“I’m an emotional athlete.”

While collaborating on a challenging project the other day, my boss looked at me and said, “Well, Bridget. Are you ready? This may be hard.”

I looked him dead in the eye and said,

“I’m an emotional athlete. I’m ready. Are you?”

We both laughed but I thought about that.

What was that burst of confidence? Resilience? Tenacity? Perseverance?

What makes an athlete strong?

When we think about athletes, we usually think of how much they achieve during a specific event. We don’t think about the years of practice. We don’t consider their previous injuries. Most of the time we don’t consider them an emotional being with a personal life and all of those challenges — that we all face.

We think about the winning score in the last second. The ball that swishes just before the buzzer. The 11th inning. The emotional tears of the win.

What makes an athlete strong isn’t their supernatural ability to never feel pain. No. They’re human. They have pain. They fall. They break bones. They compete anyway. They continue.

Continuing Through the Pain

This past summer, after my husband passed, The summer Olympic Games took place in Rio. He was an athlete, a coach, and a sports fan. His whole family is.

With the Olympic nostalgia I ran across this clip from Kerri Strug’s 1996 Gold Metal Vault.

She injured herself during her first vault.

She got up, looked at her coach, went back to the starting position, and ran. She ran with all of her might. She landed victoriously. She collapsed. She won gold for the United States Team.

All pain is pain.

All pain is simply that — pain. It’s not avoidable. The athlete feels the pain, focuses her mind, and continues.

So many people tell me that I’m strong or that I inspire them.

I feel weak, fragile, and unable to breathe.

Today, for example, I woke up crying. Again.

But I remembered that conversation.

I cried. I felt the pain.

I acknowledged the feelings. I talked myself through it.

And I got up, washed my face, and continued on.

Being strong doesn’t mean we don’t experience pain. It means we continue in spite of it.

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