Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Amelia Earhart, or when our bodies betray us

I've been reading about Amelia's issues with physical discomfort; she had an infection that caused tremendous pain, eventually having to have surgery. One writer talks about headaches and sinus pain continuing, deepening after long flights. Chronic pain is something many deal with, physical pain is something most of us experience at some time in our lives. It seems a small thing really, yet it often takes over. Watching Olympic athletes perform and listening to the commentary I am reminded of how pain stops some from doing anything, while other people fight right through. So many of these athletes have to come back from massive injuries, yet they do it gladly. They do it because they can't imagine not performing, or competing, racing down a mountain at breakneck speeds, cutting figures on the ice and making leaps that defy logic. What they do isn't normal. But then what is normal? Why do we cling to it, when joy comes from other things?

I think of how much we can complain on an off day, a day when something as simple as a cold fells us. I feel lousy. I feel crappy. I want to lay in bed and watch a double feature and give in. These people never give in. Neither did Amelia. It takes a certain kind of ferocious determination to succeed, it's not something that's easy to come by, and surely she doubted herself early and often. Some would say that extreme athletes, and those who willingly put themselves in harm's way are different from most of us. That's true, but it doesn't mean we can't learn from their example. They have passion, and they don't let physical pain get in the way of it. I'm not saying that I would ever be able to ski down a mountain. I'd be more likely to fall down and cling to the slope. Still, there are things we all do that take courage. Amelia's life was writ large, mine certainly much smaller. Still I hope I can follow her example in some small way. I'm not about to take up an extreme sport, there are other difficult things one faces, I don't think I have to enumerate. Everyone copes with loss. Getting through that is something that takes as much courage as flying down a mountain.

1 comment:

  1. Coping with loss does take as much courage as flying down a mountain...I guess we're all Olympic champions of our own lives in a way, skiing through territory often more treacherous than a mountain slope. I have enjoyed watching the figure skaters, snow boarders, and skiers in these Olympics. Determination and passion are huge, beautiful expressions of energy. The athletes that have a dose of joy tossed in also seem to soar with an elan vital that gives their skill such beauty.