Olympics Fever


By Original author: Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) (Manual reconstruction by Denelson83) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Original author: Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) (Manual reconstruction by Denelson83) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
I have Olympics Fever, but it has been years since I was infected. Growing up, we watched the Olympics as a family. My mom lifted the limits on how much TV we could take in. We found the countries in the atlas, memorized the flags, and watched in rapt attention at the athletic prowess of the competitors. The fever was contagious and particular in the novelty of only every four years for the Summer Games. The Winter Games, while beautiful with snow and ice, don’t really fill me with symptoms.

After eight years of missing them, I tune into the Rio Games. I am house-sitting and that house has a TV with reception, so I have been able to partake of the games in all their summer spectacle. I uploaded an Olympics app on my phone, so I get the notices of who has won the various medals of each event. I receive the daily e-mail newsletter from the New York Times sports reporters and editors. They send weird snippets, as much about the cultures and the background, as the competition itself. I subscribed to get texts from another New York Times reporter, who sends pictures and comments on the inane, like why the water at the pools was green and that badminton is the only Olympic sport requiring its competitors to play with their right hands. This adds to the fever.

I haven’t watched every day, but I have watched a lot. I scour the track events for runners whose names I know and read track commentary on the Runner’s World website. I cheer for all, regardless of their nationality. An Iranian woman won a bronze in taekwondo, the first female of her country to medal, with history and sport coming together in that moment. I cried and yelled in excitement for the Refugee team as they entered the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremonies. I try to ignore the soap opera of the U.S. swimmers and the story that went from “we were robbed” to something else indeed. The fever continues.

The Olympics fever, though, is not just about the chirps from my phone with updates on medal counts. It is not just about the national anthems being played during the medal ceremonies. It’s about the “sickness” while I move through my own routines. I point my toes in the morning when I stretch and get out of bed, mimicking the divers and gymnasts. As I run two or three miles, I imagine I’m an Olympic marathoner. In a speed session at the track, I am sure that I could take on the 800 meter runners. I hop on my new road bike, and all of a sudden I know that I am Kristin Armstrong (not the writer I love with the same name), winning her third Olympic gold. In the pool, when my goggles go on, I have the competition beaten, worthy of Michael Phelps or any of the other gold medalists. A hike in nearby open space turns into the awkward and yet admirable gait of the speedwalkers. Just before dinner, when I pull out my knife to dice onions, for just a moment I fence in the open air of my kitchen light shadow. I gallop like a little kid to the mailbox and immediately I transform into an Olympic equestrian.

The closing ceremonies are tomorrow night, but I expect this fever to last at least a few more days. I am sure I can twirl some ribbon, find a trampoline to bounce on, use a water gun as an Olympic shooter (now that should be an Olympic sport), and find some sand, friends, and a volleyball.

The Olympics are here and I am infected. I will enjoy the sports and dedication and training. I will ignore the commercials and the politics. I will witness elation and heartbreak. I will take the inspiration and speed up and find new fortitude in my own athletic and workout routines. As the fever dies, I will be left with solitude and silence and my own gasping breath as I swim and run and bike and compete with myself.

 

A Week


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It was the first week in August. It was a big week. It was my first week back to work after taking the summer off. It was full and fun and exciting and stressful and disappointing and wonderful. It was a week.

A promotion
Over the summer, I applied for a new position and was excited to get the job, a promotion. I still work with the same environmental education program, but now I have a raise and am in charge of the program. The best part, though, is that I get to do as much teaching as before, which is my favorite part of the job. The first week back wasn’t without its bumps. I had to fill out paperwork, as is to be expected, but there was a delay, so my first day back was Tuesday, instead of Monday. I got an extra day of summer break, and a little time to take care of last minute errands. I got to reconnect with co-workers and volunteers and started to get to know a new staffer. It’s a new school year and it feels full of promise, like a bundle of new unsharpened pencils.

A lot of fur love
At the end of July, I started a two-month house-sitting stint. It includes two dogs, which is my real reason for saying yes. I love dogs and want a dog, but a small apartment and a full calendar (full-time work and a return to full-time evening classes) don’t quite welcome a furry-four-legged friend. Now, I visit two sweet dogs a couple of times a day for feeding, playing, and loving. Sometimes I spend the night, but also have the flexibility to go back and forth and stay in my own place. This week, a dear friend also asked me to dog-sit for his two fur balls for an evening. I spent the night at the friend’s empty house, and stayed with these old dogs, and it was like a good visit with familiar friends. Getting to visit with four dogs in two separate houses was fun and frenzied and my clothes show the remnants of all the fur love. Completely worth it, dogs stepping on me, rubbing against my leg, and sitting right next to me. Sweet, unadulterated, unapologetic in their affection, the dogs were the perfect accompaniment to the week.

