I met the Runner Up from Season One of the TV Show The Voice at the airport waiting for my daughter’s flight to come in.
Her name is Beverly Mcclellan and I have much to tell you. But before that let me preface it with how I was feeling on that morning when I walked in and saw her at the coffee machine.
1999 was the last year I flew on a plane for some time. I had gained too much weight. I was well over 400 pounds. I didn’t really even know what I weighed anymore. Most scales couldn’t even tell me. I was too big even for the scale. I drowned myself in food. And I tried to numb the pain. My mother would always come to see me. The one person in this world that always had been there for me no matter what. When my husband left me in 2006, she told me that I wouldn’t be alone. That as long as she was alive—I always had her.
And then she died.
But not right away
There were 3 days where I could have gone to see her. When she was still on life support. But because I couldn’t fit on a plane, I sat in my recliner instead. Eating donuts and pizza waiting for my mother to die. Because that was all I could do at the time. I had no other choice. I had eaten myself out of the ability to go visit my mother in the hospital when she was dying. So all I could do was distract myself from reality and try to live with it.
It had been a rough few years. I felt that I had ruined my family. After all, my husband had to leave me. He had no choice, he said. Living with me at that weight for so long was too much for him. And he made it clear. He wasn’t leaving the kids. He was leaving ME. The shame from that was overwhelming and there were days when I wanted to die. Days when I had to literally talk myself out of suicide. I had let down my children and I couldn’t live with myself. I felt like I was the opposite of beautiful. I felt like I was a tragic mistake. An anomaly. A burden. And I could barely look myself in the mirror.
But my mother kept me going. When he first moved out, she she called me every 15 minutes just to say she loved me. To make sure I knew that— so I could get through the next 15 minutes. And I did. I got through the next 15 minutes and I got through the next few years. Being a single Mom was hard but Mom made sure I knew I could handle it. She always told me I wasn’t alone. She would send me cards. Write letters telling me that I was beautiful and worth more than all the gold in the world put together. She was constantly making sure that I felt valuable. And because of that—I survived.
That was in 2006. And now it’s 2014. I survived those years and I found a way to live. But as you all know I moved this past summer from Texas to Lynchburg. Not really Lynchburg though. A place outside of that. Mostly in the country. And it’s been a tough year. Leaving behind the life I knew there and moving to a completely different place. From the city to the country. Missing my daughter in college. Missing my friends. And then there is Christmas. And Christmas is an especially hard time for me now that my mother is gone.
Since my mother had a heart attack the day after Christmas—nothing has ever been the same. The days that followed were a horror for me and on New Years Eve she breathed her last breath. While everyone was popping off fireworks and celebrating, my life was ending once again I felt. My mother was gone. And nothing would ever be ok again. The person who always made sure that I knew things would be ok was gone. No more phone calls. No more letters. And from that point on, things changed.
This year is hard yet again. A new place. Often questioning if I made the right decision. My grandmother is now gone too having died only a year after my mother. The other person in my life who always told me I was beautiful. That I was valuable. That I was a treasure. Both women gone now. And I’m left to survive on my own. And I do. But Christmas is hard. Their absence so apparent. Like a gaping hole that fills up your heart and never leaves.
Savannah (my oldest daughter) flew in for Christmas break though from college. And I was so excited to see her. I’ve been fighting depression for quite some time. After losing 240 pounds and having such huge success with weight loss, I stalled out. I even gained back some weight. And what I was really thinking on my way to the airport was that Savannah would most likely notice my weight gain. It’s only 15 pounds since she last saw me but still– I wanted to look good. I wanted to greet her as she walked off that plane with success on my hips. Not extra weight. I wanted her to still be proud of me. Not to see me as a failure. As someone who hasn’t been able to make it to my goal weight yet. To make it to the finish line. To finally WIN the battle. And I was feeling down.
It was raining and dreary. Very cold. I’m not used to this kind of cold having come from Texas and I’ll admit I was really feeling blue. I walked into the airport that day freezing and wishing I looked better. Wanting to see my daughter but wanting to look good when I did. I decided to go into the snack bar and get some coffee. Try to warm up. Try to put a smile on my face and stop thinking about the failures in my life. And then the strangest thing happened. Because where I live now is NOT the city. It’s not San Antonio with its plethora of cultural diversity and different types of individuals. It’s a much more conservative place. But then it happened. I walked into the airport and saw an old couple. A young college age girl who looked like she walked out of a magazine cover. And then there she was at the coffee machine. A bald lady with tattoos and some piercings on her face.
Well that’s different...I thought
But that’s not what drew me to her. It was her smile. Her bigger than life personality. She was just getting a coffee and she was doing it with enthusiasm. She began speaking to me as if she knew me. As if we had known each other our whole lives.
It’s so cold right now!! She said….We need to warm up!! WOOOO! She proclaimed!!! And then her vanilla mocha came out and she was thrilled.
It’s awesome!! She explained and then walked up to me with her coffee.
Smell it!! She said pushing it under my nose. It’s AWESOME!!!!
I’ve never seen someone so excited to get coffee out of a machine at an airport. I want some of what she’s got. Her charisma. Her joy. It was contagious.
I had no idea who she was. I missed Season One of the Voice. But she filled up the airport snack bar with her smile and her WOO!
