Feb 25, 2010

To be admired

I was moved to write on an unexpected theme this morning by recent events in Vancouver at the Winter Olympics. I hope that you had the privilege to watch, or witness rather, figure skater Joannie Rochette of Canada on the ice on Tuesday of this week. I did. My wife and I watched it again last night, shocked at just how real life can be.

The background is this: Two days before Ms. Rochette was to perform in front of an adoring, hopeful and demanding home country audience, her mother died. Not with a gradual surrender to a known ailment with a known end, but suddenly, of a heart attack, upon arrival in Vancouver to watch her only child compete.

How this accomplished 24 year old was able to do anything more in the immediate aftermath than hug her father and give him something to lean on, someone to hold is simply beyond me. The loss of a parent is a jarring thing. Many of you, like me, know that already. The unexpected loss of a parent must be a far harder road to walk, and a road you could be forgiven for stumbling on. In either event though, most of us are allowed to muddle through our intimate tragedies, quietly, privately, without too much demanded of us, or too many strangers watching.

This was not the case for Ms. Rochette. And somehow, with strength tapped from where, I don’t know, she skated. In front of a billion people. The performance of her life.

Let me here now attempt to tie this event to this blog.

I may never know exactly what pinch of this or dash of that went into my own odd recipe. My unique calibrations of sugar and spice, snakes and snails and puppy dog tails will likely elude me and science both, and I don’t mind. But I do know this: I was drawn to explore, in my way, what women are made of, how women perceive the world around them, and how that world perceives them in part out of admiration. There are generous lumps of other things in there, but flat out admiration is a key ingredient for me.

Men are not optimized for endurance, grace and selflessness. These quieter, subtler characteristics are more rightly the province of the fairer sex. The ability to maintain a dignified carriage when life intrudes in unfair ways seems to me something that women are better fitted for than the other half. Finally, the willingness to be present and available to dangerous, hot currents of emotion, and to simply, honestly, openly cry. This place, men do not visit often.

The television commentators were beautifully silent throughout the performance. All of us watching were left free from Axels and Salchows, arabesques and spins. Free to imagine for a moment the weight of loss, and the immense capacity that some have for shouldering it. Free to quietly grieve for a loss we can imagine, and breathless at the bravery and beauty of a woman suffering through it, in circumstances that we cannot.

I don’t know that I have felt admiration for a person so acutely in my life, and I wanted to share that with you here today.

Ms. Rochette performs this evening (Thursday 25 Feb). To see her earlier performance, don’t even think of attempting to search for it on NBC’s web site. Just follow
this link.


Leah said...

I was having goosebumps while reading this Petra. I can feel what she's feeling while performing... and yes, I cried while watching her.

I lost my mom a decade ago and every time I reach a milestone in my life, I can't help but cry (always)... I wish she can share in my triumphs.

Happy Thursday my dear friend! xoxo

Mademoiselle Frou-Frou said...

i agree with you completely! i think so many of us can relate or wonder how we would cope in a similar situation. such a tragic yet touching story. i look forward to watching her skate tonight!!
xox alison

Couture Carrie said...

Gorgeous post, darling Petra! I love figure skating... And I adore your expression of admiration for this athlete!

Have a fabulous weekend!


Jerica Truax said...

Aww your post made me cry, Petra.

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