A publication
At the beginning of the summer, I wrote a personal essay. I submitted it to an online magazine and quickly received a rejection e-mail from the editor, saying it wasn’t right without a rewrite. I decided to save it and use it for something else. A couple of days later, I received an e-mail from another editor who was looking for new writers for a website revamp. I sent them the same piece, and a month later they told me they wanted to publish it. This week it appeared. I shared it with a few friends and relished seeing my byline, even if the topic was a bit painful. If you care to read it, follow this link. It was interesting to read the essay and to see how things have changed, even within a couple of months. I write, hoping to connect with others, but sometimes I connect with myself all over again.

A messy mistake
Relationships with people ebb and flow. Some relationships stay close, some people fade away. I have been overly attached to one friend, and perhaps, as a result there have been some stumbling blocks. In the last week or two, it seemed we had made some progress, after an incident in May. We communicated fairly frequently over the last week, and it felt much like old times, funny and friendly. Then Thursday, well, I made a messy mistake, completely accidental. Remorseful and embarrassed, I piled on the apologies. Our friendship feels as though it is on fragile ground again. Two other friends, with whom I shared the embarrassing incident, advised me to remember the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr.

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I have taken a few deep breaths and said the wise words to myself. I will see what happens after the stumble and hope that things are okay with the friend. No matter what, though, I am learning the lessons of intention and apology. Yet again, I am learning the peace that comes through the Serenity Prayer. I am also learning to find the beauty in the mess and the power that comes in forgiving myself. I also realized that the two friends I turned to in the aftermath were very new to me. That I felt comfortable to share and that they provided wisdom, comfort, and space for me to be raw was a welcome discovery and another reason for gratitude.

A need for speed
I signed up for a speed dating event for Thursday night. I have been interested in trying this for a few years, but never committed to going. There happens to be regularly scheduled speed dating outings in Albuquerque. I signed up with one of my new friends and we met early. Originally, our plan was to be early to get comfortable and to get ready for speed dating. Instead, I cried in the parking lot, relaying my messy mistake story while she provided tissues and a friendly ear. We ran back to her car, while I got myself together (it was too late and too hot to try makeup) and I consoled myself with the fact that at least I wasn’t wearing the crying raccoon eyes from mascara tears. Then we entered the restaurant, our new friendship cemented into something more.

We each grabbed a glass of sangria filled with enough strawberries for a fruit salad and waited to enter the banquet room reserved for speed dating. Eight tables were set with cheesy valentines and LED votive candles and we each wore a nametag with our first name and a number. There were eight men and eight women and the event felt like a cross between a very organized happy hour and mini job interviews.

At the end of the night, my new loyal friend and I then peeled out of the parking lot in her car, searching for dinner and time to decompress and debrief. We tucked into a booth and ate cheesy garlic bread while we compared notes and waited for our dinner. We both thought it was a good way to meet people, especially if you don’t do it all the time. It felt like a safe and time efficient way to meet potential dates. After years of using online dating sites, and mostly enjoying the process, I am excited to try a different mode.

A spin
I joined a gym a few months ago, and already it’s my favorite gym ever. There is a good mix of ages and abilities, always with a happy roar of weights clanking, music coming from the exercise classrooms, and enough people to feel busy, but not crowded. I use the pool and some of the weights to supplement my outside runs, but have been wanting to take a spin class. As with anything new to me, I always feel a bit of hesitation and intimidation. Luckily, on the first Friday morning of each month, they offer a beginning class. I made plans to attend and got to the gym in just enough time to sign in and feel the pull of the spandex of my cycling shorts. The class had about 20 people and the instructor led us through the basics on how to adjust the bikes for our height and comfort and how to add the clips or pedal cages. Once we were mounted, with bright yellow towels on our spin bikes, he led us through an abbreviated spin workout, explaining numbers of effort, heart rate, and the gears on the gym bikes. A runner and biker in his 50s, he had a calm and cheerful demeanor while pushing us through the burn of our first spin. I loved what he said at the end. “Go to a few different spin classes in the next couple of weeks. Check out different instructors and different styles. You will love it or you will hate it, but you will be glad that you tried it.”

The weekend
After working half a Saturday for a meeting, I plugged into my weekend of downtime. I met a friend for coffee. I took a nap with furry dogs snoring nearby. I made a simple dinner of fish and pasta and sat on the patio and drank a glass of wine. I watched some volleyball and swimming of the Olympics, celebrating that my two-month house-sitting gig comes with a TV that gets reception and all the channels, while my TV at home only works with a DVD player plugged into it. On Sunday, I went for a run and a swim, did some housekeeping chores, and caught up with a college friend on the phone.

It was a week. While time may be a human construct, we can feel it. A week is seven days. It is a clear grid on my dry erase board hung in the hall. It is the song of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. It was full. It was eventful. It was ordinary. It was just part of the life I am living, the good, the bad, and all that in between. It was about friendships, fur, and new experiences. It was the beginning of a new work year. It was a week.

 

 

Make


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Photo by Kary Schumpert

(This essay is partly inspired by the July issue of Tribeza Magazine and the theme and emphasis on Makers, and Kristin Armstrong’s column “Our Unique Common Denominator” which is included in this same issue.)

