Friday, February 14, 2014

Raw Pain


It’s all I can do to “mute” the Olympics these days, so fixated am I. The TV glows in the background, even when I’m outside with goats or downstairs tending to pups. I share this not because I am proud of it, but in honest confession that there's more noise than usual in my world these days, but until the games are over I've given up trying to fight it. These games are tapping something in my psyche and I can't quite figure out why, given I don't understand half of the sports I'm watching. I think it's less about the game itself, more about the nature and power of sheer discipline.

I confess my addiction to watching way too much TV right now as a matter of soul processing. May this blog serve as my priest (if not shrink, counselor, psychoanalytic coach). I would love to think I’m having a breakthrough moment here, but I’m pretty certain that’s a shallow stab at what’s happening.

I trace a small part of this “aha” to my childhood where once I qualified (believe it or not) to train with a one-on-one coach in gymnastics, which is to say my parents were told my body had the talent (i.e the stamina; the flexibility, the potential) but the real question was "Would I have the discipline?" (Turns out, I did not. Who at age 6 wants to train 6 - 8 hours a day? Well, obviously everyone I'm watching on TV this week, but certainly not I.) Still and so, the conversation was had and is forever etched in my memory even today. No regrets, but sometimes I allow myself a moment to ponder the alternative lives I might've chosen.

As I watch these Olympians, I marvel. And being older, I also ache. What must life be like for these people? What comprises their day-to-day? When are they truly happy? Do they know they will never be like the rest of the kids? (And would they even want to be?) Can they only have relationships with each other, after all, what average person could relate to their drive, much less their schedules? To think these questions were posed at age 6 for having tumbled slightly better than another, in a gym class I entered just for fun....These things give me pause for thought.)

Tonight it hit me as I watched (of all things) male ice-skaters. (Particularly Plushenko. Talk about the agony of defeat.) Why was this man's saga so gripping to me, after all, I know zilch about ice skating. What's more, I didn’t come anywhere close to living some big Olympic dream so it's not like I can relate. Still, something moves me about his story and I found myself personally sadder for having watched him grimace in pain.

It literally hurt to watch. More than I hurt for all his body had endured after 12 surgeries, I ached for his mental/emotional state as he finally comes to grip with the fact that his life-long dream is no more. He’s basically done at the ripe old age of 31. 

Universal as the Olympic spirit may be, I say it's our human limitations that really unite us. While we (in the Western hemisphere in particular) may’ve figured out how to tighten our skin or lift up our body parts, seems we’ll forever be working on accepting the mental/spiritual realities of living life in these carnal cages that can only do so much for so long before they wear out --a reality as true for farmers as it is for world class ice skaters.

Not a lot of wiggle room for pain on the farm, that's for sure. Animals gotta eat no matter how your back's feeling and no one wants to hear you whine come time to pull weeds or lift bales of hay. And as for discipline, well, maybe I'm making up for that of my lost youth. Goodness knows it's a schedule and a serious commitment of time...something I can't say I totally grasped going in, but I'm grasping now in spades. (Literally.)

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