WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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My Olympic Hopes

As a child I remember being bored silly watching any Olympic sport except Figure Skating and Gymnastics.  I watched Dorothy Hamill win gold in 1976 and Mary Lou Retton win it in 1984, and I worked as hard as a little girl and later a sulky teen could to make my curly hair mimic their straight bowl cuts.  (I did not succeed.)

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Since then my Olympic interests have broadened and now I’m just as happy watching skeleton racers and handballers as I am ice skaters and gymnasts, regardless of their hair texture.  Plus, I’m fascinated by the athletes’ fierce and singular passion for their sports.  I’ve certainly been committed to goals and worked hard to meet them, but I have never had such unclouded allegiance to one ambition. 

Maybe we’re cooked with an Olympic-sized competitive edge.  Or maybe we develop such intense focus through the interplay of our wiring and the pushy adults around us.  Or maybe it’s just those pushy adults who make Olympians.  Your guess is as good as mine.  Regardless, my commitment to comfort disqualifies me for most Olympic endeavors.

Besides, at this point in the game, I treat compassion like my Olympic hope.  And mark my words, it’s a tricky, tough sport.  Olympic compassion isn’t just about extending empathy to those who look like us or who we’d like to look like, but also to those we’re not one bit interested in mirroring.  It’s not just about loving the oppressed, but the oppressors, too.  Gold medal compassion means seeing ourselves even in others we don’t want to see and then believing both of us can live and love differently.  Consequently, training in this sport doesn’t typically have a foreseeable end date.

I’m fully devoted to medaling in compassion.  Still, I have other Olympic hopes, too.  I like to think of my sofa as a luge of sorts.  I practice perfect horizontal posture with only the slightest crick in my neck so I can see the television full of actual lugers.  I suppose my drills in compassion and decadent sofa-luging are my version of a biathlon.  Here’s to winning the gold.

Whitney Cain