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Posts Tagged ‘biathlon’

No, I haven’t just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, or anything else that might cause me to leave these mortal coils sooner than initially scheduled. But I am now firmly in my second half century, and, sadly, have already had several people of my generation dear to me make that final journey across the rainbow bridge. Every one of them left with unfinished business in their bag. I’m not talking about the usual stuff that those left behind deal with. I’m talking about untaken trips, incomplete projects of the heart, unchased dreams, unfulfilled wishes.

“As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do.”

Zachary Scott

Regret has been my biggest motivator for returning to writing after such a long, strange trip away from it. Like every other human on the planet, I’ve made my share of mistakes. None of those things I did have given me the level of regret the one thing I didn’t do has given me. I had the opportunity to attend the second year program at the American Film Institute, one of only six screenwriters that were accepted that year. I could have had my MFA and another year immersed in that amazing creative environment. I could have continued as a reader with Sanford/Pillsbury Productions (I got the [unpaid] job when they tested me on Eight Men Out, a project they already had in development) and perhaps moved up the ladder from there. I could have spent the last twenty-five years solidly in the business, scrambling from job to job and either long since proven myself or learned I didn’t have what it took at a much younger age when I didn’t have so much to lose. I coulda, I woulda, I shoulda…

“Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”

Sydney J. Harris

            Some might argue that if I hadn’t taken the path I did, I wouldn’t have my amazing husband. While a good point, I like to think we’d have found each other regardless because it was just meant to be. Maybe things would have been different; maybe I would have been a successful writer and allowed us to live a little better than we are now. Or maybe not. That’s the thing with regrets. The possibilities haunt you.

            It’s those regrets that got me thinking about the other things in my life I haven’t done, but would really like to. That’s where the bucket list comes in. I haven’t actually committed mine to print until now, but it’s been running around in my head for years. Now is the time to open it up to the light and actually start planning and working toward some of them, especially the more physical ones. I ain’t getting any younger, after all, and while I can still do all the things I did when I was younger, it certainly takes me a lot longer to recover these days. So, in no particular order, here’s my list:

1)            Hike up to Machu Picchu. It’s intrigued me since I was a child, such an amazing construction so high up in the Andes. I’ve had friends make the trek, and come back changed. A highly demanding physical task, it’s something for which I’m going to have to diligently train. It’s a lot better motivator than just getting my blood work to my doctor’s satisfaction.

2)            Kayak through the major rivers of Alaska. I’ve always liked being away from civilization. Plus it’s cool and green up there. The last real frontier left in our country. Best to see it before the oil companies drill it to death.

3)            Hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Yeah, I know most people think of the Appalachian Trail, but I’m a West Coast kid and would have a lot more support for this trip. And there’s that hiking thing again. I don’t mind walking. And what better way to see our beautiful country?

4)            Attend all three races of the American Triple Crown in the same year. Yes, I’m a horse fanatic. I was the typical tween girl with a wall of horse pictures. I still have my scrapbook with all the articles about Secretariat, still the best racing thoroughbred ever as far as I’m concerned. I’d love to have my own horses but I’ve never had the land or the money, and I venture to say I probably never will. So I’ll just live vicariously through the Sport of Kings.

5)            Attend both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Maybe then I could see some of the events I’m really interested in, like biathlon (guns and snow – what’s not to like?) and eventing (the ultimate test of horsemanship), instead of what the networks think I should watch.

6)            Bicycle across the continental U.S., LA to Washington, D.C. Not sure why, just always had that niggling in my brain. Maybe for charity. I did a lot of time on a bicycle when I was younger. But I think for this trip I’d do a recumbent tricycle. Better stability for the long haul, and easier on the butt. I have a college buddy who’s really into this, so maybe take him along and see if he’ll teach me how to play guitar.

7)            Visit the Smithsonian Museums and Zoo. Especially the Air and Space Museum. I want to see our space shuttles. Take all the time I want, and see if I couldn’t arrange some behind-the-scenes times with some of the curators. So much stuff there, so much of our interesting history.

8)            Fulfill a degree program at the Royal School of Needlework. At least two full years of playing with string, learning how to design and work with all sorts of materials and stitches. Not to mention being able to examine all those fabulous historical pieces up close and personal. Orgasmic.

9)            Get my doctorate degree in Music Education. Yeah, that’s still on the list, and yes, I’ve already picked out the school. Sometimes I still miss teaching, and doing it at a university would be a lot nicer than public school. Most of my family figured I’d be the first to get that far, and long past, but my sister beat me to it a couple years ago, getting her Ph.D. in psychology. I’m still the smartest, though.

10)         Make a living as a novelist. It doesn’t have to be a J.K. Rowling/Stephen King kind of living. Just a regular income that could maintain our current level of existence without the constant bill juggling and panic attacks at unexpected expenses. I was making mid-five figures as an office schlub – it would be lovely if I could do the same off my words. The first novel is in submission with a publisher, while the second is (slowly, but surely) under way. Maybe this is the year for me.

