The Weight of Gold

July’s Contemplation: Keeping Cool in a Heated World
Monthly Post #3

I love the summer Olympics. 

This year however, I haven’t been able to binge watch The Games. And this really bothers me. I feel like I’m missing out on all the running and jumping and swimming that I do through these amazing athletes. Bottom line: I can’t be a couch-potato athlete this year. As a result, I can’t partake in any intellectual conversations about any of the athletes. I am missing out on all the under-dog stories, the tribulating journeys, and the triumphant finishes. 

I am missing out.  

This hasn’t kept me from catching highlights though, with the biggest one on my mind being gymnast Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the team and individual all-around competitions. Mental health is once again at the forefront. 

I plan to devote time to Mental Health Awareness Month in May, but I think it’s more than relevant/appropriate/needed to end my “How to Stay Cool in a Heated World” July theme with a few words on self-care; after all, mental health contributes much to how we handle the heat of our worlds. 

A lot of opinions are flying as to whether or not Simone did right for herself, her team, and her country by withdrawing. There are valid points on both sides that I believe can contribute to conversations about a topic that doesn’t conveniently confine itself to black-and-white thinking. 

A few years back when I was in the trenches of some difficult decision-making, I told a wise and trusted friend, “I just want to make the right decision.” This friend told me, “Maybe your decision isn’t about right or wrong, but what is best.” 

There’s much to unpack in that answer. But for me it challenged my thinking to expand beyond just two options—that perhaps my answer could be found in between and in both. I don’t believe any of us are qualified to gage another’s righteousness—the quality of being morally right or justifiable. Instead, I believe it is our duty to ourselves, and in turn to our world, to strive towards our best holistic health. It is through this imperfect intention—by living through life itself with all its glory and hardship and fumblings and fallings—that we can then settle into our own unique rhythm. We must live fully in whatever happens upon us.

I don’t know if Simone Biles made the “right” decision. I just know that her decision is part of her developing story and as far as I can tell, she’s still very much participating in that story. 

Her decision at these Olympic Games provides more opportunity to discuss the stigma of mental health. Personally, I am thankful that we are finally acknowledging that the head is part of our bodies too and deserves a place in medical research and a voice in medical discussions. 

As a final thought, if you haven’t yet watched Michael Phelps’ extraordinary documentary, The Weight of Gold, I highly recommend it. Phelps is the most decorated Olympian with 28 medals. He knows a thing or two about pressure and its effect on mental health.  

I would love to hear your thoughts. 

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