We’re all human beings supporting each other in some way – in our village, earth, universe. Gratitude for reading, sharing and “clicking the heart” on EJ.
My article was edited by Elizabeth Brumfield, Editor at Elephant Journal. Below are excerpts from the article along with three headstand photos I chose to showcase on my blog (that are not displayed in the the EJ posting).
Self–empowerment is taking control of your own life, setting goals, and making positive choices that can create a meaningful impact in some way.
Whenever I do a headstand, a sense of power and confidence overwhelms me—I’m on top of the world, upside down. Wow!
Encouraging others to persevere can be just as self-empowering as mastering a headstand, because it might be those words that inspire them to keep going.
Note: My original title of this article was “Self Empowerment through Words and Headstands”, edited by EJ to”Turn the Heck Upside Down: Finding Empowerment with Headstand” (Sept 3) and then re-titled by EJ (Sept 20) to: “Finding Self-Empowerment & Community through Headstand.”
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Voting for the Underdog: I made it to the TOP 10 in an international contest for Hers, Ms Health & Fitness Magazine!
Author update (as of August 21): After writing this story and posting it on a few community Facebook groups I belong to, the night before the Aug 20 Top 5 Voting deadline, as well as my regular daily reminders to my own FB page, I moved from 6th place and I’m now 4th place and made it to the TOP 5 ROUND!
Thank you everyone who voted for me to get me this far!
I rediscovered myself through persevering with exercise for the past 19 months and in the process I lost 19 pounds and gained strength and self-empowerment.
I can do cartwheels, cross monkey-bars and mastered my first yoga headstand at age 50 this summer!
I’m a kid at heart.
I learned I’m never too old or too late to start working on myself by carving space for my health by making exercise a part of my daily life.
When I was depressed, suffering anxiety and feeling “useless” when Covid-19 overwhelmed our lives at the start of spring break, I knew that I needed to find some self-purpose and find a way to make life brighter.
In April, I decided to help others better their health during the pandemic by forming and leading a free online Facebook fitness group where our members were invited to participate in various monthly fitness challenges, check in daily with their progress and encourage each other with positivity.
Leading this group saved my mental health.
During the process, our fitness team formed a healthy online community built on connections through exercise, perseverance, encouragement, laughter and support.
I’m not extraordinary like some other competitors in the Hers Ms Health and Fitness competition, but I have great admiration for fierce athletes.
By entering this contest, I feel like I’m “keeping it real” because I’m one of the underdogs.
I don’t have humongous muscles, although last week —two 9-year old girls at the playground told me my right bicep is “SO BIG!”
I don’t excel in any sport or fitness activity, and don’t work in the fitness industry, but I love promoting health, wellness and exercise, especially when it’s free!
I don’t have a whole lot of Facebook or blog followers, I’m new to Instagram, and I’ve never entered a fitness contest like this before. I didn’t understand how to use a hashtag or what it meant — until last month! It’s awkward and uncomfortable for me to ask people to vote for me, but I do it because stretching out of my comfort zone makes me gutsier and doing scary and new things make people stronger.
I’m sometimes clumsy and uncoordinated but I’ve been trying hard to stay active, continue to be a healthy partner for my husband and a strong role model for our 9-year old son.
In the process, I rediscovered my feisty spirit, and boosted my confidence and found my inner shine. To me, that counts!
Please click below to vote for free DAILY until August 20 with your Facebook account! Click “IN HER GROUP” to see the competitors in my group phase. Every daily vote counts! Please share my profile link on your Facebook page and social media. https://mshealthandfitness.com/2020/mary-chang
You can also help me be on the cover of Muscle & Fitness Hers while also helping support Homes for Wounded Warriors in their mission to build and remodel handicap accessible homes for disabled veterans by donating $1 Warrior Votes in Mary Chang’s name. These votes count too!