Who is this woman??? I thought
I got my coffee next and sat down at the table. She began talking to me. About her Uncle who was flying in. About how great life is. About how this place is an awesome place to live and how much she loves it. I looked out the window at the rain. At the dreary rain and the depressing sky. What’s so great…I thought?? Why is she so happy?
As we began talking, I moved to her table. And I asked her what she does for a living. That’s when she told me. That she was a singer. The runner up from Season One of the Voice. We began to talk. She told me about her 5 pound chihuahua who loves to chase the deer. And how she had made it all the way to the finals on The Voice before losing.
But it doesn’t matter she said. And you want to know why?
“We’re all stars“, she told me. From HERE….and she pointed down to about a foot off the floor. From babies she said we are special. We are stars. And no one needs to tell us that. She told me that she had that feeling inside of her even before The Voice. That she was doing what she loved well before the show. And that while it was great to get acknowledged it wasn’t everything. And it didn’t matter if she won. She was going to live life to the fullest no matter what. Do what she loved. And live life every day with joy.
WOO! She proclaimed. Once again saying how awesome the coffee was.
CHEERS!!! And we clinked coffees.
Truly this is a person who knows how to embrace life.
Just sitting next to her filled me with contagious joy. It’s rare to meet someone who can fill a room with that much overflowing enthusiasm for a day that is filled with rain.
We have to enjoy life!! She told me. We have to embrace it!!! It’s awesome!! And I could tell she meant every word.
I didn’t know who she was so we pulled it up on You Tube. Some random video popped up and it was the one where she sang the Christina Aguilerra song “Beautiful”
It’s ironic. That’s a song that means a lot to me. When you’re a really big person it’s hard to feel beautiful. When you’ve been struggling to lose 10 pounds for over a year it’s tough. When you’re over 400 pounds and you can’t go anywhere without being stared at—it’s tough.
But she started singing. Right there in the airport snack bar. A private concert just for me it seemed. Singing that song “Beautiful”. Pointing at me and singing the lyrics, “I am beautiful no matter what they say!”
And her voice was amazing.
Here are some of the lyrics:
Words can’t bring you down, oh no
You are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can’t bring you down, oh no
So don’t you bring me down today
No matter what we do
No matter what we say
We’re the song inside the tune
Full of beautiful mistakes
‘Cause we are beautiful no matter what they say
Yes, words won’t bring us down, oh no
We are beautiful in every single way
How did I end up here, I thought??
Just a few minutes ago I was depressed. I was dragged down by life. And now her love for life is contagious. Even the coffee tastes better than it would have before! I’ve been living here for 7 months and have often felt like I dropped myself into the middle of no where. So focused on what I left behind. So focused on Texas. But you know what she told me? She said after she won The Voice she had options. She could live where she wanted. But she chose to be here. And she told me all the things she loves about this place. Maybe things I hadn’t even bothered to notice. But more than that she reminded me that just because we lose something—-a battle, a competition, a goal—-that alone does not make us losers. Just because I haven’t reached the finish line yet doesn’t mean I won’t. Just because I haven’t achieved my ultimate weight loss goal doesn’t mean I never will. And even if I have regained some weight, it doesn’t mean I’m less beautiful. We are all stars (as she said) and the obstacles we face are just part of that journey. Not failures but lessons. Not mistakes but opportunities to learn.
By the time I left that table I felt revived. I felt excited. And I felt beautiful.
Sometimes God knows just what you need. And He can come straight into the middle of no where and give it to you. Because one morning on a cold dreary day I walked into the little airport in Lynchburg and had coffee with a total stranger who sang to me and reminded me that I’m beautiful. And that win or lose we are all stars. That it comes from within. Not from getting to that magic number on the scale. Not from winning a show that tells you that you have a good voice.
She knew she could sing before she went on that show. In fact she didn’t even apply. Her band members applied for her. You know what she told me? She said it helped her but it didn’t TELL her she was “good enough”. That she knew that already. The show just complimented her life. I could have met someone devastated by having LOST the singing competition. Someone destroyed by having made it so close only to lose. I mean how many times haven’t I felt that way in the past year? That I lost 240 pounds out of 300 and I was SO CLOSE only to fall short. Stalling out. Trying to get back on track and yet never quite making it. How many times haven’t I felt like the runner up instead of the winner? Someone who has had success but not enough. Never able to finally say “I did it!”
But here is a woman who lost the prize. And instead the runner up felt that she had won. Trust me—she did! Had I not known any better, I would have thought she HAD won the whole show. She could not have been happier or more fulfilled. And instead of talking about the experience as something negative or bitter, she did just the opposite. Every single ounce of it treated as a privilege. An honor. And a blessing. EVEN when she lost.
And that’s what I needed to hear. That sometimes we fall just short of the finish line but that doesn’t mean it’s over. Or that we’re not good enough. Or that we can’t keep going. Sometimes it just means that THIS was the part of life we were supposed to live in that moment. And to embrace all of it as part of the journey.
This was the best early Christmas present I could have ever received. And when I walked out of that airport hand in hand with my daughter I felt better than ever. Because I knew that I had everything I needed long before I ever lost a pound. That I was valuable before I ever dropped weight. And so are you. We just have to learn to embrace the journey.
ALL OF IT
The wins. The losses. And everything in between.
That’s what I was taught in a small airport in Lynchburg by a total stranger. And for that I am grateful.
Plus I got a picture! WOO!