Monday, August 13, 2012

The London Olympics: Wrapping it Up

Dear Helen, Dear John,

The Olympics have come to a close and with it, my olympic challenge has as well. No, I didn't reach my original ambition to blog about each participating country- not by a long shot- but that's okay. The last few months have been full of circumstances and events that I didn't foresee and in most cases, couldn't have anticipated. Loved ones took precedence and I'm glad that they did, especially because one of them died a few weeks ago from brain cancer. I don't tend to write or talk much when I'm grieving. Even now I have many more impressions and feelings than I do words. I'm allowing myself that quiet, sacred space to heal.

I did, however, want to write this post in a timely manner to say that I count my olympic project as a tremendous success. I wrote about 38 countries, researched quite a few more, and had various drafts of posts in process. But this is not how I am measuring my success. The success is that I thoroughly enjoyed the London Olympic Games. I watched events outside of the few I typically follow and rooted for athletes and teams from many nations I'd never been interested in before. I was inspired by, and excited for, several teams and athletes, but I was particularly impressed with those who raced and played with their whole hearts from start to finish knowing full well, from the beginning, that they would not win and would likely come in last, or close to it.

That is the quality that I witnessed this Olympic games that I admire most. It requires a special kind of courage to give your heart, your energy, and your time to an endeavor when you know you will be seen by many, coming in last. Many of us avoid attempting things we love but don't feel naturally gifted at because of the disappointment and the ridicule that comes with the process- even for the elite who shine and are admired at some point or another. It's one thing to pursue a goal you feel you can't lose; it's another to pursue a goal that you know you can't achieve in your lifetime.

Perhaps I admire this quality of strength and enthusiasm because I have a heart problem that limits me in so many ways that practically everything I want in life seems to fall somewhere along the line between improbable and impossible. It can make it difficult to see the point in getting up in the morning. It's an act of faith and courage to get up and to do my best anyway.

It is true that my efforts end in the same place again and again- bed. But it is also true that I graduated from college, I studied abroad in China, I travelled to Europe, I've written books, played the cello in a community orchestra, and ice skated in two shows AFTER doctors told me that it was hopeless and that there was nothing more that they could do. Most importantly, I was there when my siblings grew up. While my successes have helped keep my siblings trying when they've had setbacks, disappointments, and, for two of them, gone blind, it has been only recently that I've really understood that the best thing I was for them, was there. It's easy to equate our worth with what we can do. It's harder to realize that the most important thing about us is who we are inside, and that we share that part of ourselves with others.

Lots of people can wash dishes, tally numbers, and insert IV's, but nobody else can perfectly capture the essence or fill the space of someone we love. Do's can be done by many. Be's are limited to one and only one.

In the Olympics events are won and lost, records are exceeded and kept. All this can be recorded on paper. But in the end, it is what is inside these players that is remembered and recorded in our hearts.

The success of this project won't be found in the numbers- it is in how the process helped change my mind and heart, expanding them so more strength, inspiration, and understanding could flow in and become part of who I now am.

Breathing life in a bit deeper,

Melanie

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Building Strong Foundations: Taipei 101

Dear Helen, Dear John,

I'm shamelessly stealing info for this post on Taiwan (officially listed as Taipei or Chinese Taipei in the Olympics) from a college friend of mine who lives there. Her post on Taipei 101, at one time the tallest building in the world, now the tallest green building in the world, is awesome just like she is.

I've enjoyed looking at buildings of all sorts ever since I can remember. Having the chance to see the King and the Queen every time I drove my mom to and from work when we lived in Georgia was the high point of the commute for me, which I looked forward to eagerly even though it was often before dawn when we passed them (significant because I am NOT a morning person by nature and few things have the power to make me happy that early in the morning).

Something I've grown to appreciate as an adult is the amount of work- nearly invisible to an outsider- that goes into preparing and building strong foundations. Foundations seem to take forever and the work that goes into them can seem unglamorous and dull. That's hardly the case in reality however, as this clip of the building of Taipei 101 shows:


I try to apply what I've learned about building foundations to all of my learning. So much of learning can seem tedious, unglamorous, and dull. At the time it can feel and appear like NOTHING is happening. I've learned not to rush through this stage however, because I've learned it is vitally important to what you are able to create after, once you've got the basics down. Build a strong foundation and your building above the surface can soar and reach heights the world has never seen before.

Digging deep,

Melanie