Make. One of the lovely things about being human is our ability to make things. We make tools, love, and messes. It’s our creativity and desire to change and learn and build and dream that makes up our very essence.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what makes a life. We all live and breathe and eat and sleep, but what is it that we make? What do we create for others? What do we create for ourselves? What choices do we make that leave us breathless in anticipation? What actions do we take that leave us sleepless in remorse? What are the moments that slip through our fingers? What parts of our lives feel just right? What is it that we make that we don’t even realize?

We make moments.

We make decisions.

We make love.

We make mistakes.

We make conversation.

We make memories.

We make messes.

We make appointments.

We make a home.

We make friends.

We make family.

What is it that you make? How do we make it together? In a world that is increasingly reliant on technology, sometimes the line of making something is blurred. We often think that to make something requires tools and talents. I argue that we can all make something, and even do it well, if we just give ourselves the chance.

Making something, even a small, but beautiful life, only requires that you show up, ask, and be brave enough to make mistakes. To live fully means you are fully making your life. You are making the best of your talents and timing. You are supporting your loved ones and asking for that support. You are loving and showing your love. You are trying and failing beautifully. You are the baby making first steps. You are the octogenarian making your millionth joke. You are laughing and crying. You are in the moment. You are falling and flying. You are staring down the moment. You are trying new things. You are comfortable and loving a supportive environment. You are scared and excited. You are holding on and letting go.

What are the things you love to do? What are the things you would like to try? Who could you like to call and talk to for a few minutes or a few hours? What risk would you like to take? Who would you tell that you love them? What new recipe would you like to make? What craft would you like to try? What would you like to build? Who would you like to visit? Who has a career you would like to learn more about? What could you make right now that does not require any new equipment or money spent? What picture have you been meaning to take with the phone that you never put down? What trail or road have you not taken? What do you have that you can share?

If you feel at a loss, make a list. Begin. You are doing great! Clasp your hands. Take heart. Speak up. Show up. Make mistakes. Love. Make your life.

 

A quote by Anne Lamott


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Photo by Kary Schumpert

“Oh my God, what if you wake up some day, and you’re 65, or 75, and you
never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in
warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly
and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out
on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big
juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring
off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart.
Don’t let this happen.”
–Anne Lamott

A quote by Gary Paul Nabhan


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Photo by Kary Schumpert

“A seed is really something spiritual as it is something material. It contains a life spark that allows the regenerative process to happen. We need seeds because they are the physical manifestation of that concept that we call hope.”–Gary Paul Nabhan

Ask


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Photo by Kary Schumpert

In our family, there is an oft-told story about me when I was two or three years old. I was on a car trip with my grandparents and little sister before the holidays. My older sister and parents would join us in a few days. In the car I looked out the window and I kept asking questions. Finally, my grandmother tired of finding answers and she said, “I don’t know.” In toddler brashness, I responded, “Old people don’t know anything. Katy knows everything.” Katy is my big sister, seven years older. Little did I know that she made up stuff when she got tired of my constant questioning. My grandmother loved that story and never failed to remind me of it, laughing to show me that she always found humor, and not offense, at my childlike frankness and curiosity.

I never really outgrew the incessant questioning. Questioning feels as much a part of my identity as brown hair and my love of New Mexico. Lately, in grief, I haven’t asked as many questions. It feels odd and alien. In the last week or so, though, the questions have returned. It takes bravery for me to ask some of these questions. I feel their presence a comfort, and perhaps, I feel the slow return to myself.

This is what I have asked recently:

I asked my boss about a new job posting.

I asked a dear friend for forgiveness.

I asked a co-worker for help.

I asked a new friend to meet me for coffee.

I asked a new boyfriend for grace and the ending of our relationship, because I wasn’t ready to date.

I asked an editor to consider some of my ideas for new articles.

I asked my mother about one of her painful memories, because I wanted to know about deep forgiveness and redemption.

I prayed and asked for peace.

I asked a friend, with whom I had lost touch, who sent me a short message via LinkedIn, for her phone number so that we could talk.

I asked for an extension of a deadline.

I asked my running group’s coach for an informational interview so I could find out more about being a personal trainer.

I went to my favorite bookstore and asked them to order a book that I wanted, but was embarrassed to ask about because of its “self-help” category.

I asked an out-of-town friend to cancel and delay, yet again, a much-talked-about lunch outing.

I asked a dear friend, who is a new mother, how she was doing following her first two days back at work after maternity leave.

I asked for clarification about a boundary in a relationship.

I asked the universe about the meaning of international news and political news.

I felt blocked and asked where I should begin in my spiritual work.

I asked the building manager for repairs to be made in my apartment.

I asked myself if I was on the right path.

I asked myself to find self-love.

Some questions are more difficult to ask than others. Sometimes, it’s the answer we don’t really want to hear.  Other times, the question and answer will go through revisions. Once in a while, a question takes our breath away. I realize that a question can be a starting point or the end. Knowledge and answers often come only after a time. As Rainer Maria Rilke said, “Live the questions now.”