coffee cup sitting on the hood of a car

The blaring of my phone alarm yanked me from my dreams. I slapped at the screen with my whole hand, hoping to hit a button that would stop the noise; 4:45 am was an inhumane hour.

“I’m only filling in today,” I consoled myself as I drug my body out of bed. I fumbled around for my clothes, trying not to wake my wife. Thankfully I’d had enough forethought to set up the coffee machine the night before so all I had to do was push the button. I didn’t bother to search for a travel mug. In all likelihood, I’d have that coffee down before I wound my way to the end of our road. As the coffee brewed, I located my keys and the gym bag in the coat closet that I kept mostly at the ready.

The flood light hanging off of the garage illuminated as I walked out the front door of my house but then went off again before I could get into my car. I took a cautious sip of my coffee as I carefully maneuvered my way around in the pitch-black. Once my eyes had adjusted enough, I was able to perch my coffee mug atop the car hood while I opened the door and tossed my bag onto the back seat. I then settled into the driver’s seat, secured my seatbelt and shut the door… without my coffee.

“Well shit,” I grumbled. At least I hadn’t driven off with it on the roof. I got back out of the car, retrieved my mug and finally set off for the short drive from my house to the gym.

“4:45 am was an inhumane hour.”

black alarm clock in forefront and a sleeping woman in the background

This was not my thing, teaching class so early. But I was the Aerobics Manager and if someone needed a sub, it was my job to fill in. Normally I ran first in the morning before doing anything else. Running was how I woke up, how I set my mind and body for the day, how I convinced myself, at least mostly, that I was in good enough shape to even be a trainer. Though I’d been fit most of my adult life, in my head and deeply rooted in my soul, I felt fat and unworthy of the career I’d chosen. Without my morning run, I was left feeling frumpy and insecure.

The only other employee working at this hour was the front desk kid. I waved at him, he nodded back. A few early gym goers were peppered throughout the room on the top floor, but the downstairs aerobics room remained empty. Again, in the dark, I shuffled around the bikes, weights and various other pieces of equipment. In the back closet I located and flipped on the lights. I squinted at myself in the mirrors, so many mirrors. I turned to the side, sucked in my belly, ugh, I felt heavy and sluggish. But within a few minutes, class members began slowly making their way down the stairs, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes. Quickly I plugged in my iPod and Lady Gaga burst into song about her “poker face.” I secured the microphone around my head and plastered a fake smile across my face. I bounced to the front of the room clapping my hands, it was show time. I rounded up the group of ladies and we began to warm up. The blood pumped through my body and loosened my muscles. I could feel the endorphins kicking in and soon the smile on my face was genuine. I focused on the other faces in the mirror and was reminded that each one of those people deserved the best that I had to offer them, ultimately, I was here for them.

“I just want to be thin, you know, to look like you.”

back of a woman, hair in a ponytail and dressed in workout clothes, white and pink

As the hour came to a close, the class was chatty, sweaty and as thrilled to be done as I was. I said good-bye to each of the members and wished them a happy day. One young woman, probably in her twenties, hung back. She seemed shy or maybe a bit self-conscious.

“Um, can I ask you what I should eat?” Her eyes moved from my face to the floor. “Do you have like a plan or something?” She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, swiped at her glistening forehead.

“What are you looking to accomplish,” I asked, removing the mic from around my head and giving her my full attention.

“I just want to be thin, you know, to look like you.” Her big brown eyes seemed to plead with me to offer up a magic answer, the secret that I must know. My heart sank. She may have assumed that I was the epitome of fitness, but I saw all of my imperfections and honestly, I had more questions than I did answers. I wanted to tell her what she wanted to hear, but instead I told her the truth.

“Portion control is the most important dieting advice I can give you. I know some web sites you can go to for more specific guidelines, but changing your diet is hard work. There are no tricks to weight loss, just consistency.”

“Oh, okay,” she replied, her mouth drooped slightly at the corners.

“But hey,” I perked up my tone, “You are absolutely on the right track. Showing up to work out, especially at this early hour shows real dedication! Keep it up!” I smiled my cheeriest smile.

“Ya, true,” she laughed, and I gave her a thumbs up. She returned the gesture and jogged up the stairs. As I watched her go, I was again reminded of the responsibility of my job. Instructing was so much more than music and workout routines. It was connecting with and embracing people’s insecurities and vulnerabilities, giving them hope that if they wanted to change, they could. Maybe not easily, maybe not quickly, but definitely with enough consistent work.

I shut off the lights and gathered my things. As I walked past the mirrors, I took another look at myself. My face was flushed, my hair damp with sweat and I could feel the familiar chill that crept into my bones as my body began to cool.

“Same goes for you,” I spoke aloud to my reflection, “Same goes for you.”

“From the very first pages, Lorinda Boyer’s pile of confessions moved me. Lorinda is a master with a pen. She incomparably describes what it feels like to be a Christian woman who must comply with fulfilling the role of being a perfect, dutiful wife and mother at any cost. No saints exist in the pages of this exceptionally written memoir, yet what stands out is the way Lorinda writes about how much her beliefs, confusion, and other people’s actions or lack of them affected her behavior. Overall, Straight Enough by Lorinda Boyer is a triumph of embracing one’s identity, redefining love, expressing one true self, and freeing oneself from feeling unworthy of love. It portrays ​a flawed, loving woman who repetitively struggles with excruciating guilt and thoughts that say she deserves to be punished by God.”

Emma Megan, Reader’s Favorite

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