Yeah, I have a lot of work ahead of me. Good thing my family is long-lived. But before I get to it, I do have one piece of advice for a young person just starting the path to their dream: DON’T STOP. Push for it with everything you have. If you want something bad enough, you find a way to make it happen, and it’s a hell of a lot easier to do that when you aren’t tied down by a mortgage and medical bills. Take the chances. Chase your dreams. Do it so you don’t end up middle-aged and filled with doubts and questions and regrets over what might have been.

And if you’re already middle-aged with a mortgage and medical bills and all those doubts, DO IT ANYWAY. I can tell you from experience, living with a nagging regret over something you shoulda/coulda/woulda will only rot your insides. Go out kicking and screaming with as many things checked off your bucket list as you can. Just think of the stories you’ll have to tell on the other side.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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Back in January I was laid out for a couple weeks by what I thought was bronchitis.  I didn’t do a damn thing during that time, and because of that, January was a wholly unproductive month when it comes to just about anything besides killing monsters on my computer.  Then I had a couple weeks where I was feeling okay and tried to get back to normal.  About the second weekend in February, it came back, and with a vengeance.  The doctor said it was “a touch” of pneumonia.  Two urgent care visits, two courses of antibiotics, two bottles of cough syrup with codeine and over three weeks later, I’m finally able to sit for a while without hacking my lungs up.  Stuff is still rattling around in my chest, but I’m not aching like I was and can actually go the whole day without changing my underwear because I coughed so hard I peed my pants.  Yeah, that’s a sexy picture, isn’t it?

During this second bout with the plague, I spent most of my time between cough syrup doses watching the Olympics.  I’m a big fan of both the winter and summer games, so much so that attending them both in person is on my bucket list.  And being able to watch the coverage all day, every day was a real treat.  This not having to go to an office and work thing has its perks.  But it didn’t take long for me to learn the down side of witnessing this grand spectacle of sports achievement.  One of the things the coverage does is give you the back stories of various athletes, their trials and triumphs in their journey to this ultimate pinnacle of the sports world.  Stories that often seem as if they had come right off a Hollywood writer’s desk:  the American men’s biathlon team winning medals in their events for the first time in the history of the games;  a short track speed skater who just six months ago had crashed and sliced his leg so badly he wasn’t expected to walk again, much less compete and ultimately win a medal;  a figure skater who’s mother died suddenly on Sunday, and by Thursday had won a Bronze.  Stories of heroism and perseverance unmatched by mortal men.

Stories that make fat, middle-aged writer-wanna-bes sitting at home tucked into a nap blanket with two cats, a box of Kleenex, and a bag of cough drops feel woefully inadequate.

They also made me open my eyes and really think about what I wanted and what was important to me.  Every Olympian, whether it be the sole member of the Ethiopian team merely hoping to finish, to the medal-winning juggernaut that is China, has a desire beyond what any of us who sit on the sidelines can imagine.  They all are champions in their own right, on their way to crown the champion of champions.  And they will stop at nothing to achieve their goals.  Broken bones, torn ligaments, bruised bodies, food poisoning; all mere annoyances to these super-humans who laugh in the face of Death as they jump off perfectly good hills, careen down icy mountain slopes, or skate across thin ice as if the Devil himself were in pursuit.

And it made me realize that I had seen this kind of drive before, this single-minded focus on that one goal that will fulfill some deep need in each individual.  I’ve seen it in artists and musicians, actors, directors, teachers, parents, professional bowlers and even girl scouts.  We have all had moments of it, however fleeting they may be, when there was nothing to keep us from our goal.  But Olympic athletes are the purest embodiment of it,  living it every day, all day, unflinchingly.

I used to be that way with my writing and music.  I used to live, breath, eat, sleep writing or practicing.  Somewhere along the line, that drive has been diminished.  I got caught up in the world of safe choices and the expectations of a modern world that doesn’t understand what it means to dream.  I did the things that society told me would bring me happiness and prosperity, followed the lead of an unimaginative master into mediocrity, and barricaded that drive behind the locks and chains of fears and doubts and insecurities.  I made the biggest mistake anyone can make – I didn’t follow my own heart.

To paraphrase an old science fiction idiom, fear is the mind-killer.  Once you let it take hold, it will rot through even the strongest hopes, undermining every foundation you have built.  We mortal humans are very good at finding reasons to let the fear keep control.   At first blush you might think the difference between us and Olympians is that they don’t  feel fear, but that isn’t quite true.  While watching the ski jumping, the color announcer was describing all the technical things the athletes were doing to maintain themselves in the air for the longest possible jumps, while all the time their brain is screaming “Suicide!”   The fear is there, but those athletes don’t let it cripple them.  It is used as a motivation to keep doing better, a sign that they are still alive and challenging the world around them.  They live on that fine edge, pushing the envelopes, despite their fears, in defiance of fear.  They have chained the fear to serve them, and in so doing, have proven that any one of us can do the same in our given field of dreams.

Excuse me while I go break some locks and chains and see what it means to have that kind of power.

© 2010  Cheri K. Endsley.  All Rights Reserved.

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