The last two weeks, I’ve been indulging in a favourite past-time, trying to savour it because it comes only once every four years (or five if there’s a pandemic)- watching the summer Olympics. I’m definitely an armchair athlete; I’m a bookworm and was a last-picked for-the-team kind of kid. The talent, drive and athleticism, the near superhuman feats Olympians make look easy, has always blown me away. Every four years, I’m glued to my t.v., cheering for the underdog nations (it’s a very Canadian thing, trust me), crying over the sappy commercials featuring Canadian medal hopefuls and celebrating as if I had a personal hand in the win when our beloved athletes make it to the podium. When they come close (damn you, fourth place!) my disappointment is real. I hurt right alongside the athlete. It is a high drama, beamed into the air-conditioned comfort of my living room.
This year, especially, I have marveled at the force of will, patience and persistence it has taken this batch of Olympians to make it to these unprecedented, pandemic games. That the 2020 games are being held in 2021 will go down in history. The face masks, physical distancing and lack of spectators will become (I hope) strange sports trivia down the road. For an entire year, the athletes sat at the starting gate, champing at the bit to get back into the game. Many had to get creative to keep in shape as training facilities shut down. They continued to train, hopeful they would, eventually, get the chance to compete, to chase their Olympic dream in the sport they’ve dedicated their life to. We are currently witnessing their persistence and hope in action.
While I’ve been a fan of the Olympics since I was a child, these Tokyo games have also provided me with a convenient excuse to avoid my desk chair. Like most of the planet, I experienced pandemic stress. Being a late bloomer, mine touched down in April of this year. The perfect storm of depression, anxiety- my own and those of my children- coupled with perimenopause, blew into my home and left me drifting, rudderless, and lost. After a herculean effort, and the help of several medical professionals, I’ve steered into calmer waters. My rudder is almost repaired. But I’ve lost my course and I’m struggling to get back onto it. I am avoiding writing as assiduously as I avoid COVID-19.
Enter 24-7 Olympic coverage with something cool and mind blowing to watch anytime I think I should be writing. Thirteen-year-olds winning Olympic medals in skateboarding! Olympic high jumpers sharing the first gold medal since 1912! Canadian women winning all but a couple of our medals! Who has time to write? Who cares if I ever go back to my manuscript, or bang out another short story? History is being made every few minutes.
The answer is there on my screen. Not in the athletes topping the podium, as amazing as they are, but in all the athletes who worked, sweated, worried, and fought to make it to the Olympics to compete. Maybe they got a personal best in their race, or perhaps they lost their first bout and were knocked out of contention. Maybe they had to pull out because of injury before they even got to the starting blocks. But they competed for the love of their sport, or country, for their supporters or for themselves. For many inspirational reasons. For them, it isn’t about the podium, it’s about the process. They’re committed to doing their best because they found their thing- their passion, the reason they get up in the morning- just like I discovered writing and story- telling is mine. They are Olympians, not because they win a medal but because they show up to compete. And they love their sport.
With only one more weekend of competition ahead, I’ll be on my couch taking in all that I can (karate and sport climbing anyone?) but I’ll also become a desk chair Olympian. I will get my butt into my chair and write every day, working to improve my craft and finish the stories I start, not because I will win awards or become a best seller.