Professor shares her experience through words, images, sounds

by Mercadees Hempel | Managing Editor
Published: Last Updated on

“It’s been kind of an incredible life so far. And I have heard one of my daughters say, ‘If it was over tomorrow, it has been a good ride,’” said Professor of Physical Therapy Julie Gahimer during her Sharing My Story speech on Jan. 25. Gahimer was asked by Office Manager of Ecumenical and Interfaith Programs Cindy Sturgeon to speak to guests as part of the Sharing My Story series.

Gahimer, who had spoken before as part of the Sharing My Story series, explained that she went through many titles for her speech, but finally chose “Telling My Story Through Words, Images and Sounds.” She said she wanted to show guests all the blessings she has had and how to have a positive outlook on life through images, sounds and words that have special meaning to her.

“I love storytelling,” Gahimer said at the beginning of her presentation. “I think that a lot of people learn from stories.… Everyone has a story, whether you think you do or not. Stories transport us and give us a sense of identity, because our story is different from everybody else’s. We become the stories we listen to, and what we read and what we see and what we hear today walks with us tomorrow.”

Photo contributed by

Photo contributed by Julie Gahimer

Photo by Shane Collins-Yosha

Photo by Shane Collins-Yosha

Gahimer said she wanted to introduce quotes, books and concepts to the guests through the speech, all of which have had an impact on her. First, Gahimer opened her presentation with the song lyrics from one of her favorite songs called “Life Means So Much” by Chris Rice.

“My favorite part is right here,” she said, pointing to the projection screen at the words. “‘Everyday is a bank account, time is our currency. Nobody’s rich, nobody’s poor. We get 24 hours each. How are you going to spend it?’”

Gahimer then shared her background. She was born in Columbus, Ind., the fifth of six children. Her oldest sister passed away from breast cancer in 2006. She talked about her Catholic upbringing and about how she had suffered from a neck injury following an accident during gymnastics. This injury, however, helped her decide to go into physical therapy. She finished her introduction by sharing information about her education and three daughters.

The next part of Gahimer’s speech was about the nine dimensions of health: financial, physical, spiritual, social, emotional, creative, career, environmental and intellectual.

“I just love the concepts of the dimensions of health,” she said. “And if you look in the literature, you’ll see six dimensions of health, seven dimensions of health. I chose the nine dimensions of wellness.… I think of every day as a pie, and … I could divide it into the nine pieces that I divided this talk into.”

Gahimer said that for financial wellness, she thinks of “time, talent and treasure.” Gahimer said she likes to give time and talent as much as she can. For physical wellness, Gahimer said her hobbies such as hiking, skiing, boating and traveling help her maintain her physical wellness. She shared that she and her sister twice had gone backpacking in Europe for seven weeks in 1981 and again with a friend in 1983. She said that she could live on $20 a day then and felt safe the whole time.

The next dimension focused on spirituality. Gahimer said she likes to reflect on the blessings she has had throughout her life, such as the “fun” funeral her oldest sister had planned before she passed away.

“My sister, as mentioned earlier, passed away in 2006. And my one daughter, as we were driving home from the funeral, she said, ‘Mom, is it okay to say you had fun at somebody’s funeral?’ I said, ‘Well, of course’ because my sister had planned her funeral.… She had been diagnosed with breast cancer and lived for seven years, and she lived every day like it was her last, and she never complained. It was an amazing experience to be able to go with her on that journey.”

Other blessings Gahimer said she has taken into account include her health, having her 90-year-old parents around and having fun with them and her two long-haired dachshunds. She then spoke about the blessings she has at the University of Indianapolis, including her mentors and students and her experiences traveling to China, Greece, South Africa and Ireland.

Gahimer talked about her pilgrimage to Camino de Santiago, which is located in Spain. She said she took this pilgrimage in the summer of 2015. The walk is 500 miles, but she walked 150 miles. The trip was inspired by her favorite book, “Walk in a Relaxed Manner: Life Lessons from the Camino,” by Joyce Rupp.

Gahimer then described her mission trips, one of which was to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2007. She also has participated in mission trips to Auxier, Ky., and Charlestown, W.Va. One of the services Gahimer also participated in was setting up the St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry in Johnson County. She said working with the food pantry has had a huge impact on her, especially when it comes to not judging people.

Gahimer then explained her spiritual practices to the audience, such as her involvement in Christ Renews His Parish and her retreats. Christ Renews His Parish is a parish renewal process, according to the official website. She also described her participation at the Fatima Retreat House on East 56th Street. Gahimer said that at the Day of Silence retreats at the house, people are expected not to speak for eight hours.

