Wrestling is done, and I've got some things to say so this make take a couple of minutes....
Lots has happened over the past 36 hours. From the drama of getting here to the business of taking "care" of business to business of heading back home. I've got a couple of things to say while it's still fresh in my mind - before I take my shower, go out for dinner, and start getting ready for my 6:30am flight.
There have been some highlights of note this weekend.
Yesterday at weigh in's we were sitting in a line and the one person who has approached me at events came up, and sat down next to me. Her name is Laura.
Being at these things is inherently lonely. I'm not part of a team, which is the one ingredient very much missing from the sport for me this time around. The reason I enjoyed the sport in the first time around is that it had all the ingredients I needed: it was an individual sport but at the same time it had the team camaraderie of a team sport.
Being who I am this time around is isolating, and the only reason I've been able to get to this point is thanks to dedication, creativity, patience, perseverance, stubbornness, extraordinary healing capabilities, and no small amount of temporary insanity. I've held my head in my hands more than once wondering what strange drive it is pushing me to continue.
It's not the first time I've had an un-yielding force driving me, but that's another story....
Back to last night. So, Laura sits down, and we start chatting. She's 26, the same age as my son, and nice as can be. Her mom is there too. They drove down from the upper peninsula of Michigan thru Chicago (to pick up mom) and over the Cedar Falls. Very cool people. She mentioned my "past" and that was fine - I actually appreciated that. It's not a secret.
After weigh in I went to Olive Garden to eat as many carbs as I could. Who do you think walks in? Laura, her mom, and another young wrestler. I was eating by myself and Laura came over to "tell" me to come over to eat with them. There's not many people who tell me to do things, but this was so cute. So I did. It was touching, and in the scheme of things I won't remember the outcomes of the matches as much as the simple acts of kindness.
This tournament was a big deal. It was held in the UniDome - the domed football stadium for the University of Northern Iowa. Competing in these things is not for the faint of heart, although more than once I've pinched myself....
|The view from the floor of the UniDome|
As I was sitting between matches today one girl stopped over to tell me how much she respects what I'm doing. One of the officials from the World Team Trials stopped by to tell me she remembers me and to wish me best of luck.
|Women's Wrestling at the Olympic Qualifier....|
And then there was Dave. I was standing watching some of the matches before mine and the guy standing next to me asked if I had a kid wrestling today. I told him no - I was wrestling. He was wonderfully supportive and we started chatting. It turns out that his two teenage daughters wrestle so he was there to support them and coach them. During the course of the conversation he asked if I had anyone in my corner....
The sad fact is that I don't. Well, I've got lots of people who are spiritually and symbolically in my corner, but I had come to peace with the sad reality that I'd most likely be the only competitor there without a coach or someone sitting in their corner. It's just something that I've accepted without dwelling on. Dave asked if I'd like him in my corner, and I accepted. HE was my team today.
It wasn't until I was getting ready to step on the match for my first match that he asked me my name, and I learned his. I find it a little more than ironic that his name was Dave, and we shook hands. He was there for both my matches. Between rounds he gave me advice. His daughters came over to check on me. And when it was all over - they went home. Another simple act of kindness.
I've done a lot of things in my life. Most people have no clue as to what I've had to do, but one of the things you learn early on is that everyone has a story. But simple things like this make everything I've had to do to get here worthwhile. Why? Because it feeds my faith in people. In a world that can be mean and hateful and downright shi**y it's so refreshing to experience simple things, and in this case that faith is found at the intersection of Donna and Wrestling.
The lesson I've learned from it is the importance of doing. And it's not even in the outcomes that we can find the real value. It's in the doing. Disregarding the fear, and the doubt, and the loneliness of being on a unique path where you're the only one like you. But I suppose when you're in uncharted territory those simple gestures get magnified by our need to experience them.
I'd love to say that I feel embraced by my sport, that going to these events is a huge group hug. I will say that watching these amazing athletes is something best appreciated by someone who has lived that life. Once, or twice. But the fact of the matter is that I think the push towards winning dulls some of the simpler opportunities of growing character and helping people along the way. It's not the sport that's the bond - it's the people. And today those people have names. Laura, and David.
I lost my first match 3-0, 5-0. I tried some moves that didn't work. I held my ground but faded at the end to a better athlete. It's that simple. But those matches are grueling so the hour between matches wasn't nearly long enough to regain what I needed to do it all again.
I made a decision going into the second match to put it all on the line for an all or nothing move. It failed. And, truth be told, I have no regrets.
Ironically - it's the first match that ended without me bleeding from somewhere above the neck in a long time. I've got a nice gash on my lip...wasn't sure where the blood was coming from as it was dripping on the mat. Nothing terrible, tho....
I have no regrets about anything. That's a life philosophy. More than that, it's a driving force. It's something I owe to me, my dad, and to what I've done. No regrets. Win, lose, or anything in between. The failure is in fearing to fail, which leads to fearing (and failing) to do. I am not afraid.
This chapter of my life has closed. For real, this time. I'll need to find new frontiers, new passions, new hobbies. What I'll remember form this weekend is Laura and her mom. And Dave. People whose lives intersected with mine at a wrestling meet in the center of Iowa....
As I was driving to the hotel I checked to see where is the closest Five Guys. I could SO go for a good burger right now. You know how far? 870 miles. Honest to God. I mentioned it to the people at the front desk and one of them had never even heard of Five Guys, and the other person (who had lived in DC) said the closest is in Colorado. Really? Crazy....
So, back to the here and now. It's time to grab dinner (I'm heading to Red Robin for my burger....it's the only one in the state I think). Make no mistake, a double Margarita will also be involved.
I'm sore. Every cell in my body has been stressed this week. It's going to be weird to give it all a break. But I've earned it.
Thanks much to Laura, her mom, Gabby, and Dave. Y'all made me happy today. That makes it easier to turn the page.....
Ahhh. A good burger and a margarita is amazingly therapeutic.
USA Wrestling already has some videos from today on YouTube. This video (link here) shows a couple of the wrestlers in my weight class. The wrestler in the blue singlet is the girl who beat me in my first match. She was tough....
My head is starting to ache for the first time in a while. I'm pretty sure it's a neck thing more than a head thing but it pretty much feels the same. After all the abuse I've put myself through recently I actually expected headaches earlier on. Thankfully, not.
Come to think of it, most of my body is hurting tonight. That's not accurate. It's more like "aching" and just plain ol being tired. I've been drinking like a sponge all day....I'm on my second 32 oz. Powerade since noon.
I'm looking forward to getting home. It feels good just to be able to call it home. Next big event to plan.....getting a more significant place to live in SC, going back to Phoenix, collecting all my stuff, and driving it back across the country. That good bit 'o fun should happen sometime this summer....
One last thing. So, I was on the plane flying from Chicago to Cedar Rapids on Friday and was talking with the guy next to me. Somehow, the conversation turned to sports and he told me about his kids and all the various sports they were playing. He explained how he thinks it's a good idea because he wants a "mans's man", not one of these "feminized boys" that society promotes these days. Those are his words, not mine. Oy.
Well, the alarm is set for 4:15 so I'm headed to lala land. Finally.