July 4th - What It Means To Belong

Today is July 4th, Independence Day here in America.  I am one of the lucky people that doesn’t have to work today, but I did get up and go to my 5am exercise class. Mostly when people discover that I work out at 5AM, they have some comment about how early that is to work out. They point out that, in order to go to a 5am class, you have to get up when the first number on the clock is a 4. I nod. It’s true. You do have to get up when the first number is a 4 in order to have time to pry open your eyes, roll out of bed, put on your clothes, fill your water bottle, get in the car and drive to class. And, just to be crystal clear about it, never, not even one time in my whole entire life, has that alarm gone off and I have had the thought “Hurray! Time to work out!” Never. 

Nonetheless, there I was at 5am, really tired but ready to work out. The question is why? Why get up on my day off to work out? Why work out at 5am when I almost never actually need to be up that early to do the rest of my life. The answer is simple. My tribe is the 5am tribe. I work out with the other lunatics that somehow decided that they are 5am people. Almost all of us could work out at one of the evening classes, but we don’t; we work out in the mornings at 5 am when the rest of our tribe works out. We belong together. We are the 5am Max Fitness tribe. 

The 5am tribe is not the 20-something crew. Heck, by and large, we are not 30-something either. While some may be the 40-something crew, truth be told, many of us are 50-something. I would also say that the 5 am tribe are not the most likely group to be photographed for fitness apparel ads. We are the t-shirt and shorts crew. There is little chance that we will be sought after by choreographers because of our amazing coordination. And, while there is the occasional class member who kills it in class, doing all the moves, and keeping up with the instructor, most of us are the need-for-modification group. But there is something about this group that belongs together. We show up, work out and do our best – every day, Monday through Friday. And I love that so much. 

I am grateful to be part of a Tribe where the message is “You are okay. Just keep showing up. Do your best. It doesn’t matter what anyone else does, you do your best.” The message is one of belonging. Our instructor is clear. He gives the same message every day, over and over. You are okay. Just do your best. You belong here. I wonder what it would be like if each and every child came into the world given the message that they are okay, that it doesn’t matter what anyone else does, to just do their best, that they belong. And then I wonder what it would be like if, instead of listening to the voice of the inner critic that so many of us have in our own heads, we had a replacement voice that said that it’s okay not to be perfect, we are all doing our best, to keep showing up. And I have to wonder, given it is Independence Day and all, how very different our country would be if that was the message we got from the leaders in our country. “You are okay. Just keep showing up. Do your best. You belong here.”