>The Agony of Defeat

>Who can forget the image of the downhill skier crashing violently on the 1970s ABC Wide World of Sports, since they chose to show the clip over and over as they introduced the show with that gruesome crash, and those melodramatic words, “The thrill of victory… the agony of defeat.”

(If you’re a glutton for human drama, you can watch the video here.)
And of course that’s American gymnast, Alicia Sacramone, right, who suffered who own kind of agony during the team competition.)

I remember my dad (the marathon runner) making a play on words by saying, as he took his shoes off at the end of a long run, (whether or not he “won”) “Oh, the agony of the feet!”

That’s how I was feeling today, when I tried to get some weight-bearing exercise started up again. Although I’m really liking Pilates (I blogged about it here) it’s not a cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise. It’s GREAT for your core (your “powerhouse”) and other muscle groups. So, I’ve been doing it exclusively for a couple of months now, trying to strengthen my muscles and get them ready for aerobic workouts.

I’ve been in a funk lately—which is just a trendy way of saying I’ve been depressed. Hating my body (again) and feeling exhausted a good bit of the time. So I’m thinking that aerobic exercise might get some endorphins pumping. Since I dropped my membership at Curves a few months ago, I knew my only option was to go get my membership card renewed at Rhodes College’s athletic facility. My husband has continued to pay for a “couples” membership, hoping, I’m sure, that I’d return to the indoor track and the exercise room and the pool eventually. But I needed a photo id card. So off I went to the Security Office to have my photo made for my card.

Cute college kid working the desk says, “Oh, I’m sorry but our system is down now and we can’t make photos. Come back on Monday.”

“But my hair is clean today. What if it doesn’t look good on Monday?” I was thinking, but didn’t say. What difference does it make what your tiny photo looks like on a card that you’ll never show anyone but only swipe to open the gate at the athletic facility? Of course it matters to me…. And it seemed like a hurdle to my exercise commitment.

But I was able to used my husband’s card today and went into the exercise room and looked around at all the machines. No one working the desk to help me, so I got on one of the elyptical machines next to a young woman and just started moving. Piece of cake, I thought, until OOOWWWWW! Excruciating pain in both knees. What was I thinking? That two months of Pilates had eliminated 57 years of osteoarthritis?

Climbing off the machine (the agony of defeat) I looked around at the weight machines and stationary bikes and treadmills and felt dizzy and confused and just walked out the door… and up three levels of stairs (more pain) to the indoor track that circled above the gymnasium floor. I can do this. And yes, I walked 2 miles with relatively little pain. And yes, it took 30 minutes, but hey—it was my first time back, right? When I finished, I considered a dip in the pool, but reconsidered the time involved in changing clothes, showering, washing hair, etc. Instead, I headed home to catch part of Serena’s Olympic tennis match while working on my blog. But at least I “got up off the couch” (Haven Kimmel is one of my favorite writers, and she’ll be reading and signing her new novel, Iodine, at Square Books in Oxford on September 8. She has an amazing blog, here. )

It’s a start, and one I greatly needed during this week of defeats:

Yes, I received rejection letters (some via snail mail and some emails) from 3 publications this week. A short story was rejected by Story South, an online journal. Their words were kind:

Thank you for your submission to storySouth. Although there were elements we liked about this piece, ultimately it didn’t quite hold together for us, and I’m afraid we’ll have to pass on it. Sorry for the long delay in responding; We’ve had a lot of editorial turmoil and are behind on all stories that made the first cut (which yours did).

Made the first cut. I guess that’s like getting into the semi-finals at the Olympics. But no trophy. Sigh.

The editors at Touchstone and skirt! Magazine were a bit more cryptic… pretty much said no, thank you.

I think “agony” is a bit too strong a word for how I feel about these descriptions… but a perfect fit for how I felt when I watched Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura fall from the pommel horse and the rings last night, but go on to take the silver medal, and again when several elite athletes from all over the world messed up on routines they had performed perfectly in practice time and time again. This was truly, for many of them, the agony of defeat.

As I post this, Serena Williams has just lost to Russian Elena Dementieva, which puts Serena out of the semi-finals. More defeat, but she’s still got the doubles with her sister, Venus. (That’s Elena, right.)

But tonight the American female gymnasts will give it all they’ve got in the all-around… even if they have to compete against 13-year-old

Chinese gymnasts (left) in their prime. (For those of you living under a rock, the age limit is 16… and the Chinese gymnasts all have government-issued passports to prove they are 16. Government issued.)

Go Shawn! (right)

Go Nastia! (left)

Okay… back to work…. drafting a new chapter of my memoir this week. Hmmmm. Maybe that’s why I’m in a funk. So, I’ll try to remember Scott’s words: “You have a wonderful life.” The thrill of victory. And the agony of defeat. Too much drama? Sorry ‘bout that….

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