This Olympic winter’s one for the record books. Are you wearing it well? Maybe, if you live in the Midwest, you notice it’s wearing on you — bit by frozen bit.
Constant clippers keep us in a flurry of fluffy white stuff drifting highways, spinning out another polar vortex. Daily re-shoveling of our driveways puts us in a frizzle.
Tuning in to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia felt like a disconnect. How could it be warmer there than here? While our Olympic athletes demonstrated their prowess on the rinks and slopes, we were home wondering how high could we stack the snow in our driveways. All winter, the chatter on social media bemoaned the daily Redo – the daily replay, as in the movie Groundhog Day, all over again…and again. This RE thing can get monotonous.
Ordinarily I’d look forward to the quiet snowy landscape that brings its own silent blessing. Winter offers the opportunity to pause, reflect and regroup for the upcoming surge of activity in springtime. In an Olympic winter – every four years — we’re blessed with a two-week window to think beyond our own backyards and our mini-mountains piling up in them.
So, maybe it’s been good to have this escape hatch this year… to wander off into the Sochi panorama.
I love the winter games. I love to watch the athletes pouring their hearts into the sports that I can’t do, but can truly admire. These sports involve mountains and snow and ice. I love the color, action and drama of the new skiing and snowboarding events and venues. I’ve grown to enjoy the calm, deliberate precision of curling, as well.
All my life, though, the Winter Olympics pulled me into the mesmerizing field of figure skating and ice dancing. OK, I admit it. I remember Torvill and Dean, the British ice dancers from 1984 who rocked the world with their Bolero dance and perfect scores. This year, Charlie White and Meryl Davis, our Michigan team, struck ice dancing gold – a first for the United States – for a stellar dance to Scheherazade.
Why, I wonder, does the world love figure skating and ice dancing to this extent? Surely, Davis and White inspire that internal desire we have to let go and let joy engulf us as in My Fair Lady: to dance all night, to spread our wings and do a thousand things we never could before.
Every four years, I indulge my personal skating fantasy watching these performances. And, I know I’m in good company. This year, my attention seemed especially intense. Most likely it’s because of Michigan being the apparent skating mecca for figure skaters and ice dancers.
My thoughts over this Olympics would wander back to my childhood days: Favorite memories swirled across my mind of winter afternoons spent skating with my best friend Margaret, on the outdoor rink at the hillside park in my hometown.
I loved my skates. They were at the top of Christmas wish list one year. It’s fun to reel back in memory: opening the box on Christmas morning, lifting out the beautiful white leather Canadian figure skates, holding them up to admire the graceful figure-eight stitching on the side of each boot, imagining myself floating on ice like [back then]Tenley Albright, probably, or Carol Heiss.
I still have my skates. I still have the emerald green and cream wool scarf and the delightful wool socks, with embroidered red flowers peeking whimsically over the ankle top. The skates are scuffed, the scarf has moth holes now, and the socks are kid size.
Now, my skates are tucked into the periphery of my life, as a favorite piece of memorabilia. While we’d go skating from time to time, recent years of mild winters have pushed that off the radar. I set my skates out by the fireplace at Christmas time, more as a decoration for the season and a nostalgic reminder of those fun days back when.
Watching the Olympic figure skaters triggered a deep reflection this year, a reconnect with my heart, wondering what if I’d kept on skating, even as a winter pastime. I appreciate the symbolism my old skates bring to me of happy times: the feeling of gliding effortlessly across frozen water on slender steel blades, digging my toes into the ice, shoving off to see what little maneuvers I could try. I can visualize capturing some beautiful moments of freedom sailing across the ice, experiencing the joy of this special kind of movement, as if skimming over the mirror of life.
I think I get it. This year I tuned into the whole picture – not just the skaters on the ice, but the engaging of the skaters with the ice, the fluidity of this dance. I decided that I can use this image as a metaphor for my own dance in life. I’m on my own rink; I’m skating my personal story. Yet, I share this rink with others, and the story intertwines. While it intertwines, I don’t feel confined, if I’m dancing my own dance.
The image of being on a skating rink – or you could use the mountain for a skiing or snowboarding image – working my routine, constantly falling down, getting scraped and tired, maybe even breaking a bone, but always getting up again. Always rebounding, regrouping, re-arranging the choreography and the moves, toward executing perfect twirls and twizzles.
There’s a power in RE. There’s a power in the RE-start, the RE-invent, the RE-wind. And it doesn’t matter at what age you realize this. Any day can be a RE Day. And, maybe this RE thing, this Rethink, can save you in the midst of life challenges. In any year, you can REinvent and REpurpose.
Just ask Jane Pauley, formerly of NBC’s Today Show, now author of the book Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life (Simon and Schuster). Pauley’s book, while geared to those in mid-life career transitions, gathers stories of people who’ve been inspired to tap into their creative power to reimagine their life purpose. They’ve reinvented themselves and their aspirations and avocations in diverse ways.
Pauley also addresses the challenge of self esteem for mid-lifers seeking a redo and the courage to express their authentic voice in life. “I’ve seen over and over,” writes Pauley, “in others and in myself, how a journey of reinvention often helps people connect with a deeper truth about themselves.”
The Olympic Games shine the spotlight on young athletes who know all about reinvention. They’ve had plenty of training in redefining themselves, silencing their inner critic, picking themselves back up, and retooling.
In a recent Frank and Ernest cartoon, artist Bob Thaves tapped into this universal theme. The scene is the therapist’s couch, with the therapist suggesting: Self-esteem might be asking a little too much. We’ll start you off with self-acceptance.
As one who needs constant reminders about self-acceptance, I’m always inspired by our Olympic champions. They show us on a world stage how the power of RE is our best tool. At any stage of life we can Redo. We can REnew the agreement with ourselves to begin each day with self-acceptance of who we are, and where we are on our life journey. We can get up again and get moving. We can find a new purpose that resonates with who we are inside, and not necessarily how others see us.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment, said Ralph Waldo Emerson. For some of us, that’s a lifelong journey, with many twists and turns. Sometimes we even come back to where we started, discovering we’ve made that figure eight, only with a different mindset.
I enjoyed my winter escape to Sochi. I was appreciating this time, during this Olympic winter, to explore this memory of my ice skates. For one thing, I discovered that my skates still fit; I can still stand up on them. That’s all I needed to know. Maybe next winter I’ll get to try them out.
Whatever happens I know that after every clipper life sends my way, I can come back through the power of RE. I’m dubbing it the twizzle effect, in honor of my enjoyment of the Winter Games 2014 and my memory of ice skating.
Whenever I’m in a flurry or a frizzle over life circumstances, I can see myself getting back up on the ice, getting in sync again with my twizzle, whirling off to new adventures on this lovely imaginary ice rink of mine. I can lace up my skates, stand tall, and push off.
A final reflection: When putting this blog together, I’d no idea that the closing ceremonies would feature a gigantic pageantry of mirrors to honor the theme of reflection on the art, history and culture of Russia and the Olympic theme.
It serves to highlight my sense of wonder at this beautiful interlude of the Winter Games in Sochi – that afforded us, through the images of our athletes, a window of Rediscovery: celebrating the joy… when invincible hearts take flight.