August 6, 2012

Olympic Dreams

{or "How I Have Finally Come to Accept That I Will Never Be an Olympian"}

It's been such fun watching the Olympics. I've always loved watching the Games – the ceremony, the peaceful gathering of delegates from so many countries, the celebration of hard work and personal accomplishment. Have you seen those badminton players? It's UNREAL! And the synchronized divers!? WTH? How on earth do they get that synchronized?

My first memory of the Olympics was the 1976 games when Nadia Comaneci did her perfect "10" thing. I was swept up in the hype. I was in such awe of this young, darling Romanian girl – I wanted to be friends with Nadia. Better yet, I wanted to be Nadia.

Our Scholastics book order advertised a book on the life of Nadia and her rise to Olympic perfection. I bought it and read it over and over. I started taking gymnastics and discovered with disappointment that everything was a lot harder than she made it look, and my talent was limited. I was small, but I wasn't strong, and when my coaches said they didn't think I would ever be that great it didn't make me want to prove them wrong, it made me want to cry and give up. So that's what I did.

Thirty-five years later and I still adore Nadia. During this last week NBC has highlighted her successes and even run a few minutes of old footage from that year. Suddenly I am in grade school again, so enamoured with her and so disappointed in myself . . . that I wasn't good enough to be like her.

Sadly, it's not just Nadia that makes me feel that way. Watching Gabby Douglas take gold the all-around made me want to start practicing my back-handsprings again (that would be quite a hefty hospital bill). Then last night I watched those two speedy Jamaican guys run the 100-meter and I decided I wanted to try to run, like really fast. "I've got to get in better shape," I said to my husband and kids, and they just shook their heads and rolled their eyes at each other (Oh brother, here we go, Mom's losing her mind again). Here's the thing about me: when I see others, passionate and hard working, I am instantly intoxicated. I want to be them, to do what they're doing, to work that hard, to reap the rewards. When I don't or can't, I somehow turn their success into disappointed in myself for not being that good.

Today, at 42-years-old, I finally got a grip. I looked at myself in the mirror, and here's what I said:

Jenny, you will never be a gymnast and you will never go to the Olympics - for ANY sport, ever. BUT THAT'S OKAY. It's really okay. You can stop beating yourself up about it now. From now on, you just need to be you. Practice being you every day.

I don't know if it will work or not. I'll let you know. I do know that I watched women's soccer today and I didn't even lament my short-lived, lame soccer-playing days in 6th grade (I was too polite. "No really, you take the ball, you were here first"). Maybe I'm on my way to recovery. Maybe I'm finally growing up. Whew - it's about time.

Wait. A. Stinkin'. Minute.
. . . Did I just take the Olympic Games and somehow make it about ME? Man, I have issues.


  1. I'm sitting here chuckling, Jenny. You get a gold medal in writing truth with that perfect balance of pathos and wit that makes truth digestible, sustaining, and classically worthy of celebration. Bravo!
    Gracie xxx

    1. Yay! A GOLD MEDAL! Thank you Gracie, your comment makes me feel so happy.

      You get a gold medal for being a good bloggy friend.

  2. Yes, a gold for you Jenny, for your quality of writing and warmth and sense of humour. You know, watching the athletes makes me think the opposite - those years of training and sacrifice and pain, the pressure of showing all that in one single, terrifying way, Jose!

    Gillian x

    1. Yeah, good point. All that hard work for a few minutes of competition does seem daunting. Plus I'm terrible under pressure so I'd probably fold like a cheap tent.

  3. Yeah... how could you make it about YOU!?
    Every four years, the Olympics, going back to Nadia,
    has been about ME! I came close (not) and I regret
    my lack of training... in gymnastics, swimming, volleyball,
    track and field, and dressage... sigh.
    Oh, gosh, Jenny, thank you for writing this post, which so
    delightfully expresses all the angst and mental drama
    I have tussled with, inside, for far, far too long! Right down
    to "when my coaches said they didn't think I would ever be that great it didn't make me want to prove them wrong, it made me want to cry and give up..." I so totally relate! I agree with Gillian: you take Gold, for honesty and good humor in writing!

    1. I am so glad to hear there is someone out there who feels like I do. I will sit in solidarity with you as we ride out the last few days of this Olympic Games. AND I will award you the Gold, for your poetic writing and a second Gold for best blog title. Go Chickenblog!


Thank you for your comments. Hearing from you makes my day!