Winning the Gold in the Olympics of Life


victory medalWhen I was little, I loved to watch the Olympic figure-skating and gymnastics competitions. I secretly imagined myself oneday winning the gold…standing on the podium taller than all the others with hand over my heart, watching them raise the American flag as our anthem played, with pride in my heart knowing that I was the best. Never mind that I could barely stand up straight in tennis shoes or walk down a flight of stairs without falling, much less glide effortlessly across the ice or contort my body like a balloon animal. I had that dream we all share to stand at the top of the heap…to be better than everyone else at something…to be the winner.

Fast forward to modern day: Here I sit blogging in my suburban townhouse wearing jeans, a t-shirt and reading glasses and realizing that I’m not–nor ever will be–especially great at anything. I’m not particularly beautiful, or wealthy, or athletic, or artistic, or famous, or brilliant, or saintly. In fact, a more accurate description of me would be an aging, poor, overweight, mediocre, unknown, ditsy sinner. But I am the best me there is, and after all these years, I finally get why that’s such a big deal.

This past year has been rough for me and my family because of numerous unexpected challenges. Like all challenges, these have been eye-opening lessons I’ve needed to learn as I hurtle through life toward yet another milestone birthday (I won’t say which one). They’ve jolted me out of my fantasy world–where I’m a long-legged supermodel with flowing locks and flawless skin, adored by my obedient children and attentive husband and admired by friends and strangers alike for my immaculate home, culinary prowess and pure altruism–and thrown me back into the reality of my middle-aged, frustrated, struggling existence. Somewhere along the journey, I finally understood and accepted these ten truths:

  1. Ten minutes is better spent catching up with my tired hubby before he drags himself off to bed after a night shift than putting on make up and styling my hair in order to feel more glamorous. There is no one else whose eye I need to catch, and his vision is too blurry after a 12-hour night shift to realize the difference.
  2. If I had a bigger house for entertaining, I probably wouldn’t invite people over because I wouldn’t have the time and energy to clean it and am too much of a control freak to let them see it when it’s dirty.
  3. I’m too selfish to make the sacrifices required for us to be rich. I’d rather be available to help my children with their homework while it’s still easy enough for me to understand. And let’s face it, with my mediocre intellect, we’re already at a point in grades 4 and 6 where it takes all of my concentration to help them with their math…gone are the days of being able to make dinner while simultaneously tutoring them in addition and subtraction.
  4. The definition of a “gourmet” family dinner is one that’s healthy, fast, simple, cheap and easy to clean up…in that order. The kids just want full bellies and to get back outside before it gets dark. The hubby just wants a full belly that won’t give him embarrassing gas, and I just want everyone to grow (or not) as expected, to still have some money leftover after grocery shopping, and to wash as few dishes as possible.
  5. I hate working out/playing sports. I’ll either do it or I won’t, but I will never enjoy it and there’s no point in trying to convince myself that I will. If it wasn’t fun when I had more flexibility, energy and stamina, it is unlikely that it will become so now that I have none. (I guess this has something to do with why I never realized those Olympic dreams, huh?)
  6. I don’t care that I’m not artistic. I enjoy other people’s art more than I enjoy creating my own, especially if it means I don’t have to clean up afterwards.
  7. Thank goodness I am not famous! If I were, I’d have to spend more time putting on makeup, styling my hair, working out and ironing. And people would be more likely to notice when my son wipes his snot on my shoulder instead of using a tissue.
  8. If I were truly brilliant, I’d look like an even bigger slacker to the outside world than I already do. The expectations of the world would crush me. So long as I can still put together furniture, understand board game instructions, salvage would-be baking disasters and create organization out of a client’s chaos, I figure that’s good enough for me.
  9. I’m impatient and I shout more than I should, especially at my children. But I am honest to a fault and have a pretty good heart filled with lots of compassion. I cry at Hallmark commercials and “Danny Boy” and I try to help people in need whenever I can. When I can’t, I pray for them earnestly. Thank goodness perfection isn’t required for entrance into heaven… I still expect them to let me in someday.
  10. “Winning” at life has nothing to do with my performance in comparison to others. Everyone who reaches a personal best gets the gold. And it’s never too late to stand on that podium feeling proud of what you’ve accomplished and who you’ve become.

Despite this new-found acceptance of who I am and what I am not, I continue to seek and embrace every opportunity to use my unique gifts and talents to become the best me I can be…to make the world a better place than it would have been without me. There is no other person on the planet with the exact same set of tools as mine or who can wield them in quite the same manner that I do. That’s what makes me special, even if I’ll never be great! Using those talents to the best of my ability is what makes me a winner.

“Seek not greatness, but seek truth and you will find both.” -Horace Mann