Monday, July 18, 2011

The Pleasure of Failure

I'm not a natural athlete.

I never did well in gym class, yet I joined the military.  I made it through Boot Camp and enjoyed the obstacle course, but broke my ankle while running laps.

Ironically, it was while in the military that I fell in love with aerobics.  It became a passion, an obsession, and when I left the military, I immediately started teaching.

However, being fit in one particular sport does not mean one is fit in another.  I learned this to my dismay when I decided to run a 5K at my university in 1996.  I woke up early (the horror!), braved the misting rain, and fell into the mash-up of people for the Fun Run.  The starter gun went off ....

and the freaking fun ended.  Just like that.

First of all, someone, in all their university wisdom, decided to start the race not only uphill, but uphill and around a curve.  Nice.  Second, I quite forgot that I was considered an "older student", and at 27, I was racing against 17 and 18-year olds who, unlike me, ran every day.

What had I been thinking?

First, running, if you read this post, never exactly came easily to me.  About five seconds into the race, I realized running was STILL not my thing.  But I had been teaching some pretty hard-core aerobics for six years. Two of my friends had also gotten up in the early morning mist to dash from this corner to that corner to cheer me on, and I couldn't disappoint them.  

More important, though, I couldn't disappoint myself.  I had to finish.  In the rain, the early morning, knowing that I was hating every single second and my hope that all that other exercise would translate into success -- I was a big ol' grumpus.  If my two friends hadn't been on the corners cheering for me, I just know I would have slunk off and gone for a latte.

And then, help arrived.

A real runner, and a real hero -- a friend of mine.  He'd turned around from being WAY ahead in the race and had come back to run with me.  He wouldn't let me stop, and he wouldn't let me fail.

The smile came back.  He gave up his chance at winning to come and keep me from losing.

And that, my dear friends, is what I want to be for others.

The photo is blurry, but see, he helped me speed up.  And see my smile?  

I want to help you smile.

Because we're all in some sort of race.  Some of you were like me -- an athlete in something, at the top of our game in something, but then, when we try to switch gears, we realize our shortcomings (or at least, the need for more practice!).  

I'm no longer an athlete, but the comparison still applies.  Be the friend who will turn back and race with others.  Think twice about the ones that are too busy speeding ahead with no other thought than winning every race.

I didn't win that race.  But I didn't come in last, either.  Actually -- no one did.  My friends and I went back and ran with the few stragglers, even though my shins hated me and my lungs were no longer on speaking terms.  It felt like a parade.  It felt like a vindication of gym class.  Heck, it felt freaking awesome for all of us as we high-fived each other. 

Who are YOU going to high-five today?

Quote of the DayIce Cream
Book Review"Still Alice"
Cup of Bead Soup: 2nd Soup with Clayworks

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.  She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.


  1. Your story brought tears to my eyes!

  2. Oh Lori! How you inspire others, just by sharing your life with us! Thanks so much!

  3. When I was in grad school I helped anyone who asked- it made me better at everything. I really didn't like my fellow students who thought that they could only win at the expense of everyone else. It is a lesson I have carried with me through life, and I may not be number 1, but I know I am much happier than most people.

  4. I got chills! What a great story :-)

  5. I'm with Leigh! Your story jerked the tears right outta me. Thanks for sharing. And thanks for being that person. It is what keeps me coming back over and over!

  6. Inspiring story! Love seeing pics of the Lori from "several" years ago. :-)

  7. You are quite an inspiration to me, Lori. Thank you.

  8. Love the post.... and your picture too!

  9. Beautiful. This is a lovely reminder of what the 'race' of life is really all about. You win when you give.

  10. I'm going to high-five you, Lori. That was truly inspirational!

  11. What a great story! You're a winner just for running the race and finishing it!

  12. Lovely and very inspiring

  13. For someone who was struggling, you sure looked beautiful doing it! Very inspirational, warm and thought provoking.

  14. You definitely make me smile every time I visit your blog. Love to read your stories, they are certainly entertaining and full of life-lessons! Thanks for sharing!

  15. Thank you for sharing you inspiration with us. :)

    Have a great week!

    God bless and keep you,

  16. Good for you, way to go! And what a great friend you have, what he did was lovely.

  17. Beautiful post, Lori. Love these pics of you! What a cutie...Um, I think I can see why your friend went back for you! lol ;)

  18. What an inspirational post. Thanks.

  19. GOOD MORNING LORI! I so agree with you, I SO UNDERSTAND! Let us all run the race that really matters and that never makes us weary or discouraged!!! Anita

  20. Like all the others wrote before - your story touched me. Deeply!

  21. what a great post! The older I get, the more this kind of story makes sense to me.

  22. That's a true friend right there. How amazing is it to turn around and come back??

  23. This is just an exceptional story. I've never heard of such a thing; what a wonderful person that man was and what a lasting legacy he left in you and probably everyone else who struggled with the race that day. It's a beautiful story and brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing it! <3 And thanks for the lovely support. You are truly an inspiration. <3 <3

  24. Colleen in NH12:17 PM

    What an inspiring story, thanks for sharing!

  25. what a wonderful, inspirimg post. I loved it. xox jean

  26. Lori, what a great story. That guy must have been a teacher. Teachers share so much with a person & help them step up & at times surpass the guide. I've known many artist who have taken the time to help me & now I do the same to others. Thanks for reminding us all that it is just as important to step back & help others catch up than to be all alone in the winning limelight.

  27. Love this post. Shows how much encouragement means to that someone you meet at anytime. Be Blessed to be a blessing
    P.S. thanks for all the encouragement you have given me.

  28. You Lori. I'm high-fiving you!

    This is an absolutely beautiful post. Thank you so much.

    P.S. I love the photos. They made this real for me. Especially the blurry background one. Don't apologize for the artistic bokeh effect. It's terrific!

  29. Lori,
    This just makes me cry. I hope I can be a person who will go pack and "run with others" in my own way. What a lovely metaphor. I am a team player and got through grad school by working with others, and I have done various "helping" professions but I am no longer working and not as heathy as I once was so it is hard to sit these things in.
    Thanks you doe such a beautiful post!
    Big hugs,

  30. This is such a great story to inspire others and never give up. You are the most amazing woman my dear!

  31. great story! Runners are a breed of their own. We had a dinner for a group of I think it was 13 woman who had come from Michigan (1 was a cousin) who came here to AZ to run a marathon. Great energy and friendships in that group.

  32. Nice legs Lori. This post says so many things, but what I take from it is everyone struggles, you're not alone. Thanks I needed this. Now I'm off for my daily run.

  33. If I can stop one Heart from breaking
    I shall not live in vain
    If I can ease one Life the Aching
    Or cool one Pain
    Or help one fainting Robin
    Unto his Nest again
    I shall not live in Vain.

    Emily Dickinson

  34. Anonymous12:37 PM

    Today I went back to run with a collegue of mine. I was leaving my office as I saw my colleague sitting really depressed in front of her PC. I helped her with her project, showing her how to solve that particular problem and in the end she smiled again.
    There are small things that we can do every day to help other and we don't do just because too busy with ourselves. Sometimes, we should just stop and have a look around us.

    I am really happy that you shared your story.


  35. What a nice story, and a beautiful smile!

  36. What a nice story, and a beautiful smile!


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