I’m not a rabid fan of the Olympic games. I’m never glued to the TV during football season. Soccer’s yawnsville. Baseball’s boring (I don’t drink beer!) So, I leave the yelping, belly slapping and squealing to the legions of hysterical sports lovers. I do, however, strive to learn the discourse of sports so I can have something to talk about with the men in life, besides politics and food. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Laker Games which involves eyeballing Jack Nicholson from my seat while praying for Kobe Bryant to sweat on me. As a life long dancer and almost-daily runner, I respect grace, athleticism and rigorous discipline. Still, it was unusual for me to become completely sucked in by the London Olympics this past year and even weirder when I became totally obsessed with Oscar Pistorius, also called (after my favorite movie, ever) Bladerunner.
David Foster Wallace described top athletes as “profundity in motion.”
“To be a top athlete,” he wrote, “is to be that exquisite hybrid of animal and angel that we average unbeautiful watchers have a hard time seeing in ourselves.” Pastorius not only personified immortality and fragility, he was a winged genius, a revolutionary fighter and my personal hero.
Born with a disease that deformed his legs below the knee, they were amputated when he was just 11. But he couldn’t be stopped. After competing in the Paralympics and winning many races, he longed to compete in the regular Olympics and finally won that that long battle with the powers that be. What a stud muffin.
On robotic legs of fancy curved metal, sexy Pastorius sprinted ahead of the other runners with an unfettered, joyful grace. Not only was he visible proof that the next to impossible was very fucking possible, Pastorius was absolutely beautiful. With an underwear model physique and chiseled jaw, his gaze was magnificent and inspiring.
Look at him go, I thought. See, he can do it. Maybe we can too. Pastorius made me believe in human triumph as he sprung ahead on his amazing blade-legs. I joined the yelping masses as I clapped for him on my couch and cried in my soy latte.
Hot Damn, I thought. We can do the one true thing: protest and try harder and wake up earlier and never ever give up. He’s doing it!
Pastorius showed the whole world that it was possible to be the best, regardless of difficult circumstances. He was living proof we could better ourselves; We could succeed and rise above our petty limitations. Pastorius tattooed my brain with the mantra: “never ever give up.”
It’s amazing how a person I’ve never met can inspire me to change the world one student at a time and plant a seed of tenacity and dedication and then come Valentine’s Day, that person could become the lowest of creatures.
I don’t know about you, but Valentine’s Day has always made me feel inadequate. As much as I want to be a person who celebrates love and is light and flirty and fun, Valentine’s Day usually makes me feel like a loser. I read the cutesy cards and want to hurl. I fixate on what I’m doing wrong. My relationships are unpredictable, doomed for failure and marked with protracted tension. Or else I feel elated and delusional—like everything is a-okay when clearly, it is not. My defects are glaring on Valentine’s Day; my failures flash like a tinfoil wrapped chocolate kisses. I’m a flawed lover who digs her high heels in when she should run like her hair’s on fire and runs for the hills when she should stick around. So, this shaky Valentine’s day, I turned on the news and there was my hero being tried for premeditated murder. Turns out, he shot his gorgeous model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Ironically, Steenkamp had planned to attend an event where she’d give a talk on domestic violence but was shot instead by Oscar Pistorius.
Heart sick and sad with the realization that first Lance Armstrong was a liar mouth and now this, I decided to hit the road and do my Write Girl gig. Screw it, I’d spend Valentine’s Day morning volunteering for the incarcerated girls camp. After all, it was songwriting workshop day—my favorite workshop of all. Two incredible, accomplished musicians showed up and performed the girls’ lyrics on the spot if the girls hadn’t given us their lyrics the week before. The musicians taught the girls rhythm and structure and made sure the girls knew that their stories were important and their lyrics beautiful. Many of the girls seemed like they’d never heard before that they were good at something.
The girls were in awe of the creative process and loved seeing their words come alive. They clapped, smiled and folded their hands in front of their mouths. As I watched them fall in love with the musicians, I thought that while some of our heroes become monsters, others are busy taking flight. The songs and their words were used to make something powerful and beautiful.
And then I went to Barnacle Books and signed my book deal with Tyson Cornell! There is hope, after all, Valentine’s Day be damned.