I just couldn’t fall asleep Saturday night. I tossed and turned through the quiet darkness in my room with a thousand thoughts zig zagging across my mind until, at some point around 3:30, I must’ve conquered them.
With that being said, I definitely woke up on the wrong side of Sunday.
This Sunday was different because I had to coach my Special Olympics team, and if I am to be perfectly honest, I could’ve done without it. The 45-minute drive to the weight lifting facility where we had a “practice” meet felt a bit like a stretch. It wasn’t a real meet and Sundays are supposed to be for rest so we can gather every ounce of energy we can muster for the long trek from Monday to Friday. The day was just beginning and I could hardly keep my eyes open.
Also, I hadn’t eaten. It was one of those mornings where I just didn’t think to because I wasn’t hungry before I left. Half way to the meet, my stomach ached. I took a swig of water and I felt it go in and drop straight to the bottom of my stomach. So tired and running on E.
In this state, I am in no mood for a million repeated questions about where I got my shoes or if I got my hair cut (a couple of our guys are so fixated on these little details.) Almost without a thought, I turned on auto-pilot. Every head turning question and each strange comment was responded to with a “uh uh” while I looked up things on my phone. All I could think about was the Burger King two blocks away.
The guys looked hungry for this meet. After hitting the bathroom to change into their uniforms, they strutted like peacocks in front of the gym audience. Nothing could or would bring them down. Not today, not on meet day.
As the day wore on I watched these men and women take to the bench to finish what they were trying to accomplish for months. There is nothing quite like seeing that moment. The bar brought down to their chest, everything in them willing it back upward, no one to help them this time, no coddling, no mothers and no coaches or PCAs. This was their moment of absolute independence. Where they showed us that they are just as worthy as the rest.
Somewhere around that time, I started to get over myself. I knew I had been shrinking all morning from these guys; so sensitive and irritable about there being no snacks or coffee. But when I saw the guys and girls sweating and straining between the bench and the bar, just to reach goals they had been working so hard for, it hit me that this whole event was not at all about me. In fact, I was being paid for it to not be about me.
And then I saw the front row parents, eyes flashing at their adult children jumping in the air with such joy. Such uninhibited joy that they had expressed since they were babies. Such blessings that this cruel world was missing out on. They would trade glances with one another and smile. This was likely one of the few places where they could be with their child and blend in. For once, everyone was not staring at them because they looked different- they were dropping their jaws at how inspiring these athletes were.
Because they would shout and laugh loudly when they were happy. Because life had spared them of the filter between what our heart wants to say and what we think everyone else wants to hear.
I pulled myself up out of my hole of self-pity and smiled through all my yawns. When we slide so deep like that into ourselves and our worries and stress, we start to forget those that need us to be there for them. Those that need us to watch and clap and hug them through all the things of this life. So I laughed and fist pumped and cheered at the top of my lungs. I had to get out of myself to truly find the liberation that is so natural to my special needs friends. That joy in the midst of struggle. Sharing excitement when you want to curl up alone.
Call it rising to the occasion
Or picking yourself up by your bootstraps
More than anything,
it’s just about getting over yourself.