Please vote for Mary Chang, an underdog and a free-spirited 50-year old kid at heart who loves encouraging and inspiring people, and keeps trying. Help her be on the cover of a fitness magazine so she can show other ordinary people that it’s not an impossible goal!
Thank you with cartwheels, monkey bar crossings and headstands! View my complete profile and all my fitness photos in my profile link.
A true story of perseverance, change, and empowerment: How I confronted procrastination and middle age with an authentic “F*CK THAT” attitude by fighting for who I am.
My conscience warned me not to surrender to negative self-image perceptions; I needed to embrace my love handles, welcome wrinkles, sprouts of random white hair and accept that I won’t fit into my favourite jeans.
My belly bump was self-earned from the countless joys of gobbling addictive chewy candies, the satisfaction of gorging on anything deep-fried and the comforts of raiding my hidden junk food cupboard.
Now, it’s time to dress and act my age; toss out those high heels in exchange for Velcro, learn to knit – not hip hop, golf instead of backpack and settle into middle age — and the fatigue and reduced energy that comes rolling with it.
This is what I told myself when I stared at my reflection a few months before my 49th birthday last year.
FUCK – THAT – ATTITUDE. What I needed more was to fight for who I am, challenge myself to become a stronger, fiercer, healthier version of me and reclaim my feisty spirit.
For the past decade I was exhausted from parenting my 9-year old son along with managing the balancing act of work, relationships, and household responsibilities.
I was struggling to find energy to mother, discipline and substitute as the play mate of my only child after a long workday and commute, in the midst of making supper, checking his math homework and sorting laundry before taking him to his next extra-curricular activity, then repeating the process the next day.
I wondered how parents with multiple children managed the chaos, whether I’d get “caught-up” with anything that required attention and if I’d ever reclaim — myself.
My daily exhaustion fuelled my passion for junk food over exercise and tendency to either binge or procrastinate, playing a part in the result of my fatigue, anxiety and lack of self-confidence.
How I feel innately reflects on how I portray myself. I lost my inner shine.I wanted to revive my energy, increase my strength and restore the power behind my confidence —through exercise.
I contemplated how I could change my habits, improve my health and embark on a fitness journey.
My ultra-marathon trail racer husband assured me I could change.
“Human beings are capable of more than we think,” he told me. “It’s a test of will and perseverance when I run. My body wants to give up after the first two kilometres but I keep running. These (50K to 100k) races aren’t just for me. I do them for you and to show our son that if he pushes himself, he can do anything.”
“Oh,” I replied. I paused my Netflix episode, dropped my potato chip – sighed. Could I get out the house, stretch out my comfort zone and test the endurance of my own human spirit?
Positive self-change is admirable, empowering; tough work requiring motivation, effort and perseverance.
My husband’s fierce determination to run his first 110K mountain-trail race, my desire to become a positive role model for our son, and my guilt (my truth in knowing I wasn’t trying my personal best) launched my butt off the couch.
I needed to prove to myself that I could do better and find ways to incorporate exercise into my daily routine.
After my last bag of potato chips, a week of shattering my self-doubt and delaying the beginning, I told myself “YES, today is the day.” I promised to make change by pushing myself to try harder.
Hell, I was aiming to blow out those FIFTY damn candles in one breath next year!
I set a date, created an exercise/food plan, recorded my body measurements and started with a 9-day challenge of eating no junk food, drinking two litres of water daily, not eating past dinner and walking 10,000+ daily steps.
I used stairs – not elevators, stood instead of sitting for desk job tasks and walked during breaks. I lost six pounds in nine days.
Posting my progress on Facebook becoming accountable on social media enabled me to push harder and I continued to set up monthly fitness challenges.
I cycled to work, ran during my son’s soccer games, swam during his swim lessons and knocked out Burpees during his judo practice.
I learned hip hop and contemporary dance, powered through infrared infused yoga, Pilates and fitness classes and pushed through intense 30-minute personal training sessions before or after my workday, On weekends, I hiked the notorious vertical 2,830 mountain stairs of the Grouse Grind.
