Thursday, July 7, 2011

At Least I Tried

Since the Ironman Competition first came to Coeur d' Alene, we have seen our town transformed into a training ground and then a race course for outstanding athletes. This year we saw 2,300 triathletes enter the cool waters of Lake Coeur d' Alene. It turned out to be a day for the record books. Craig Alexander of Australia did the course in 8 hours, 19 minutes and 48 seconds. Julie Dibens of Great Britain came in at 9 hours, 16 minutes and 40 seconds. People were still on the course when I went to sleep at ten p.m. My thoughts and prayers with them knowing they still had miles to go.

The morning after race day, we woke up to a power outage which put me on the hunt for a cup of coffee. Realizing that the Coeur d' Alene Resort has a back up generator, I set off to accomplish my mission. In the lobby, not only did I get my latte, I got to see and overhear conversations regarding the race.

“Don't be so hard on yourself,” one wife said. “You gave it your all.”

“Well at least I tried,” the man replied as he limped off in the direction of the dock.

During the past few years, as I beaver away at my memoir, much thought has been taken up with the theme of competition. Being that our family business had to do with professional sports, namely hockey, the topic of winning and losing was on our lips at all times. The city of my youth grew to be passionately attached to the Toronto Maple Leafs and they expected them to win the much coveted Stanley Cup. We did not fail. In the summer, we were in the “off” season, out of the city, up at the lake and life was much slower and a great deal more relaxing.

Against my will one summer, I was entered in a diving contest at a regatta hosted by our island dwelling neighbors. Swimming races and events for all ages were set up throughout the day. When I failed to win the swim, I was entered into the diving contest. My sister won her age group, hands down. While I insisted that I did not know one of the compulsory dives, all my protests were silenced. So, not knowing what else to do, I invented something. Jump up, land on board in a seated position and then sort of plop, head first into the lake. The crowd roared, not with the thrill of brilliant competition, but with laughter and my father was furious. Thoroughly dressed down and called a disgrace when we returned, I decided that I hated competition altogether. In my adult life, I have shied away from everything. Writing contests are no exception. While I consider this a personal failing which I plan to conquer someday, a game of 'go fish' with a young child is about all I can muster.

Today I looked up quotes pertaining to winning and losing and I found something that could well change my life.

“I can accept failure, but I can't accept not trying.” Michael Jordan.

I was at the finish line for the Ironman race when the winner came down the main street of our town with no one on his heels. I cheered, and threw my hands in the air. To the strangers on either side of me, I cried, “Can you imagine what it takes to win this race?”

When you walk in any book store and see the array of volumes, it is easy to think, how on earth can I hope to compete with all of this? Currently, I am rereading Les Miserables. Who am I compared to Victor Hugo? All these thoughts plague any writer and fear can be overpowering. Yet, I could never accept not trying to write novels, or not trying to be an author. I can accept not finding an agent, or getting turned down by publishers, but I could never accept the flow of words drying up altogether.

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased. “Ralph Waldo Emmerson”


Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Elizabeth, a wonderful, inspiring post. I also love the image invoked by your use of beaver as a verb. Thanks.

Jennifer Rova said...

I, too, love the nerb (noun used as a verb) "beavering." It made me smile. I love how you bring your stories around to a tie-in with writing.

elizabethbrinton said...

Thank you Jennifer and Nancy. I loved how Julia Child described writing her cook book as "wood peckering away."

The Majogo said...