Saturday, April 26, 2008

The blogosphere

I'm trying not to troll the blogs and websites with reactions to my book. It's all a little too much. But I've peeked at some. There are those that seem upset by the book, claiming it's all lies, that I'm a hopeless, pathetic pessimist that never got over not making the 1988 Olympic Team. In truth, I pulled myself out of that race, as it just didn't matter to me anymore. Seemed pointless suddenly, after having dedicated my young life to the sport. I've never once felt a single pang of regret, sorrow, sadness over not having made that team though parents and coaches promised I would.

In point of fact, I am more of a hopeless optimist than most people I encounter; friends would likely vouch for me on this. How else could I believe that I could write a book while maintaining a demanding job and full family life? And do so with no formal writing training, no 'ghost writer' and then, upon completion, have the perseverance to find an agent and get it published? I have a shoe box full of rejection letters from agents. But I kept going as I did back when I was a gymnast. I pulled it off through sheer force of optimistic will. Gymnastics taught me that and I am grateful.

I take offense at being called a pessimist more than I take offense at being called a liar. Isn't that something? I just learned that about myself this week when I found this post on a gymnastics website:

"... the Parkette's are very upset...much like when they were blindsighted with that CNN documentary, which was supposed to showcase what a wonderful club it was (and of couse made Donna look like a horrible person) The whole lot of us from the 80's....Gina Stallone, Tracy Butler, Tracy Calore, Jamie Raines, Sarah Balagosh, Cindy Rosenberry, Lisa Panzeroni...even on to Hope Spivy and Kim Kelly etc...all recall things a lot differently. My time at Parkettes was great and we all go back for Alumni programs and still all keep in touch.

I really do think that a lot of on'es perception of inicidents has to do with the outcome for them, as well as their general outlook on life. Some people are genreally psimistic and are going to see any little negative thing as so much bigger than it was, where optimists are the opposite, and can shrug off the negative ... It seems maybe Sey never got past that one letdown ['88 Olympics], and htat is really sad.

Ok. A few things I have to point out about this post, none of them related to the typos that I've left in for authenticity's sake (and I'm sorry for being a tad snarky):

1) The Strausses weren't made to look bad. They behaved badly and it was aired on national television. There is a difference. Editing can't force the insults and epithets from their mouths.

2) I am in touch with some of the women she cites above as her friends. They have been wholly supportive about the book, as have many other former and current gymnasts, some I don't even know. One of the Tracys referred to above wrote me this email the day after the book came out:

"Hey, Jen. I just finished the book. I really enjoyed it....yes, I cried and laughed...You took me back to a different time and place. At times I could feel the gym again. But I also realized how alone we all felt. Interesting how we all internalized so much of it...and tried to battle the demons within us alone. I wish we could have been there more for each other! "

I stay in touch with many of my friends from Parkettes as well as other gymnasts from the 1980's that I competed with and against. The women that I speak with look back on that time with some fondness and some sadness. Same as me. There were hard times, filled with triumph as well as tears and devastating physical pain. We don't feel the need to whitewash the whole experience in order to feel good about it. We are proud of our accomplishments as gymnasts. And prouder of those after. The hard times are what made us the people we've grown up to be. I, along with my former gymnast friends, embrace it all. The whole kit and kaboodle.

Now that's a positive outlook!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thank you...

to my good friends: jen s, suzanne, sergio, nora and brady. For celebrating my special day with me. As I told you over several martinis, it felt like a combination birthday, wedding and giving birth day (other than the drinks - none of those during giving birth). It was joyous. And you guys made it more so. You forced me to acknowledge the wonder of this incredible day. Yahoo for April 22, 2008! It was the only day in my life that I will ever have been able to say, "I published my very first book today." Thank you. You guys are the best.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Quel Surprise!

It is the eve of my book’s release. It’s hard to resist the desire to feel like my life will change in an instant, the minute the book hits the shelves. I know this isn’t the case, yet I yearn for it to be true. Not that there is anything wrong with my life. It’s just great the way it is. But somehow the promise of something new and exciting and glamorous and unexpected at almost forty years old, holds unfathomable appeal.

Surprises are things of the past at this age. I know what my Christmas presents will be (a few books from my husband, a sweater or purse from my mom); I know - basically - what I’m going to do everyday (go to work, get myself tired and just a tad frustrated, have dinner with my family, go to bed); I know both of my kids will be - are - boys; I know who I’m going to lie down next to each night (my husband), even on a weekend when I get really drunk; and I generally know what’s going to happen every Saturday evening (dinner at a neighborhood restaurant, Suze Orman on TV – God I really am boring! - and some of that lying down next to my husband) no matter how much I imbibe.

No getting into the college of my choice, no beautiful unknown boys to flirt with, no "he called me! we're going out Saturday!", no unplanned Sunday morning wobbly walk of shame in shiny satin/sequins/too high heels, to be met at home by my roommates who want all the tawdry, kind of romantic and very surprising details about a night I kind of only half remember.

In middle age, the only surprises I can expect are the not-so-desirable kind. "I'm sorry to have to tell you this. It's -------." Fill in the blank. "It's cancer." "It's incurable." "It's the woman next door and I'm in love with her."

But now, something truly surprising - and good - could actually happen. Rationally, I know it will all be relatively tame: the book will go on sale, I’ll do a few readings, I’ll do some media, and it will be a bit frenzied and chaotic for a time. I’ll sell a few books – not that many – and I’ll go back to my regular old life as the Senior Director of Wholesale Strategy at Levi’s (that really does sound boring. What does that even mean!?)

Still, unlikely as it may be, this book could create a change in my life heretofore never conjured. I could sell not a few books, but A LOT of books. I could become a best-selling writer. I could become a media pundit asked to speak on the abuses and dangers endured by athletes the world over! I could write magazine articles, and newspaper pieces, and appear on radio shows talking about how awful it is that so many athletes take steroids, but “is it surprising, really, when this culture of ours prioritizes winning above all else? What can we expect, really?”

It’s like dreaming of winning the lottery, which I’ve never actually played. But it isn’t money that would be won, rather a new life - a writer’s life - more valuable to me than currency.

And, come to think of it, I suppose I can say this writer’s life is mine already. I derive pride and satisfaction from seeing my words on a page even if no one else reads them. My knack for perseverance assures me that I will write other books, even if no one publishes them. And I will write short pieces. They may appear only here, on my un-read blog, the equivalent of a slightly better version of a junior high schooler’s diary. But I will write them.

In the end, I’ve already happened upon my surprise. A hard-won unexpected treat, backed by toil rather than a dollar at the convenience store. I’ve won this writer’s life. It’s a glorious mid-life nugget. I will honor it with the reverence it deserves. Before my next surprise, of the "I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you..." variety.