Spotlight on Cheryl Torrance: Hero of Happiness

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I often find myself wondering, what is happiness?  Pleasure. Satisfaction. Joviality.  Enjoyment. Bliss.  Well-being. We all seem to be on a quest for a state of happiness and so I thought I would kick off the year by spotlighting a person who embodies that word for me.  Meet Cheryl Torrance aka my Hero of Happiness.  For all those who have the chance to cross her path, you leave any interaction with her feeling lighter, happier and energized.  Cheryl just turned 50 and I thought sharing her journey with our HIH readers would bring all of us closer to understanding how we can achieve the state of happiness we all want so badly.

As many of you don’t know Cheryl, I will dive briefly into her past.  Cheryl was adopted as a baby and grew up at the beach within a massive community that was very close.  Her family provided her a life of privilege yet Cheryl was forced to leave home at the age of 15 and lived on the streets for 6.5 years.  During this time she turned to drugs as self-medication and found herself quite lost and in some difficult situations.  She shares, “I had my upbringing to fall back on. All the things my family had taught me: manners, putting others before myself, etiquette, respect etc. Many times these saved me and propelled me to getting off the street, off drugs and on a path of happiness. I never EVER forget where I came from and the gifts I have today.”  Through the tough moments she found herself in, she leaned on skills that had been passed on to her in childhood.  Through trial and error she soon realized her life skills were protecting her and propelling her through life. 

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When I first met Cheryl she was attending my colleague Bruce’s spin class with her wife Tamar.  They would walk in the spin studio and fill the room with presence.  I later found out they wed in 2014 and have a rock solid relationship.  They seem to always be laughing (Tamar has a million dollar smile) and truly represent the love we all look for in a partner.   I look at them and smile.  It was when I began teaching at Torq that I got to really know Cheryl.  She would work the front desk where I taught spin on Saturday mornings.  There were days I would walk in, sleep deprived, overwhelmed and dealing with stress, and she would always greet me with pure love.  She was always a few steps ahead having thought of what she could do for me and the riders to improve their experience.  She did the same for my daughters (whom I had in tow at times) who adore her.  It was not until I had worked with her for a while that I realized this amazing disposition she had was how she was ALL THE TIME.  Even if she had a migraine she would manage to smile and keep the flow going in the studio.  To me, that is the greatest gift a person can have.  Not only to be happy within but make that state contagious.  She transforms a person’s day with nothing but a smile, encouraging words and love.

Cheryl is now the studio manager at Torq.  She took this position on after working several years as a chef.  The lifestyle that comes with working the grueling hours required of a chef resulted in her being overweight, exhausted and burnt out.  This is what pushed her to make a drastic career change to pursue her own happiness.  When I asked her what she loves about her job, she quickly says “My job is the BEST job I have ever had. After 20 years in the food business, Torq was such a surprise job. I have had lots of great jobs with fantastic people, but the fitness industry pumps out some incredibly healthy people and that's something I like to be around.” Making a drastic career change that resulted in her making less income but assured a better work life balance was a decision she made based on wanting to feel happier daily.

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Her journey with fitness plays a large role in her state of happiness as she regularly boxes, spins or cross trains to keep the endorphins running.  This has resulted in her losing weight and feeling more energized as she takes on her days.  Her uphill battle with health was not an easy one, yet she perseveres and finally she feels she is on the path of being the best she can be.  Her wife shares: “Her best quality is her sweetness and kindness and willingness to give people many chances. She never gives up - she just gets up every day and pushes on, even when the going is tough, she figures out a way through it.”  Happiness is something we need to fight for at times and Cheryl has proven that hope and kindness will help you overcome life’s challenges. 

Cheryl may be a mentor to self-actualisation but she too struggles daily to keep up this positive energy.  She suffers from anxiety and has to keep this in check daily.  These emotions can lead to insomnia but she manages to function.  As shared in previous articles, I too suffer from anxiety and am inspired that Cheryl has found the tools within her community, marriage and friends to keep her head up and release anxious feelings as they arrive.  “I talk to people all the time about their personal demons. We all have them or had them. The biggest thing is to talk and address them as normal. No one person is better than anyone else. Sometimes it is just a conversation or kind words that can help someone out or sometimes you have to prompt people to seek professional help. There is no shame in that. In fact therapy is a gift we should all give ourselves. The space for us and our feeling and emotions. A chance to learn some skills to manage the things going on in our lives and the opportunity to address them.” We take time to care for our bodies with training and nutrition.  Our minds require that same amount of self-care.

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At times we may feel happiness will just appear, but in fact it is by choosing to be happy that we reach the state we long for.  By waking up in the morning and taking a few moments to be grateful, we can transform the energy within us and view what happens throughout our day with more joyful lenses.  Elizabeth Gilbert nails it when saying: “You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.”  We make decisions every day that pertain to our lives.  We also choose to be happy.  Life is full of trials and tribulations, but in the darkest times there are also teaching moments.  We grow and learn from them and become more resilient.  Cheryl did not achieve a state of happiness with easy life lessons, it was what she did with her most challenging moments that resulted in her current state of joy.   

As Cheryl just turned 50 her goals include being the best version of herself, being in the best shape of her adult life, a boxing match this spring, a comedy show late spring, facilitating motivational and inspirational workshops, leading Torq into its next chapter, teaching a spin class, and making a difference by being a Happiness Hero by dishing up some much needed happiness in this day to day world. She hopes to go on adventures with her wife to other parts of the world or just within our city.  Let us all be inspired by her journey that showcases resilience led by kindness.  Her smallest gestures have so often contributed to my own happiness and a person like Cheryl should be honoured for all that she does and will continue to accomplish.  Happy 50th Daddy.  You definitely make healthy look hot.

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