Eat, Pray, Love; Run and Jump: Part 3- Brazil

Fast forward to “the call” and going home and going to team processing and going to Rio, yada yada yada…

I had plenty of time to reflect and here are my thoughts:

17 years ago, on any given Saturday I could be found at Denver Children’s Hospital, In-Patient Oncology ward (typically in the Intensive Care Unit because my cancer experience was consistently catastrophic and I never had an immune system.) Since I was rarely allowed visitors I spent a lot of time by myself.

I would look out the window, and see life continue on without me. I would feel twinges of distress realizing that parents, just like mine, would take their kids, just like me, to their little scheduled weekend activities like soccer games, dance recitals, whatever.

I would have done anything for that to be me again, but I had become an “extraordinary case…”

September 17th, 2016 was just like any other Saturday. I was looking out the window, watching a mother take her son, all dressed up, to his karate class. That could have been my mom and me when I was little, but remember, I have become an “extraordinary case…”

I was looking out the window, on the bus, going to my second and final event at the Rio Summer Games. Gravity hit me, and it dawned on me again that we live in a universe of infinite moments. Just as I had been looking out the hospital window at 9 years old, I was now looking out another window about to perform on the world’s biggest stage. It was an ordinary moment for most people, but for me, it was an incredible opportunity. It was the gift that keeps on giving.

It’s hard to really absorb sometimes, that sick cancer kid in the hospital is the same person. It’s the same person who ran and jumped in the Olympic Stadium. That little kid with the rare form of soft tissue cancer is the same woman who was the first US woman to make it to a Paralympic Long Jump Final ever. EVER.

If you ask any athlete, I would be willing to bet that the Olympics/Paralympics (in our house we just call it the ‘Lympics since we each went to both) is the big dream. It’s everything we word for and towards. It’s “the thing” we do this for. The big show. After countless dollars fundraised and spent and debt acquired and moves and tears shed were all bricks laid down for our one Oly/Para/lympic moment.

As I watched this brazilian mother take her son into his karate class I was astonished by the tranquil contrasts of my life to theirs. So, even in a small moment, in front of your little screen you’re on right now; there’s an infinite amount of big moments happening. Like, right now something big is happening!! Someone taking their last breath. Someone taking their first breath. People falling in love, people being diagnosed with illness, accidents, joyous occasions and everything in between. The Oly/Para/lympics has given me an incredible abundance of gifts. The biggest and most important one is to treat every day, every moment as if it were your Olympic/Para/lympic moment.

Time is a gift denied to many. While we hustle away and make commitments and have dreams and set goals and prepare for all possible outcomes (as best as we can), it’s what we do. It’s how present we decide to be in each moment. That is the true gift. Like most things, time is a currency but perhaps it’s much more expensive than we actually realize.

I’ve seen 3 types of athletes leave this experience:

  1. Those grateful and overjoyed to have lived and seen it all; regardless of performance.
  2. Those distracted by the future; the elusive and unpromised hope of tomorrow through 2020
  3. Those crippled by regret; even if of their own bruised egos… from a crap performance, or dismay and shame for not getting “that big break” they had spent X amount of years working for.

At Rio, I realized we are given endless gifts in each moment; but we have to constantly make choices. You can choose to be distracted looking at everything else or everyone else, you can choose to be remorseful lost in the idea of HOW you thought it was SUPPOSED to be; or you can choose to receive it and be grateful for another moment of an abundant life. However the end turns out, a gift is a gift that is meant to be appreciated.

So for me, my Rio experience, I worked my ass off to get there. I experienced extreme disappointment, and like in the Alchemist, traveled almost all of this planet just to find myself back to where I had started. In that moment, looking out another window. No promises, just time. Me alone in my hospital room, my apartment, wherever, is the same me in the blocks at the Olympic Stadium. I have all the same tools (perhaps better polished) and same capabilities (well, almost…I did take a healthy 2 months off training before the Games which didn’t help my cause), but a brand spankin’ new perspective.

The Olympic experience is not one to only be enjoyed every four years, but in every moment. This gift wouldn’t be complete without the journey. The glory or the shame of performances fade. Records are continuously broken, and people retire from sport. That’s just the nature of the beast. The only insurance you can guarantee for those few precious weeks are the moments and spaces you create for yourself.

I don’t think Olympic Medalists take their medals to the grave with them when they die, maybe they do (I don’t have one so I’m not sure…) I doubt people who never made any Oly/Paral/lympic Team are perpetually followed by the shadows of failure. No. I think how people CHOOSE to live is something that lasts much longer than both shame and glory.

So I guess, after the Summer Games experience I’ve learned something incredibly valuable.

Spend your time being brave in the pursuit of who you are. Find your true self everyday, and love that person fiercely.

All of the struggles experienced, the pain, loss, and grief is NOT in vain. It all brought you closer to that person; yourself.

It’s not every four years, it’s every day.




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