However, sticking to a nutritional diet was an uphill battle.
I thought about junk food every five minutes because it was ubiquitous; placed in convenient spots such as the communal office snack table, nearby cafes, fast-food joints or my kitchen cupboard.
If I craved candy, cake or Poutine, I sometimes indulged, relishing every bite but used self-talk:“Eat cake, but not every day.”
To compensate for my junk food obsession, I challenged myself to overcome my anxiety and fear of racing which led me to compete in three of “my first-ever” mountain races – the winter Grouse Grind Snowshoe Race (5km), spring Grouse Seek the Peak Race (13km) and autumn Grouse Grind Race (2.9km).
The races were tough, painful and killer uphill. I asked myself why the hell I signed up during every race, cursed every mountain climb and was tempted to quit.
When I met a 73-year old female racer who passed me on the Grind leg of the Seek the Peak race, I knew I needed to keep climbing – my age was not an excuse to stop trying.
I crossed the finish line, overcome with relief exclaiming, “I can’t believe I did it – me!”
After the race my son said, “Mommy, why do you keep talking about the race – uphill, uphill, uphill…blah blah blah. It’s only 13K! Daddy ran a 50K race last week.”
I laughed, floating on my racer’s high, proud of the glory for finishing the race. I placed 34th out of 56 female racers in my age category.
Exercising enhances my well-being. It reduces my anxiety, easing me into a calm state of mind; reducing my complaints about stuff I don’t have and prevents me from comparing myself in a negative light to others.
It shifts my focus onto what I’m grateful for, enabling me to help others. With a clear perspective things are easier to manage.
By posting my truthful progress on Facebook, I made people laugh and inspired them to become active.
I was approached by the PAC leader of my son’s school while grocery shopping who told me, “I took my first 10,000 steps because of you.”
Facebook friends supported my efforts through uplifting comments, an ex-boyfriend said I resembled my twenty-year old self (really?), a friend volunteered her expertise to shoot my fitness photos and others signed up for training I believed in.
My ultra-marathoner, proud of my achievements complimented me multiple times in the bedroom, lights on.
Then in March this year, “spring break” brought indefinite closures of schools along with our community centres, playgrounds, libraries, fitness facilities and non-essential services. Families were advised by our government to stay home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
My work, parenting and fitness routine collapsed and I slipped into a state of anxiety, grief and “what the f*ck is happening to our world?”
Some point between endless Covid-19 news updates, social distancing and mild depression, I forced myself to wake up earlier, dress before noon and try not to eat too many cookies, chips or jujubes.
Each time I washed my hands I reminded myself that I’m blessed, grateful for my life in Canada and I clapped or banged my pots and pans every night at 7pm to show support to our team of local health professionals.
In April this year, instead of my usual complaining about boredom, lack of structure, menial tasks and missing in-studio workouts, I said “FUCK – THAT – ATTITUDE”and I remembered Billy Blanks! During the 90’s Tae Bo craze, I owned the entire VHS set but hadn’t done a pre-recorded workout since.
My VCR is gone but I turned toward online fitness training and challenged myself to exercise every single day to various free YouTube fitness videos for 30, 60 then 90 consecutive days (or donned a face mask like a Ninja for outdoor workouts.)
I formed and led a Facebook fitness group of a dozen members by inviting friends to join me for these online monthly challenges where we checked in daily with our progress and cheered each other on.
It wasn’t just guts and willpower that got me through my fitness journey; this collage of people formed “my social fitness village”, kept me accountable and inspired me to persevere.
Days I push myself through a vigorous work out, I can open space within myself to engage with my son, focus on tasks or creative writing.
Days I don’t exercise and choose to binge on junk food coupled with Netflix results in lost sleep, leaving me with an aftermath of low energy, anxiety and a melancholy mood. The sugar addict in me can’t wait for those vulnerable moments and I admit I take delight in this guilty pleasure.