“[It’s] the best mental health that I have found,” she said.

During this time, Gahimer said she likes to grade papers or make lists about topics that come to mind, such as memorable moments, things God has blessed her with and goals she wants to accomplish. She said participants also have access to the grounds and can walk the labyrinth as well as have breakfast and lunch there.

At home, she said she will sit in her prayer chair for 10 minutes every morning to think and reflect. Gahimer’s prayer chair was painted for her by a friend. It is pink and black with “Welcome to God’s Embrace,” “the place of light, truth, and love,” “hope,” “wisdom,” “caring” and “charity” written on it.

The next dimension Gahimer spoke about was social wellness. She said that social things she participates in include hosting foreign exchange students in her home. One student she hosted was from Merida, Mexico, while another was from Irun, Spain. Gahimer said that while the students do learn things from her and her family, she and her family also learn things about their culture and about themselves from the exchange students, which makes it a rewarding experience. Gahimer also said she and her friends will meet for “bookless” book club or on the “Deck of Trust,” where they talk and discuss anything they want to. Gahimer then moved on to the emotional wellness dimension where she discussed “The Big ‘D.’”

“When Jeremiah [Gibbs] was putting these talks together a while back … he called me up one day and he goes, ‘Hey, you know what? We’re going to do these talks, and would you do yours on divorce?’” Gahimer said. “Excuse me, no. And we talked about that because that’s not what defines me. I never in a million years thought I would be divorced. Never in a million years. However, it happened.”

Gahimer explained that she was married in 1986, and her husband decided that he wanted a divorce in 2008. She said that she never thought she would get divorced but found support at Fatima Retreat House’s divorce retreat, as well as a support group through the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. She also got counseling and said these things helped with the coping process.

“I’m OK,” she said. “We’re moving forward. It’s been eight years, and you do what you’ve got to do.”

Gahimer said that when looking at one’s own life, a person must recognize things to take and things to leave behind. For example, things she wants to leave behind are feelings such as low self-esteem, negative thoughts, guilt and loneliness while things she wants to take include joy, passion, humor, fun and a “listening ear” turned to God.

The next dimension dealt with creative wellness. A part of Gahimer’s creative wellness includes participating in celebrations and rituals, such as throwing surprise wedding anniversary parties for her parents and the 30-year annual tradition of going to “The Nutcracker” with her mother. She also creates a bucket list, which includes goals such as taking Irish Step Dancing lessons or spending a Semester at Sea.

The next two dimensions dealt with career and environmental wellness. Gahimer said that she has worked at McDonalds, and has been a gymnastic coach, a dance competition judge and a physical therapist at Community Hospital and has worked as a professor at UIndy, but she has never had a job interview. She also shared her experience of going on a Service Learning Trip to San Ignacio, Belize, in July of 2015. For environmental wellness, she shared what places are important to her, such as the Fatima Retreat House and Anderson Orchard.

The final dimension dealt with intellectual wellness. Gahimer said that she likes to read books, watch TED Talks and take classes on the education websites MOOCs, Coursera and EdX as ways of educating herself. She recommended books such as “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz, and “The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them,” by David Richo. She also shared websites she likes to visit such as Daily Good and Unstuck, as well as her favorite artists and musicians.

To conclude her speech, Gahimer shared some of her favorite things that she has learned during her life, such as the acronym WIN, which stands for “What’s Important Now.” The final lesson on the list was “The wind is like faith. You can’t see it, but you know the effects.”

Gahimer then said everyone should take the time to write or analyze his or her own story.

“If you have a chance to sit down and really write your story and just sort of look at it … you just sort of see this life kind of like play out,” she said. “And until you do that, I think we are just sort of on a highway, just sort of going and going and going. But if you stop and go, ‘Huh,’ it’s really a cool exercise to do.”

Cindy Sturgeon said that listening to people speak in the Sharing My Story series helps others understand the relationships people form with God, and this is why it is important to hear the participants, such as Gahimer, speak.

“I think, for me, that it helps me to see that other people have struggles, that other people have a faith in God. And I like to see how they like to share the books and going to walk the labyrinth in the Fatima House,” she said. “I think it just helps us to see other people’s stories. It helps in our spiritual formations to watch other people have that faith life.”

Gahimer said she hoped that what audience members learned from her story is how important positivity is.

“Everyone gets 24 hours,” she said. “Everyone’s got to shower and sleep and do what they’ve got to do. Everyone is basically the same. And I think when you’re around positive people, the world’s a better place.”

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