Is it really worth it?

Well, the Olympics are over.  I love watching the Olympics! Every nite, I was glued to my tv to see what was happening (or should I say what had happened) and stared in awe at the amazing things those athletes did.  My particular favorite was the gymnastics, with track a close second.

Not being the sinewy athlete type, I was amazed watching those people flipping through the air and landing on a 4″ beam and swimming like rockets across a pool, with arms like tree trunks.

I also listened to them talk about their lives and how they’ve spent their whole lives “working for this moment”.  Olympic athletes spend so much of their lives focused on their sport, driven toward some distant goal.  We only see the very few who reach the top- the ones who get that golden prize. Even coming in 2nd is seen as “losing”.  Some of them are really devastated when all those years of sacrifice goes wasted and they only get the Silver Medal. I saw more than one burst into tears or bury their heads in shame when not getting that gold.  I do understand that frustration at working so hard and missing the mark by some tiny thing that went awry at the wrong moment.

But…what about all of that life that has been wasted in the meantime?  All those days and moments that they can’t get back while they drove themselves with unbending focus toward that one and only moment- a moment that for most never comes.  What about the sacrifices of their families – not just time, money, things they’ve gone without- but actual presence with each other.

There were so many stories of  athletes who had gone to live with other people for years so they could be near a coach or training facility.  And there was even a commercial that kept playing where athletes said things like “you know that bestseller, I’ve never read it” as she’s diving into the pool.  Yes, there are the Michael Phelpses and Gabby Douglases out there who live the dream and maybe reap some benefit, but what about all the others who never do? All the hundreds and thousands of those who dedicate so much time to 1 single thing and miss out on so much else.

Those who have lost someone, especially a child, know what a precious commodity those moments are.  You know that you can’t get them back. Of course, I don’t advocate that you hold anyone back from something they want to pursue.  I have always supported my kids to do whatever activities or interests they have had.  I strongly believe that everyone should be encouraged to pursue and develop their skills and talents and “follow their bliss” as the expression goes.

But I think that we have raised competition and achievement to be such lofty virtues that we rob people of the joys of just being alive and sharing that with each other.  We have forgotten that there doesn’t always have to be an end game, a goal, an achievement for something to be good and worthy. We all hear about kids who are pushed too much and in our current political climate, we are constantly reminded of our American ideal of work, work, work – that’s how you get ahead, how you get what you want in life.

But then time is gone, and we may be so sorry for all that we have missed.  So many of us grow older, regretting so much wasted time- rushing here and there, filling up every space with “doing”-  especially if something comes along and shatters our world and we face not being able to get back those precious moments. If we lose someone who is very young, we can wonder “what did we do with all that time? was it really worth all of those things we thought were so important, was it really worth that gold medal- or getting into that college or onto that team or all A’s on the report card or to be able to buy clothes from XYZ Store….”

If there is some silver lining anywhere in all of this grief stuff that I have experienced it is that I have learned that it is all a balancing act.  You need to continue to move forward and see a future and have something good to work toward but more importantly, you need every day, every minute, to look around you and enjoy who is there and what you see and hear. To me, that is what makes life worth living.

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