Most days I incorporate exercise and a nutritional diet into my lifestyle but allow space for “cheat-treats” and forgiveness for unwise decision-making between my accomplishments because sometimes I need a f*cking break — and that’s okay. I’m human, life happens and I know that tomorrow I’ll get back on track.
Life is better with chocolate cake – I’m not counting calories when I think in chocolate.
By working hard, enduring the sweat, swearing and tears throughout training, I became muscled, healthier, happier and lost 19 pounds. I’m physically stronger now at age 49 than at 39 (before my geriatric pregnancy).
I’m proud to bare my belly in a bikini after the hard-earned toning of my body parts that resulted from exercise, but there is more pride behind my emergency C-section scar hidden beneath my bikini line.
Now I can take a breath, quiet my mind and capture a moment to hold my son’s hand and listen to his words, while I press pause on the cranial “to do list.” I connect with him —now— before he grows up and doesn’t want to hang out with Mommy.
I appreciate the simple joy of finding renewed strength to cross the monkey bars to endure chicken fight challenges against my son, until my palms are blistering.
I feel like a strong mother, leading by example because my son bet that he could do the gruelling, uphill 13k Seek the Peak June 2020 race (now pushed to 2021 due to C-19).
Maybe we’ll hold hands once we reach the Peak of Vancouver summit, before he asks me one last time “are we there yet?”
I’m not someone extraordinary or an ultra-marathon runner and may never be the fastest racer in my age group, but I can climb mountains.
I’m me – striving to meet my ongoing personal fitness challenges and goals. In the realm of exercise, I pushed myself harder the past 18 months than any other period of my life, reviving my energy, confidence and inner strength.
Exercise ignited my fire by empowering me to stay true to my self-mantra I set over one year ago:“Try, Mary, Try”no matter how tough it can be, it’s worth the sweat. I may not be exceptional but I re-discovered through my self-journey that there is —“Something about Mary.”
Light up those candles — this is 50. I found my shine!
Note: Feature photo (“high heels out the window”) courtesy of Liza Lova on Pexels.com
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We’re all human beings supporting each other in some way — in our village, earth, universe. Gratitude for reading. Feel free to leave a comment below.
The “C” Word: Six word stories written by children, ages 6-14 to document these uncertain times (a 2020 time capsule snapshot) and the importance of friendship.
Nine years ago, I became a new mother shortly after I moved to the North Shore. The early days of breastfeeding, endless diapers and sleepless nights left me confined to the house, exhausted and — lonely. I was in love with my newborn son, but a piece of me missed part of my previous world, adult companionship.
A few months later, I discovered a local StrongStartBC centre, a free early learning drop-in program in my neighbourhood. (“It takes a village to raise a child”) It was in that bright, welcoming activity-filled room that I formed lifetime friendships with a group of strong, independent, super women and mothers (and a few super dads) over daily cups of hot tea, coffee and freshly baked cheese biscuits. When StrongStart closed each summer, we invited new and familiar families who lived both on and off the Shore to join us for play activities we organized throughout summertime and expanded our village over the years.
We shared tales of wisdom, headache and heartache about the chaos and the joys of raising little ones while our children formed their own playful friendships. Together we hosted play dates, exchanged free babysitting, confided, cried, offered advice, spoke of dreams and fears about parenting. We shared pieces of our inner selves (the humans we were before parenthood) which revolved around fragments of time sketched in between crying babies, toddler tantrums and defiant five-year olds.
It is because we became parents that we became friends the day we all met in that bright sunlit room in Norgate, or were introduced on that first day of kindergarten, or when old friendships revived upon parenthood. That community connection transformed into a foundational piece of our friendship and parenting history.
