As we go through life, we are blessed with a few friendships which withstand the test of time and we keep them with us for our lives. These kind of relationships shape who we become as human beings as we adopt the best of their personalities to make ourselves better.
Linda Barr was one of those friends for me. She and I both worked hard and were looking forward to paying off our homes and retiring. Linda was a thoughtful, generous friend who was always there for me regardless whether I needed help with a project or a life challenge. She was honest and non judgmental.
Linda was vigilant regarding her own health in the hopes to protect herself from health issues that took other members of her family. Linda had an inner strength that I truly admired. She was somewhat militant about her diet, she would set an objective and hold to it. She was dedicated to going to the gym and following every detail of her trainers recommendations. Linda’s work was physical as were her hobbies. By all external signs, Linda was a picture of health.
At Christmas 2015, Linda was complaining that her mattress was uncomfortable and she was having problems sleeping. In January she went to her Doctor to see if there was something going on medically and found that she had liver cancer and it was already stage 4. With the help of her best friend since childhood, she moved to Baltimore to see one of the nations leading liver cancer doctors and obtain treatment. Her family and close friends were by her side when the doctor shared his diagnosis. I remember him saying, among other things “our objective here is to extend Linda’s life as long as possible and make her comfortable.” While I heard his words, I couldn’t accept them as real. I questioned in my mind “why would he say make her comfortable? That’s something he would say if she was dying.” Linda continued to get treatment in Baltimore for several months before returning home to Maine where she continued her treatments. During this whole period she had been largely asymptomatic; She remained independent and continued to function and act as though she was going to be OK. She had me convinced that she was invincible.
In the first weeks of June, she began to experience significant issues. These were among the first signals where she outwardly displayed how serious her illness really was. On June 18th, 2016, Linda passed. I was happy that she was at the end of her struggle and now free of pain, but the pain seemed to be transferred from her to the ones that loved her as we grieved our loss.
At the time of Linda’s passing, I had ballooned to my highest weight. 410 pounds. I was so saddened by her loss, I didn’t know how I could function. I was scared to live and scared to die, but knew I was headed in that direction sooner than later if I didn’t make some significant changes.
With the help of a friend and mentor, I agreed to go to the gym, once and only for just 20 minutes. I alleged I didn’t have the time to go because with travel, changing, etc., it was going to take too much time out of my day. So I went for my 20 minute workout, just once. While there, he suggested that if I want to see any real results, I really need to go every other day. I was reluctant, but the 20 minutes went by quickly so I thought, I can do that. And I did. I began going to the gym to strength train every other day, and on the days that I didn’t go to the gym, I walked for 30 minutes at home. I was now getting in 6 days of regular movement and was feeling good that I was consistent (I didn’t do walking on the weekend day). Eventually, the 20 minutes turned into 25, then 30, then 40 and finally an hour. While it seems like this may have been an easy transformation, it was anything but that. I looked for every excuse to avoid going to the gym. There were a couple days where the parking was inconvenient, so I left. Other days, I would train and the equipment I wanted was being used, so I skipped those exercises and on one occasion, I turned around and just left.
Despite my difficulties and struggles with excuses, I continued to go. It took me about a year to take off the first 50 pounds. This weight loss was the result of my exercise and not my diet, as I hadn’t changed much of anything. I made some small diet changes, but with great reluctance. It was at about the 50 pound mark which people were noticing and a co-worker asked if she could join me on my workout. I was initially indifferent but as time went on, I was really enjoying having a workout buddy. I would push her and she would push me. Shortly thereafter another co-worker asked to join in. The three of us began our workouts together and inspired each other to get to the gym and to do a good workout. Several months later, a 4th co-worker joined the team. I was becoming inspired to change my career and thinking gym ownership would be a great direction. I was feeling so enriched by seeing these people better themselves and exceeding what they previous believed to be their best.
This inspiration continued for several months and I began putting together budgets and forecasts as well as meeting with gym owners about gym ownership. I began developing a plan for what I envisioned about this hypothetical business plan. Friends and family shared in my excitement and passion. By October of 2017, I was informed that the company I was working for was being sold. I was assured my job would be safe, but I began to consider alternatives so that I could control my future. I found that in looking for jobs, it was not about the job, but about the money and benefits it would offer. I turned down several opportunities which I didn’t feel were meeting my minimum financial and benefit needs. As I considered gym ownership I was realizing that my focus was not on making money (beyond survival); Instead it was about the feeling I was having about improving peoples lives and participating in their self improvement. I had shifted from the concept of retirement and paying off the house, to going into deeper debt and living a life where I feel more whole.
In February 2018, I made the decision to purchase a gym in Westbrook. In May, I purchased Impact Fitness. Since then, I have been busy implementing my vision. It hasn’t happened as fast as I would like, however we are moving towards success.
One of my visions was to create a memorial membership in honor of my best friend Linda. I figured if she was alive today, she would be here helping me to get it off the ground, recruiting every person she passed and working out. People at the gym would love her and her energy. I would have gladly given Linda a membership at no cost to her. In honor of her memory, that’s exactly what I am going to do. I am going to take a monthly membership and give it away to someone who could benefit from it.
I have had several ideas on how and whom to grant it. One thought was to give it to the person who showed up the most in a month. Here’s where I am at now, I would like to have a different person benefit from it each month, but it could be for a longer period if that persons need and attendance warranted it. While I will make the final determination on how it will be implemented, I am not certain how to best utilize it. It’s a work in progress.
I need you to nominate someone who you know would utilize a gym membership in Westbrook, but their circumstances have limited their ability to have one. I would like to share this with someone who genuinely wants and needs to be better. Do you know such a person? Please complete this form or drop by the gym and let me know.