Tuesday, January 21

getting up

In California last week, I was able to stop in and see some old friends.

I hadn't seen my first vaulting coach and fellow single-armed friend Rick, and wife Virginia, in seven years. Of course, Rick got me back on the horse as soon as possible.

Shoulder stand on the barrel
It's been a while since I've vaulted with any regularity, but I was happy to attend a morning adult class with several other women the day after I arrived. There was plenty of stretching and chatting, and I felt at ease among peers. I even attempted a cartwheel on the barrel (with plenty of spotting) and only a minor strained muscle. 

But come the afternoon kids' class, fatigue was setting in. I felt the old nemesis of a compromised immune system pushing me up against the wall, and I knew I should call it a day. I stayed outside, thinking I'd just watch the kids do their thing. But sitting cross-legged on the barrel, my frustration grew as I watched the thoughtless youthful expenditure of energy. 

"Are you going to get up there?" one of the dads asked encouragingly. He didn't know me, but his eyes told me he wanted to see something impressive.

And I knew I could do it…in my mind, conceptually, I had it together. Even my muscles know what to do. Whatever skill doesn't come naturally, I have the drive to hone. But it is all for naught, I thought, with growing desperation, because the more I push, the more I suffer. Why do I even try?

Heading for cover inside, I felt tears welling up, threatening to run down my cheeks.

Still teary-eyed, I sat with Rick watching television after class. I didn't want to cry, but I wanted him to know I was upset. It didn't take much coaxing.

"I just get so frustrated sometimes. I have all this ability, but it doesn't matter…"

"I know," he said stretching his one over-used shoulder, "believe me, I know… But we're not here for ourselves, we're here to help as many people as we can."

I didn't care. Not one bit. And I was angry because I knew he was right. What makes me special?

We decided to go see Lone Survivor. I was still angry in the car ride over. As the story of US Navy Seals doomed to fight odds quickly turning against them unfolded, I felt a kinship with these men of exceptional determination. I, too, want to fight with everything in me, or die trying, viciously satisfied.

Yet, for all their skill and dreams, these soldiers were still in the service of someone else's mission, bound by duty to something outside their control. In one powerful moment, the leader leaves cover to make a call for help, knowing it will mean his own certain death. Reaching an exposed rock, the mobile phone to his ear, he begins to explain the dire situation when he is riddled with enemy bullets. His body slumps, the phone dropping to the ground, but he has accomplished his mission.

I felt the tears coming again. But I also felt relief. The pain remained, but the loneliness was gone.