22 February 2010

Watching extraordinary young people on snowboards, gliding high up into the air and twisting their bodies in mind-bending spectacular poses before they land. Sometimes they seem to float, defying gravity. A friend suggests that have different DNA than mere mortals; perhaps this is so. They are more than magicians, their exuberance lights their path.

Watching them lights up my world as well. I exalt in their prowess.

Earlier this evening, I listened to one of my all time favorite writers, TC Boyle, tell Tavis Smiley that he was blessed by no one ever saying no to him. You see, he said, my mother loved me, and she never said no – I wore what I wanted, I did what I wanted. Tavis connected the dots: that uninhibited ability to decide for himself, the freedom to create his own persona, to pursue his own path, had resulted in an often outrageous creative streak, and a willingness, rather a perpetual intent, to write whatever he wanted, however he wanted. Taking risks that satisfied his unwillingness to say no to himself. He answers only to himself and bestows upon himself his own rewards.

For those of us who have an inner voice that more often says no, this is a mantra of sorts.

I have a good friend in CT who cries whenever anyone wins an award – gold medals, Oscars, anything where there is a personal best. She cries because deep down she feels denied the option to take risks and answer only to herself. Her personal path was censored, as so many are, especially those of us of the boomer generation. The battle for most of us is not to challenge our personal best but to do the best we can with what we’ve got.

I often share her tears. I envy those unencumbered by that inhibiting inner voice.

So it comes back to risk. Risk, more often defined as what we have to lose, rather than what we have to gain. The older I get the more willing I am to take the risk, to reach out for not so much a personal best, not in the sense of the champion, but to move beyond the limitations imposed, integrated, deeply ingrained over the years, and thus self-imposed in the end. To break out, be a little bit outrageous [that’s about all I can muster] and not be afraid to fall. So much more to gain than to lose.

They say that one doesn't get older, one gets more so, but this does not have to be so. Colette said we are never too old to become the person we want to be. Although, there is something to be said for aging gracefully.

The Olympics is much more than a bi-annual sporting event. It is a bi-annual challenge to reset our own barre. That incredible spirit of youth that defies risk, that laughs in the face of risk and says ‘come and get me.’ Wow. I am in awe of them, and grateful for the reminder that we only live once. Really, what is there to lose? Always more to gain.

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