I am an Olympics junkie. Every two years I live, breathe, eat, and sleep Olympics. I relish the personal stories of athletes overcoming obstacles, the adrenaline of competition, and ultimately the triumph of their lifelong pursuit of the Olympic dream. The former athlete in me is absolutely riveted.
This week, though, the Olympics have become a poignant reminder of how much my life has changed. This is the first Winter Olympics with fibromyalgia and as I cheer on skiers and figure skaters, I feel strangely melancholy. The first couple days this feeling confused me, but now I have pin-pointed the cause – as I watch the world’s top athletes ski, skate, and jump, I am reminded of how much my body can no longer do.
I love to ski and skate. The euphoria of gliding through the brisk winter air or hurtling down the mountain on fresh snow as a panorama of beautiful vistas spread before me. Moments of transcendant peace in the forest. I become aware of my body working as I focus on moving my muscles, pacing my breath, the pounding of my heart. Winter sports somehow help me meditate in a soundless world of white.
I have not snapped on skis since before my diagnosis. I am afraid that I will discover the sport will be too much for my joints, especially my knees. I have returned to ice skating in the local park. While I cannot skate for too long or too often, I can still glide on ice. So I have hope.
As I ponder future trips to Iceland and New Zealand, I yearn to dive into the outdoor pursuits of those countries, such as glacier hiking, sea kayaking, and backpacking. My goal this year is to slowly experiment and discover which activities my body can handle and under what circumstances. I already know I can handle riding a bike, as long as I avoid hilly terrain. I know I can go on hikes lasting as long as two hours, provided I rest the next day with heating pads and ice packs on my joints and muscles. I have my trip to Alaska two summers ago to thank for this knowledge. I also know I can skate on rink ice for up to an hour and choppy pond ice for 30 minutes. What else can I still do?
Like the Olympians competing in Vancouver, I plan to push myself to see how far I can go. I may not be able to hike 8 hours straight or take a four-day kayaking trip, but I still have the determination and ability to savor the pursuit of sport. I just need to experiment with how long, far, and fast I can push myself without triggering a fibroflare.
Tonight, when I settle in to another evening of passively watching the world’s best compete on the international stage, I will no longer wallow in melancholy loss. Tonight I will ponder the limited, but very real possibilities.