Tuesday, 7 August 2012

For Paula

I was in the badlands of Alberta when I heard. It is a stark landscape famous for dinosaur fossils and long echoing footsteps of the early pioneers, cattle rustlers, rum runners, and most of all, first nations tribes who have inhabited this inhospitable place. I was standing at a high point in Dinosaur Provincial Park listening to a message of my mother's emotional voice garbled by poor reception ..... "finished the race" ...... "didn't win" ..... "her poor little heart" ........
Later, when we drove up to a viewing area with good cellular coverage, I got a call out. My parents had stayed up all night to watch the race (as did many mutual friends, and much of my extended family). Mom said "she seemed so upset. She finished the race, after stopping, and when she crossed she burst into tears. She told everyone she was so sorry ..... maybe it was her injury again ...... maybe something else ....... she did so good. We're just so proud of her."
Paula, you apologized to Canada, and it's true that you had carried all the collective hopes of Canada and all the people who have watched you, but you owe no one an apology. All that 'hope' must have weighed heavy.
Paula, you went to the Olympics and lost. But you went to the Olympics! When I think of the courage it takes to follow a dream or passion through to it's conclusion, daring to fail, well, this ranks right up there. There is an idiom "take your shot" and I believe it must predate the gun. I picture it as a bow and arrow. "Take your shot." Pick up the bow, place the arrow, pull the string taught and play along it with your finger tips until just the right tension and balance is achieved. Line up the arrow tip with the target, tap deep into some primal longing, and then just let go. Either it hits it's mark or it doesn't. Most of us let fear, or self doubt stop us from even picking up the 'bow', let alone 'let fly an arrow'.
Paula, I met you when you were a toddler and have watched you grow into an amazing young woman. From the start of your Triathlon journey, I have cheered, but also feared for you. Was the pressure too much? Were the expectations too high? Was the praise too lavish and the criticism too cruel? I have watched with all the misplaced maternal angst of someone who has loved you and your family and has watched you grow; not mine but someone I have carried in my heart. I have ached for your wonderful parents and siblings, seeing all the pressure, and all the hopes, and all the expectations which were pinned to you all.
But it was you, and you alone, who 'took your shot'. You had the courage to not only pick up the bow, but to pull back and aim it, feeling the delicious tension in the string, and let the arrow fly falling short of it's mark. But it did fly. And you did that. it was incredibly brave, and incredibly powerful, yet when you crossed the finish line you said "I'm really sorry to everybody. To Canada". And our hearts all broke for you.
Please, dear Paula, never be sorry. Not for going. Not for trying. Not for all the work. Not for losing. Not for a second. There are many, many, many more shots to taken by someone as courageous as you.

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