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It was actually a very similar feeling to my kids’ first day of school: should I have called first to tell them she’s coming? What if she won’t go? What if she hates it? What if they’re not nice to her? What if she’s not nice to them? Mom has dementia, and it’s not always predictable how it’s gonna go.

The class is called Fit for Life at Somerset Sport s and Fitness. On this particular subzero day my mom was not into it. Wouldn’t they cancel because of the temperature? It’s awfully early to have class (8 a.m.) But we went.
The instructor and manage of the facility, Kelly, greeted us at the counter like we made her day. I know she made mine. We changed our shoes in the locker room and looked for a spot on the class floor. Many seats were saved or taken…uh-oh…But then, after finding an opening, ladies came over. Joanne, who has been here since the beginning 12 years ago, Roxanne, newly retired is my guess, Marie, who kept an eye on us both with encouragement and suggested improvements on form. She used to come with her husband, who passed in the spring. Another told us not to get discouraged. Another brought us those slidey foot discs. I got misty as each one introduced herself to Mom and made a big fuss about her.

Then class began and Mom was amazing. She never let up once, didn’t want to modify or take breaks. Her body remembered how to move, stay upright, keep the beat, and she only had a few moments of dizziness.

After class was a flurry of more attention for her as well, as more people welcomed and encouraged. I think there were 25 in the class altogether. Mom signed up for a month, and appeared to have fun.

But the thing. And here’s the thing. I was surprised by my own enjoyment. For some weird reason, I forget how much fun I have in fitness classes. I have taught fitness since Emily was born 26 years ago, but for the past 5, I have ignored this part of my life. Work, illness, finances all kept me away. I did some intermittent weight training after work, but with the occasional exception of retreats or conventions, I have focused my physical practice on resistance flexibility training and certification. It’s a modality that I think has planetary healing potential. No, really. And part of my walkabout since 2015 involved setting up a studio to see clients in my home. It’s a vocation and spiritual practice for sure.

But shaking what my mama gave me for the pure joy of my own movement? What a treat.

In that very facility, I taught Zumba classes to several of the women who greeted me like a welcome stranger today. And I felt, with a new sense of community and love, that to be remembered as I was by some, and to be welcomed today like the first time, no matter, had me in tears more than once. Community and hospitality. Gets me every time. Like-minded women in shared purpose who widen the circle for me and my mom. I received it all today.

And my body! I thought I would look in the mirror with loathing and contrition after so much time way and so much change. But I was still right in here! My friend Kim who does this for a living probably never strayed from the path like I did; I hang with the assumption that some women stay on their body A-game always, but I’ve been a long time gone from the joy of my own sweat. I know Kim’s cheering me on from a distance, though, and I’m so grateful for her gentle encouragement.

This year’s mantra: Enough already. I’m enough already. I do enough already. I have enough already. Now go be joyful. I can please myself just for my own pleasure. I wish the same for you. If more sitting still feeds you, cool. Me and my mom, tho, we’ll be at the gym.

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