I’m not a religious person. But I believe in signs. Sent from God, a higher power, Allah, call it what you will. It’s all the same to me. Sometimes when I’m feeling lost I find messages meant, I believe, to keep me headed on the right path. They come when I’m desperate, unsure of what I’m doing, questioning my decisions, contemplating failure. Which is often. I received one such sign just the other day.
I was at the gym, which might seem like an unlikely place to receive messages from God, but actually it was rather well timed. I had set about following my New Years Resolution, which is to make a positive change for myself both mentally and physically in an attempt to achieve some sort of balance. Or at least counterbalance what I’m currently doing because that’s not working. Which is what I was doing at the gym.
I was on the elliptical watching the morning news and since my gym only gets about 5 normal channels in addition to their own Retro Gym channel, which is a complete waste of very limited options because who the hell watches a channel of the gym when you could just look up because you’re in the gym, I was stuck watching CBS. Not that I have anything against the CBS morning news per se. I’ve just never watched it before. Does anybody? That day, though, when CBS spread over the screen, the segment airing was about an Olympic athlete. I found the choice of topic somewhat odd given we were no where near Olympic fever yet, but either way CBS had Lolo Jones on the show. And Lolo spoke to me.
While I knew nothing of this woman and much of the discussion was about training, I continued to watch, mildly interested, because so often these things are inane PR pieces devoid of any substance. Still, any strong, confident women excelling in their fields or pursuing their goals with tremendous grit and determination, making names for themselves with their badassery, has my attention and respect. Lolo is one of them. She’s a track and field and bobsled athlete (because apparently one Olympic sport is not enough for this woman) who won US and World championships and went on to compete at three Olympics. Although she was a favorite to win, she failed to medal in her first Olympics, and in both subsequent Olympics. I didn’t know any of this, of course, until I watched the piece, and while I found it interesting, I wasn’t completely enamored with Lolo until the end of the interview when she was questioned about her motivation, what keeps her going and how she deals with vocal critics after making it to the Olympics three times and walking away without a medal. It was strange and unexpected, but her answer applied directly to me and my current situation. Apparently, training for an Olympic track event and writing are entirely similar.
I suppose this is true in the passionate pursuit of just about any difficult or lofty goal, but that day as I huffed breathlessly on the elliptical, contemplating my future, questioning myself, and looking for a reason to continue, I got my answer. This is what Lolo said:
When you’re pursuing a goal, you will fail. It’s part of the process. No one hits a home run the first time out. But carrying that negativity, that disappointment in yourself, that frustration with you will only taint your next attempt. The way forward is in adjusting your attitude. Look back at where you started. That first step you took when you had nothing, and remind yourself of everything you’ve achieved since. Everything you’ve built started with that initial step, from nothing. Rather than focusing on the failures, remind yourself of all you’ve accomplished and take pride in the obstacles you’ve overcome. And, perhaps most importantly, believe in yourself. Remind yourself, “I can do this.”
All this came from a woman with astounding achievements. She is a two time world champion, she’s the fastest indoor female runner in the world and she’s gone to the Olympics three times. How many people can say that? The fact that she didn’t medal does not detract from those achievements. With or without Olympic medals she’s incredibly accomplished. Of course having a medal would be the icing, but that’s all it is, a little bit of extra sweetness.
I need to remind myself of this daily. When I perpetually question and doubt myself, when feel overwhelmed and hopeless, when I’m dispirited, sometimes I sit at my desk and call up my blog. I gaze over the list of my writing. It’s physical evidence of my accomplishments. And it started with a blank page. I remind myself of that. I still hesitate to call myself a writer, and while I’ve been published in a book, I don’t feel like a real author. I’ve begun to doubt I ever will, but I have done something, some of it not too bad.
That’s what I have to remember. Not what I haven’t done, but what I have. It’s still hard for me, but I’m trying.
If you like this (and even if you don’t because my essay in the book is nothing like this. It’s actually pretty funny) you will love my book, I STILL JUST WANT TO PEE ALONE, the third installment in The New York Times best-selling series from some of the funniest women on the web. For a good time get it on Amazon, Kindle, iTunes and Barnes and Noble. I will love you forever.
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