Every 4 years, the Olympics enchant me. I think for at least a few days, like I did when I was 16, that if I just stuck to a regimented gym program, started doing handstands on the daily, that I, too, could be an Olympic gymnast, or diver, or archer, if I wanted to be. The formula for Olympic television is: emotional backstory of how the athlete overcame adversity, injuries, the road to the Olympics, teary musical montage, and ultimately we watch as they walk away with some medal.
This year, I have no delusions of grandeur of ever being an Olympian. I’d get a medal if there was an event where you fall over things without spilling your beer, though. Gold. You bet your ass.
While I sympathize for the French gymnast with the horrific broken leg flopped to the side, and for the Dutch cyclist with a spine broken in 3 places, that is not front of mind this week. Instead, what has punched me right in the feels is empathy and compassion. A relatively quiet coworker, a man of virtually no words, unexpectedly lost his father this week. I gave him some words of encouragement via that always awkward email after management tells the staff what’s up. But a bouquet of clumsy words is better than silence, in my book.
Let’s get one thing very clear – perhaps on the outside, I looked okay when my dad passed away. On the inside, I was a fucking mess. I went through a shitty trifecta around the same time that included my dad passing away and going through a breakup, as well as some work stuff. I was living in another country and on antidepressants. I went to the gym, as that was my chosen escape from reality. I’d work out for at least an hour, every single day, and hard. I dropped 17kg, or 37.5lbs. I barely ate, and when I did, I couldn’t keep it in very long. That was one of the less pleasant side effects of Zoloft.
Another coworker has organized a calendar for us to sign up for bringing in a dinner, drinks, or dessert for him to take home to his wife and their 3 kids. It brought tears to my eyes, that I work at a place with such thoughtful people who want to do something at times like this. My friends who had the unfortunate task of hanging out with me while I was going through the hardest time in my life probably could have used something like that. I could have used something like that. I didn’t take care of myself very well. My flatmate at the time told me one night, he half expected to come home at night and find me curled up in the fetal position on the floor because the gravity of what I was going through was so much.
Thankfully, I didn’t have a spouse, or even a girlfriend anymore, when I went through the worst of it. I didn’t have children to worry about. It made letting myself go very, very easy. Without those friends of mine in another country, I may very well have fallen into that dark abyss never to return. I don’t know what would have happened, and I don’t want to think about it.
I will say, as someone who’s been through what he’s going through now, that losing someone you love feels like an incredible loss, sometimes too great to bear. Having people express care and interest in your well-being, when it’s not even at the forefront of your own mind, means more than anything. That emptiness left in the world by your loss gets filled up a little by love and compassion. The world’s not such a horrible place anymore. Someone you didn’t even know is thinking about you, and sending you well-wishes. In the great balance of the universe, it doesn’t bring your loved one back, nor do you magically feel 100% better. But there is a little more love in the world.
Now I’m not the best cook, but goddamnit, I’m gonna bring that man wine for the adults and something sweet for the kids to get they drank on (Sprites, g-rated, nothing illegal). I wouldn’t wish my cooking on anyone, so I’ll leave that to the Betty Crockers and Papa Johns out there.
I’ll make drinking jokes til the cows come home, but I actually stopped drinking, for the most part, during the hardest time in my life. I don’t recommend overdosing on a depressant when actively taking antidepressants, because it just makes the medication have to work harder. But sometimes, when you’re dealing with tough shit, it helps to blow off a little steam. Won’t fix anything, but it gives you something else to focus on besides how much it hurts. Then, in the morning, you’ll hurt on the outside how much it hurts on the inside.
Be thoughtful and sympathetic (if you can’t be empathetic due to circumstances) to what others are going through. Think of someone besides yourself today. Do something nice for someone, unexpectedly. Put more of that love into the universe. I would ask that you carry that same thinking forward into your own life. Bring that someone some wine. Bitches love wine.