Challenge and triumph
November 24, 2008 · Updated 6:04 PM
I’m a certifiable “Rocky” freak. I loved the movie, the music, the grittiness of it all. I first saw the movie when I was in middle school, and it resonated so powerfully with me that I actually used to go running late at night in the standard-issue, old-fashioned gray sweatsuit. Mile after mile I ran — up hills until my heart was pounding and my legs wanted to quit, finding the strength to continue — away from teenage angst and toward a realization that I was stronger and more determined than I imagined.
My parents were divorcing, and amidst all that confusion, I experienced a certain tranquility whenever I ran until my lungs ached and my muscles withered. The benefits were numerous. Each night when my head hit the pillow, I was certain to sleep deeply. My mom and dad are both great people, and both fought in their own way to stay involved in our lives. This day finds them fast friends, and they continue to teach me about grace, forgiveness and, ultimately, loyalty.
Rocky’s triumph against tremendous odds, and the message that you can’t necessarily control the outcome, but you most definitely can control the effort you put forth, is as much a part of my nature today as breathing is. We all meet bigger opponents, challenges which may seem impossible at first, but it is possible to out-work and out-hustle these obstacles. I’ve seen it time and again in people fighting for their very lives against illness, coming back from serious injury, or shoring up emotional wounds from a relationship gone bad or the loss of a loved one.
If you want to pass on something to your kids, let this be near the top of that list: you can’t control the outcome, but you can control the effort. Say it again, and then again until it becomes a part of your soul. In order for your kids to understand it, you’ll have to embody it.
One of my clients was weighing herself at home when her 6-year-old daughter peeked around the corner and asked what she was doing. Her first reaction was to hide the scale and usher her daughter away, but after a moment she said that she was just checking her weight. “How much is it?” “Is that a lot?” “Is it more than daddy?” Her daughter’s questions forced her to remember that your weight is not a great indication of how fit or healthy you are, and that becoming fixated by the scale can be detrimental not only to your emotional health but to that of your kids.
The scale gives only a number, and that number will change with effort. It doesn’t measure how much muscle you have on your frame, your athleticism, or the size of your heart. Wherever that number ends up, it ends up. The journey to get there will provide all of the answers to health you’ll need.
With this journey in mind, I’d like to present a few Rocky awards to some amazing human beings who have overcome the odds and completely understand that the effort can change the outcome.
The sixth anniversary of my mom’s heart transplant is this February, and I feel privileged to loudly applaud her strength and quiet determination. She has overcome amazing odds and is still a rock.
To Patricia, Jeanne, Alice, Jill, Rob and Beverly, you are all survivors and greater people for the fight. To Bill, who is in the midst of the fight, there are many of us standing with you. To my business partner and lifelong friend, Ginny Pietila, and her amazing 4-year-old daughter, Mimi, what a reminder you two are of the blessings of health. Ginny fought her way back from a life-threatening bout with eclampsia to become an Ironman. Mimi spent her first few days in an incubator, weighing in at a little over three pounds. Gymnastics, swimming and soccer now fill her days, and laughter follows her wherever she goes. What joy a child’s laugh can bring, and to be able to “fly” Mimi around her house until my arms want to seize up is the greatest application of fitness I can fathom.
To all of you who have walked through the fire and are stronger because of it, feel free to say, “Yo Adrian, I did it!” Collectively you have taught us a great deal about perseverance and heart. Passing it on to the next generation is our next big challenge, and nothing could be more worthwhile.
Bryan Welch is the co-owner of Club Emerald on the Island.