A Womanscape special about one powerful, inspiring lady: my adopted grandmother, Nan Haynes. Who lifted the weight off her shoulders and reclaimed her life, Her Way.
Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash
Nan Haynes is seventy-eight years old and my adopted grandmother. She also happens to be a Masters-4 Powerlifting World Champion. In just under twelve months, this past year, she won the Missouri State, National, and World Championships. Oh, and four gold medals. And she has only been lifting for four years.
Powerlifting is a competitive strength sport that involves the athlete’s attempt to lift a maximum weight in three ways: squat, bench press, and deadlift. Highly demanding and extremely taxing, both physically and mentally, this seemingly straightforward skill takes years to master, concentration, discipline.
Nan was not always a competitive Powerlifter. She used to carry other weights. When she was fourteen, she was molested by her father, who used to be her hero. At fifteen, she met a nineteen-year-old boy, fell in love. They were both so young. She got pregnant; they were married a month short of her sixteenth birthday.
Life moved on. He was a good man who loved her. They had four children together. But by her late thirties, they were all grown and had moved out. She was alone. The weight of the empty silence was crushing, the rage against her father resurfaced. She felt betrayed, robbed of her life. She discovered alcohol.
Wine made her feel whole and beautiful at a time and place of her life in which nothing else did, so she drank more and more. Gradually, that too became a weight.
She did go to college and graduated when she was in her early forties, but the pull of anger and alcohol stifled any ambition she could have had. Then breast cancer happened; a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
Life is not fair or easy, but it is not deceitful either; we were never promised an easy ride. On her fiftieth birthday, Nan understood that. The rage against it and her her father was a powerful tool. She just had to learn to master it, channel it for her instead of against her.
Challenge accepted. On the 23rd of January, 1991, she set her wine glass down. Bill, her life’s companion, pledged to do so with her. Neither have drunk alcohol since.
Slowly but surely, she worked her way back to mental and physical health. She went through recovery. She began walking, took aerobics classes, went to the gym. In 2011, she met her current coach who introduced her to Powerlifting. Training, healthy eating, group therapy, then one day,
‘You are ready to compete.’
At seventy-three, Nan entered her first Powerlifting competition. She won gold and set the Missouri State Record for her weight class and age group. She has since set this record four more times. In 2017, she set it nationally.
‘I could never have dreamed this would be my life today. Oh I complain and moan about my workout program some days but I stay healthy, semi sane and really enjoy my life. I have been truly blessed.’
To excel as a powerlifter is to focus on three moves and perfect them. To defy gravity: the earth’s and one’s own. Nan does that every day.
By choosing her health, her life, her marriage. Not to drink or give in to the weight. Instead, she mentors young women like me, crochets beautifully, reads, and trains. This month she will be competing at another US National Event. Go get’em Nan. You inspire me.