Monthly Archives: July 2012

Citius, Altius, Fortius

As a person with feelings, it’s hard to watch the Olympics and not get caught up in the emotions of the competitions. It’s hard to NOT cheer for the underdog, hard NOT to tear up when an Olympian tears up on the podium as her national anthem plays, hard to NOT root for and get disappointed when the US doesn’t take the gold. Even before my husband began taking steps towards his Olympic dream, I loved the drama and exhilaration of watching The Games. But now that we’re here and watching other athletes with paths similar to ours, it’s an entirely different thing.

It’s hard for me to watch these athletes’ loved ones in the stands without wondering if it will be me the cameras are panning to in eight years…(well, assuming cameras are there. His sport is the one they air at 2 am because it’s not super popular.) It’s hard to not wonder if I’ll be biting my nails as he approaches the platform, if our families will be with us or watching from home, if his teammates will be representing the US, or if they’ll have been edged out by the competition.

Four years would be pure luck (and, as Tom was told by one of his Olympic heroes Brian Oldfield, “Good luck, and by that I mean work hard, because there’s no such thing as luck in this sport.”) Eight years is the goal…a dream so far out of reach right now that the host city hasn’t even been chosen yet. Tokyo, Madrid or Istanbul hold our hopes, without even knowing it.

I read somewhere today that the Olympics are 95% narcissism and 5% national pride. There’s a grain of truth in that, I guess. I think the percentages are pretty far off, though. But I think that’s a necessary combination. To do what Tom does to his body day in and day out, you have to want this so much for reasons beyond American pride. To spend 4+ hours a day training, 2 hours actively recovering (that means tubs full of ice and painful muscle stripping), and another 3-4 hours watching the Greats, your competitors, your teammates and yourself on Youtube, you have to want this for yourself. You have to be crazy enough to analyze videos from the ’70’s while rolling your muscles out on PVC pipe to reduce the inflammation from today’s workout. You have to be crazy enough to give up not one, not two, but three jobs you love to move across the country to train with the best coach and athletes. You have to be crazy to give up a steady paycheck and a comfortable life for one of little monetary reward and lots of physical risk.

You have to be crazy enough to want the Gold. Or the Silver. Or the Bronze. Or just the chance to march in the Opening Ceremonies, donned in the colors of your country, as millions around the world recognize you for the talent you have and the sacrifices you make.

Or, you must be crazy enough to stay married to someone who wants all that.

To my love: Citius, Altius, Fortius 2020.

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I travelled back to Chicago this weekend. It was a quick trip – equal parts business and pleasure, colleagues and family, alcohol and water, comfortable and strange.

Yesterday provided me plenty of time (2+ hours in the airport, 4+ hours on planes) to mull over recent events. For as happy as I was to be “home,” I could not wait to be back in Carolina. As I waited to get off my final plane and into the arms of my cute husband/chauffeur, my seatmate asked where I was headed. “Nowhere. I’m home now,” I hastily replied, anxious to grab my bag and go.

And then it hit me. It was so natural to say I was home, even though there are plenty of times when it doesn’t feel that way.

As the clock ticked past midnight, I couldn’t wait to get into my apartment, where my dogs, my bed, my carefully-hunted antiques and hot-pink pillows awaited me…where my suitcases full of clothes are still awaiting to be unpacked from the move…where I was sure to find a sink full of dirty dishes and an empty fridge…my hallmarks of home.

I answered the questions “How do you like South Carolina?” and “How is your husband doing?” a lot the past few days. And the answers were always the same…”Better than I thought I would,” and “Beat up, but still making progress.” And I guess therein lies the truth in the whole situation. We’re beat up — him physically, and me emotionally, but we’re better than we thought we would be. It’s an adventure, and we’re really digging writing this new chapter.

My mom made a comment to me yesterday…something along the lines of, “You seem to really be making the most out of this whole thing.” And I am. Or at least I’m trying really hard. Sometimes, I think that’s all that’s needed to convince yourself that things are good.

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Abnormally Normal.

We’ve been living here almost four weeks now, and I have to say, I really like it.

I feel the same about the environment and the people that I did last time we chatted – everyone is friendly but slow, and the weather here is very hot and humid.

But it’s not that which has changed my mind.

Tom and I have fallen into such a rhythm of comfort here. Long walks with a cool breeze aren’t an out of the ordinary experience here. Spending my lunch break poolside happens twice a week. We share most lunches and dinners together, just for the sheer fact that we’re both home. A lot.

This is in stark contrast to the first 2 years of our marriage, where we’d be lucky to have 2 meals together during the week. Some nights he’d be working until 9 pm or later. A lot of meals were consumed on the couch — mine around 6 pm watching Golden Girls, his around 9:30 watching Sportscenter. It was normal to us at the time, and we made it work.

And now, this is as abnormal as it gets. It is altogether strange. But it’s wonderful. There are days where I look forward to running errands to have some time by myself outside of the house, just as I imagine he actually looks forward to heading off to the gym some afternoons. But I think that’s the normal part of all of this. I can say we genuinely do enjoy each other’s company, and wouldn’t trade this arrangement in for either of our previous ones.

I am under no illusions, however, that this is the way things will always be. Our situation is delicate. It relies on the decisions of others, namely Tom’s coach, his team’s financial backer, and in the future, organizations that govern his sport, and the US Olympics committee. Things change, people take different routes, one gets chosen over the other. There was a weightlifter who made the US Olympic team four years ago and travelled to Beijing. I don’t know the technical details, but another country’s lifter was disqualified (I believe), and that changed the formulas for the countries sending lifters, and long story short, this man no longer met the world standards to be at the Olympics, and was sent home days before the torch was lit.

Disappointment on this journey is everywhere, success is rare, frustration abounds. But contentment and gratitude…thankfully we have a lot of that hanging around.