“Intuition will tell the thinking mind where to look next.” Jonas Salk, Scientist
It’s amazing to see how the experience of defeat has affected most of our family this weekend. As more and more things seem to suddenly get in our way and create a lot of unnecessary stress, I called out in prayer for help as I was nearly pinned down during a wrestling match with defeat on the ski hill. It was then that the notion of defeat as the teacher came to me. This insight, if you will, helped me shift from a “poor me/ why me” attitude, to okay, now what? Perspective is powerful. I chose to go to gratitude right away – and that helped everything look better, too!
On the chair lift upwards, I surrendered and prayed for clarity on the lessons defeat had for each of us – and for myself as a parent and coach. On the ski hill I spoke with other parents whom I greatly respect. There was a lot of wisdom to be found, too. The dad with the professional football team experience framed our defeat in sports analogies that made sense – we have to pull together our strengths to win, not compete against each other. A mom whose also a nurse pointed out that it’s better to not win on an off day than on a good one….and other encouraging views.
So we have one child who had to overcome a lot of unexpected defeat to just get down the hill. He did the dance of crying and saying he didn’t want to – after he took quite literally what one adult said to him. Fortunately, there was a grain of hope in him still, and he did ski down the hill – well for himself. And he was so satisfied with himself when he completed the run! On the second run I skied with our son and he beat his score by 2 seconds – and felt like a champion for doing so. Now, had he been on his younger sister’s team, or the novice team his peers are on, our son would have won a medal. But as it was, the “expert group” he was part of, was a league of its own, and he did not win a medal. However, at the end of the day, our son was satisfied with the knowledge of his personal best – and he was able to put it in the framework of the competition. He learned determination to do his best and to be happy for others.
We have another child, Little One, who loves most to ski with the top two skiers of the group. Even though she’s 6 and they’re 13, they ski together. Well to Little One’s benefit, they agreed to ski down the hill with her on her race, and she beat her first race by seven seconds. When Little One placed “third” in her category, she graciously received her medal – but then later wished to offer it to her brother. This act of kindness showed me that she cares more about her brother’s heart than about her medal…she learned humility and compassion.
Then we have child number one, our oldest, whom we’ll call Sunshine. She did her personal best – and got the same score on both runs. She knew her team-mate beat her by a second, but felt she could still win a medal. When Sunshine learned that she placed 7th (out of 14) she cried so hard that she wanted to hide in the car – until she got an invitation for a play date and a sleepover. Talk about a paradigm shift – suddenly Sunshine saw her true reward – caring, comrade with a peer. When I saw Sunshine congratulate others on their winning, I knew the lesson she learned, too was compassion – and humility.
Surrender and determination are the lessons I have learned from my own experience with defeat this week. Seems more like an oxymoron, to put such words together – yet they fit remarkably well. Somehow it’s in the surrendering that I regain my ability to dig in deeper and recommit to my determination for the goal. It’s here, too, in surrender, that I reevaluate my goal, and seek for new ways to approach it – with freshness. In surrendering, I also give myself permission to simply rest and let go in trust. It’s here that the energy comes to finish the race.
I firmly believe that when we choose the “what” in our life, God will manage the “how” when we seek it in communication with Him. Sometimes getting out of our own way is one of the biggest obstacles to winning, too. That’s true irony for a type A personality – that’s a lesson only defeat can really give me, as well.
Today (on Sunday) there is a two-hour slalom practice. Our children say they want a day off and not to ski. The last two weekends we’ve taken them – and pushed them hard to practice, only to receive their tired, resentful response. Defeat tired us all out enough that I am willing to let go – and let ourselves get refreshed. Besides, there’s more to life in winning, isn’t there? Yes, defeat is a powerful teacher that helps us connect with ourselves, and our humanity more deeply. I am grateful for these grounding lessons, for they make us better human beings in our victories, too.