Over the past five years, a handful of the families moved away from our community to distances as short as a two-hour ferry sailing to as far away as a plane trip to see kangaroos. It’s not often I visit the friends who still live nearby because of our busy lives. Now, it will be much longer before we see each other again or be granted permission to hop on a ferry or book a plane trip to see the others.
We’ve all been faced with the rules of isolation and the notorious “C word.” We can’t visit in person – even if we stand two metres away and may only interact through phone calls and social media. We inevitably pass through time lapses where we don’t attempt to reach out to anyone at all – because we’re overwhelmed with anxiety, fatigue, homeschooling or struggling to remember what day of the week it is.
Here I am nine years later feeling – lonely again, for adult friendship. But today, we hold hands together in spirit because I know we’re all thinking of each other and all of our children.
Some of our kids still play together and I see them grow, while others are “mind’s eye Polaroids” captured at the ages, stages and varying degrees of cuteness of when they last played together or before they moved away – as if they haven’t grown over the years although I’ve seen countless new images of them on FaceBook.
The “C word” affects lives worldwide and it’s clear that during these unsettling times we’re in the midst of making history. Today we’re reclaiming our village that we built nine years ago and reconnecting ourselves through the words of our children across the globe. When our children grow up, it is my hope that they develop similar meaningful friendships that will provide them with the support they’ll need when they become parents, or maybe their playful friendships of today will blossom into adulthood.
I asked the children to write six word stories about how the “C word” has impacted their lives in order to document their emotions, expressions, thoughts, feelings, discoveries and observations during the pandemic and to enable them to share these “six word story time capsules” with their own children someday.
This is what the children of our village wrote:
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.” – Winnie the Pooh
“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” – Woodrow T. Wilson
“Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.” – Unknown
Featured photograph: “Ready to fight Corona!” (girl in orange jumpsuit) Isla, Age 9. Photo by Jennifer Morgan.
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Family, friendships and love relationships deliver love, heartbreak, happiness, sorrow, conflict and understanding. If I reflect on the past, sometimes I understand the meaning behind my struggles and challenges I face today, knowing those relationships form a part of who I am, but do not define me.
If I embrace the present, I possess the choice to make a positive change or slip back and trigger the anxiety of yesterday by reliving it along with any guilt, shame or anger I experienced during those moments or relationships. Most days I make the brighter choice; the anxiety doesn’t disappear but my perspective shifts and gives me hope. Six words tell my truth.
Opening space within myself for love.
Change initiates from self, not others.
Peace finds way through common ground.
Reconnecting without judgment of past wrongdoings.
Forgiving self and others for failing.
Light at end of the tunnel.
Reuniting families brings hope to soul.
Relationships blossom when our hearts connect.
Holding hands together as a unity.
Feature photo: “LOVE. It’s all you need.” 2007, sand artist unknown. Photo by MC.
Marching onwards, I continue to reflect, transition and embrace change even if it scares me. Change is a life-long process. Facing my fears is personal growth for mind, body and soul. Six word stories tell my truth.
Melancholy passes, light eventually shines through.
Make choices that promise personal transformation.
I continue to self-reflect, take time for self-care and transition. Six word stories tell my truth.
Cherish the basics – sleep, water, sunshine.
Be true, give freely to others.
Take pleasure in moments for you.
Discovering something new about old friends.
Accepting, embracing change, transitions, the unknown.
Finding vibrant life in unexpected places.
Eat chocolate cake, not every day.
Make way for love, play, laughter.
Play outside – rain, shine, snow, thunder.
February Meaning & Symbolism
“Coming just after January, the month of new beginnings, is February. From the Latin word Februarius, meaning “to purify“, February was known as the “Month of Purification” during ancient Roman times. It is a transitional time, finding itself just after a month of reflection and new year’s resolutions.”
For 2020, I promise myself to take time to contemplate what matters most to me. Managing the precarious balancing act of parenting, relationships, fitness, work and the chaos that comes with everyday living is a constant challenge.
Keeping it simple puts my life into perspective. Six word stories tell my truth.