Went to the horse races last night. It was groovy. I so dig on that scene. Beyond the fact that I never lose...I know alot of the folks behind the scenes.
I've done the track for as long as I can remember...
I used to handicap...trip on stats...paddock reports...and it choked out all the fun. Then, one day I was thinking about long ago when I was a competitive skater. Before a competition, we would get a list of who we were competing against. In what order. The mandatory program...
And...we had like a month and a half to master our routine. It becomes mind numbing...the routine...the stellar parts...the nightmare jump combinations...the music.
I did this one routine to Dvořák's New World Symphony, 4th Movement... The damn thing was like 11 minutes long...I had to entwine 12 mandatory jumps and 6 mandatory spirals...a shitload of mandatory footwork...and heaven help you if your arms aren't UP the whole time. (When you get tired...your arms are the first to go...they provide half the energy in accomplishing the jumps...)
I was 11.
And my instructor...known as a "pro," was this dude from Italy, his name was Leonardo. He was "hot," I guess, as I hadn't discovered boys yet, but all the mothers were just giddy about him. And when I would land a jump I'd really struggled with...or just solidly nail some really difficult jump combo...he would yell out "YOW!! DAT WAS GOOT!"
And that's when began to face my limits...and realize I could have complete command of pushing past my self-perceived "limits."
To doubt oneself is to create your limit. And I doubted alot. But then...I came to the realization that perhaps if I could use that very energy of doubt to define my limit...then, perhaps if I were to challenge my doubt..perhaps...I could push past my limit...recreate my potential. Not take no for an answer.
So I'd practice. I'd go before school...right after school...sometimes non-stop on the weekends. I'd hurl myself into the air and either land or crash. And, if you take enough crashes...you figure it out. I over-rotated...my shoulders weren't square...I led out with my weight on the last 4 toes on my left skate... And, it's like picking a lock...you get just the right set up dynamics...it's fucking yours. And there's this intensely, this almost spiritual realization when you finally master some challenge...you always hoped you had it in you to do this...but you can't believe it's really happened...and it really happened to you...and you are the one who really made it happen.
That was the best character defining lesson I could ever receive with all those years of trying. Winning wasn't nearly as exciting as those quiet moments on the ice...midnight...when you've finally discovered you have won the fight with what your little mind thought was "the impossible..". That one jump...that one mocking fear...the self doubt...the anxiety of defeat...and finding, deep inside yourself the willingness to not be defeated by yourself. To choke back the tears...and to force the win.
I would employ this reasoning later...when I dropped skating for my goal of being Valedictorian in high school. For whatever reason...this was some huge deal to me. And, long story short, I got it.
The competition against self... the willingness to reject insecurity...the willingness to take the focus off "the competition," and realize the victory is only really measured accurately if it is in proportion to the level of deficit you began with...and conquered.
Being better than someone else isn't a big deal...Cause everyone's better than someone else. But...am I better than myself? Than who I thought I was yesterday? Or 5 minutes ago? If so...and when that happens...I find myself in this silenced awe. I find myself intimately aware that any gift I might have did not originate with me...It's a gift. And I have been blessed enough to discover it was there. It does not define me...As it really isn't mine.
What is mine, is my character. How I use what I've been given...selfishly...or humbly? To tear others down or to build others up? To be a taker...or a giver? To destroy...or to edify?
So...being the winner. I remember that when I pick out horses. I look into their eyes...I behold their presence. Winners may be pensive...but amidst their timidity, they are intensely focused. They're generally not nervous or unsteady...because the battle of anxiety surrounding possible defeat has already been fought with themselves, alone. They know their potential...and can assess their opponent's potential.
And...for me...if it comes down to do or die...then the victory is mine. I am all about pressure. That's when it just flows. And I find myself sitting back...watching myself do this thing, under intense pressure and seeming doubt...and sensing the ghost of anxiety in my head...but chosing to press on to the victory. And it rocks.
I got to ride in the car last night. The one that leads the race. It holds back the horses from the start. And, at the last minute, the gates swing wide open.
So...here I am. In the back of this car...going backwards...looking at the horses inching up to the gate. And...here they come. And this one...he is literally 6 feet away from me...this horse...he's looking straight at me. And his breathing...shots of hot steam shooting from his face...his mane flying like flames...and the sound of these horses...the hoofbeats...the rumble of their steamy breath....their strength...the definition of their muscles...such an explosion of force...their legs pounding away so intensely...that they appear to be floating.
And this one horse...I'm looking into his eyes...and I saw it...
that unmistakable look in the eye of the winner...
He was focused, although looking straight into my eyes, he was looking straight through me...and I knew it...he would win. It was an amazing silent transaction, intangible, yet certain...a knowledge and excitement I hadn't experienced since my youth.
And it hit me...that epiphanal moment. Like seeing a shooting star...
Being the winner. The intensity. The shine. The unmistakable essence. It's almost tangible.
...and this horse did win.
Having had that opportunity to be face to face with this creature was such a "stirring of the coals," for me. I'm so glad I have failed and fallen so many times in my life. I am so glad I know that effort really only has an impact upon the one to whom it is directed. If it is directed against an opponent...it may very well assure his victory over you.
But effort focused against one's own doubt of self...and redirected into the certainty of seizing a victory which is purely possible...may, indeed, be the mere driving force necessary to grasp what lies before you...
Being the winner...
"It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell." Buddha
have a great weekend.