relish health in our little gym.  I do not take breathing or friendship for granted, and I pray none of us ever will again.

We find we are stronger when we work out, not just from the weights we lift but also from the mental strength to weather the hardships of life together.   Our power comes from having the endurance and courage to survive the worst of times.

The adage, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger,” is appropriate today.   However, may we now finally recognize that strength comes from our hearts, not our muscles.  Ultimate lasting power only comes from love, kindness, empathy, and gratitude for God’s abundant blessings.   

Someone Other than Me

As many of you know who read my columns, I was diagnosed with clinical depression many years ago.   My doctor treated me with therapy and counseling for over twenty years until one pill a day entered my life and saved it.  I was one of the lucky ones. 

My depression began when I was in third grade.  I wanted to be the girl with the shiny blond curls seated next to me instead of me.   She was smart, pretty, and happy.  She was only the first of many who I longed to become.   I was never comfortable or liked being me.  If someone teased me, I cried for days.  If a bully was mistreating someone else, I cried for them.  When I failed at anything, it was because I was a complete failure.    

Suicide entered my mind many times, and at one point, I attempted it.  I am brutally honest here because there is no reason not to be.  Becoming transparent is how we help those who suffer and who wish they were anyone else but themselves.  Depression creates pure hopelessness, and life is viewed behind a veil of sorrow and gloom.

Multitudes are suffering

Today, multitudes are hurting.  Because of the pandemic, daily doses of death, isolation, loss of income, and normality, play mental havoc with all of us.  The predictions for suicide, depression, and anxiety are roiling.   No one is immune from the sadness of this year.  The virus has brought with it the harshest of stings, and its poison is affecting us all. 

However, for those who are already enduring depression, it is far worse.  The other day, the blue depression monster jumped in front of my computer.  I was preparing to write my column when as I stared at the blank page, my first thought was, “Why?” 

Why was I writing?  The world is sick and angry.  Pessimism has risen to a new level, and those hard-headed political name-calling divisive folks are driving me crazy!  When I go into a store that requires safety protocols and notice a customer stroll by with no mask, who seems to not care about others, they cause me to question the world’s fate.  So why write?  It is hopeless.  Why talk about the kindness and goodness of God?  It is hopeless.  Why do I write about love when such selfish hate seems rampant?  Why?

The magic wand

I wrote one of my editors a note, “Is it time for me to put the pen down?”   Then, as if a magic wand were waved, a reader emailed me after reading a recent column, “Keep writing and being the voice of love and peace.  You are deeply appreciated.”   A stranger who had no idea I was ready to quit.  

The blue monster faded away, words formed on the blank screen, and the hand of God calmed my soul.  Once we recognize our purpose, were made for a reason, we become what our creator intended us to be.  Hopelessness fades to bravery, death fades to living, and we accept who we are and why. 

When we deliver unselfish, caring behavior to others, we become instruments of service to all. For those who watch the world through the fog of depression and only hear the angry and judgmental voices, they lose confidence in living.   God really does want us to care about the people we share this earth with.  He knows those who grieve and calls on all of us to render aid. 

Helping others

Everything we do is visible.  When we promote negativity, we damage.  We whisper, judge, and wonder why folks would die by their own hand.  Yet, we never ask ourselves if we had a hand in their death by taking away their faith in mankind?  Has our self-indulgence enabled us to not hear the cries of those who have experienced profound loss due to the pandemic?  Are we guilty of spreading doubt, hopelessness, pessimism, or rage? 

For those of you who are suffering, who would rather be anyone else but you, I urge you to hear my words:  There is no one better than you.  Each person was made by God to fulfill a mission.  Today, you may not know what yours is, but one day it will become crystal clear.  Do not buy into the world’s bullies, the naysayers, the name-callers because they no nothing except hurt.  You must never believe there are not good, decent, folks bearing kindness, compassion, and love because there are.  These are the folks who heed God’s explicit instruction to “love one another.”

Do I wish I were someone else today?  Some days I do, but I also realize if I were someone else, I might not then be strong enough to fight for those who want to be someone other than their valuable selves.

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE:  1-800-273-8255

There is a Time for Everything

Boy, today, it is difficult to write words of hope, peace, and love.  As I sit at my desk this morning to start my column, I am a bit bewildered at the complexities I see surrounding our lives.  I look one way and watch folks helping one another, whether in hospitals, food distribution lines, or contributing to their neighbor’s welfare in countless ways.   I glance the other way and notice people ignoring solutions for the coronavirus pandemic in favor of self-gratification and political posturing.

Now is not the time to kill, it is the time to heal. 

Hate and love residing side by side in a battle for survival.  The harsh noise of anger rises above the quiet tone of love.   Some spread fear through bogus conspiracy theories.  And then others, destroy the possibility of productive social change by promoting violence and destruction.   People often judge all by the acts of a few and others who would rather have war than call a truce.

This is not the time for war, it is the time for peace.

Some say that is just the way life is, but our lives today are so tragically complicated.  Perhaps, now is not the time to accept life as it always has been.  We are struggling both physically, mentally, and financially.   Love must beat the hate, which is critically essential for our survival.

There is a time to hate, but now is the time to love.

A time to gather

At this moment, people of all races need to erase color and simply survive the pandemic. We must do better, and now is the time.  Why do we keep adding to our burdens?  Why not offer a helping hand to those who desperately need us?   Isn’t that the basis of Christian faith and belief? 

There should be one fight right now.  There is a time for all things, but today, our priority is to heal our land from a killing giant.   It will take every single human being, no matter your ethnicity, age, or gender, to do so.  

There is a time for casting stones, but not today, today we should gather them.

People are waiting for the magic potion of a vaccine overlooking the 157,000 people who have died in our country.  Many more will die before a miracle is shipped.  Until then, all we have is each other.  All we can do is be mindful of another, pray, and protect those we love.  Hate is a violent, radical action.  Love is far more powerful, if only we enact it.

There is a time to break down, but now is the time to build up.

I recall a scene when Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston in 2017.  Its residents were attempting to escape the rushing waters flowing down their streets.   An elderly white man lost his footing, and immediately a black hand reached down to pull the grateful man to safety.   

When we are in dire conditions, color is flooded away, hate is drowned, and we survive because of caring for one another.  Hurricane COVID floods our streets, our lives, and our livelihood.   It is time to join hands and stand firm against the forceful destruction of this windless hurricane and simply endure.

There is a time to refrain from embracing, but today is the time to embrace using our hearts.

A time to be wise

There is a time to be born and a time to die.  I have no idea if I will survive the wrath of this pandemic, and neither do you.  We do not know what tomorrow will bring.  Do we want to fill our days with spreading hatred, demeaning each other, or do we want to rise to the occasion and be inspired by God’s word to help one another?  Who are we?  Why are we here?  Are we given life to promote God’s grace and goodness, or are we given life to fuel the flames of hell?  

At some point, we all become accountable, and if we don’t want swarms of locusts to fly in our backyard, those earthquakes to destroy our land, and our evil to overcome us, then we better beat the hate before our time is up.

As wise Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes: “To everything, there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  Today is the day to give compassion, hope, and inspiration to everyone living under the heavens.  We can beat hate and a virus if we understand that time is a gift from God.  Today let us all use it wisely.