|From the memorial created after the bombing at the Boston Marathon, April, 2013|
"...reflecting on why in the world I keep putting the energy into applying for these things that have remote chances of success, and realized being awarded a grant or submission to a show is secondary (although lovely) to the necessary hard work of building self-confidence and identity as I am putting my work out there for review. For me, it is this vulnerability of exposure that is the hardest part of being an artist, yet I know it is the only way to keep moving forward." --Michelle Hayden
I have felt this vulnerability in my fiction writing, but I am especially feeling it in my current athletic pursuits.
I am training for the Kentucky Senior Games, something I didn't even know existed until about two years ago. This year, the stakes are high because my dream is to get to the National Senior Games next June, and this is my only shot at it, pretty much. Otherwise, it's wait another two years for a shot. But participating involves the risk of so much failure. So. Much. Failure!
As the man who has been training me in all types of freakin' hard track and field stuff said today, there can be only one world record holder, only one world champion. And someone has to be last, too. (In other words, don't stress about it.)
So, what if I fail? The first 5K I ran, I was dead last (and embarrassed about it). The next race I ran, a 3K, I was second in my age class. Knocked me out. My first medal!
To get to the Nationals I have to battle my injured knee (and my natural dorkiness--I am by no means a natural athlete). And yet becoming an athlete feels so natural to me. I am amazed at how my life has changed since I began running a little over seven years ago in an effort to "lose a little bit more weight." I have more mental toughness. I care less about what others think of me. After all, you can't be a dorky 67-year-old runner and care what you look like while doing so.
I don't know what's going to happen. Training at the moment is painful and difficult because of my knee. I am hugely disappointed I injured myself and haven't been able to heal the problem. Until the Kentucky games, I have to walk a fine line between training adequately and not overtraining, in order to keep from injuring myself worse so that I can't compete.
We all do this, you know--take chances, push beyond comfort levels--and we are the better for it. It doesn't matter what you are doing, or what you are risking--taking a chance, to me, is what makes life worth living. Sometimes you lose in terrible ways, like Rebekah Gregory, who lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, April, 2013. She wasn't a runner--she was a spectator. And yet her trauma inspired her to train for--and run--3.2 miles of the Boston Marathon on a blade prosthesis. She's a winner in my book.
On September 16, I will put myself out there in the starkest way--I will compete in about 10 track and field events, where winning or losing is clear-cut and can be separated by hundredths of a second or by hundredths of a meter. But failure still feels like success to me. This dork loves being an athlete.