Normal. That’s what the US Women’s Gymnastics team says to each other before they are about to compete in front of the world. Normal. It’s just like normal.
I don’t have time for a lot of Olympics this year, but I always have time for gymnastics. It took me 2 days but I finally sat down to watch the young women of America not only take gold, but seize gold with all of their might! Ok, maybe I’m being a little overdramatic, but the whole Jordyn Wieber drama mixed with the NBC-produced mini-docs they were showing before each commercial AND footage of the gymnast’s parents watching them compete put me into emotional overdrive. Did I mention I did gymnastics as young girl and was 4 the year Mary Lou Retton scored 2 perfect 10’s? So I might have had a little extra ammo behind the emotion too. But the pressure these girls face seems insurmountable. Except they face it and then they jump off of it and do a double backflip layout with a twist.
But how do you go from the world knowing you as this…
First you have to do this…
Normal. It’s just like normal.
Watching gymnastics and all of the bits of swimming and tennis and volleyball I’ve caught here and there, I am struck by how often the word “pressure” is used. I mean, I get it, these athletes are competing in the biggest arena of their lives. I would feel some pressure too. They’ve trained their whole lives. Their bodies know what to do. I’m sure Jordyn Wieber could do her floor routine while she was sleep-walking on a heavy dose of Ambien. But how do you handle the pressure? Your body might know what to do, but if your mind psyches you out instead of up, you could blow it all in an instant.
Before Gabby Douglas got up to do her wow of a balance beam routine (it might have been before her equally stunning uneven bars routine, I can’t remember) she grabbed her teammate, Aly Raisman, who the commentators tell me is the team leader, for a pep-talk. They locked eyes and linked arms and Aly gave it to her straight – You got this, you can do this, it’s just like normal – there was no sound when they showed this, but you could tell by their body language that Gabby got it.
WHen asked, Aly said she doesn’t feel the pressure. The commentator speculated that while Aly does in fact feel the pressure, she calls it by a different name – excitement – and that got me to thinking. How many times have I psyched myself out and stopped myself from my own victory yalp? How many conversations have I had in my head about whether or not to eat something? How many auditions or meetings have a gone to with my mind racing about potential disaster? How many times have I not joined the party because the voices in my head are telling me I’m not good enough, smart enough and gosh darn it, people don’t like me?
So much in life comes with pressure, and I often let that pressure build up inside my mind until the task at hand appears to be, indeed, insurmountable. When really, it’s just normal. It’s just commonplace, everyday, broiled chicken and steamed brocoli normal.
And, apparently, normal gets the gold.
That, and a good team that knows how to stick a landing.
Now I get to watch Gabby Douglas take gold. I can’t wait.