This is not different from another story, that of Denny Morrison. Denny is a speed skater. Since the last Olympics he has had not one, but two Olympian recoveries. In the first one he was riding his motorcycle when he crashed, leaving him with internal bruising, a minor spinal fracture, a fractured femur, a concussion and a torn ligament in his knee. Barely recovered from those injuries, he suffered a stroke while out hiking. It seems unfathomable to me, that he is even here to tell these tales, never mind that he is telling them after achieving a top 15 finish in the 1500m long track speed skating event in Pyeongchang.
When both of these Olympians were interviewed, each told their story of their injury and their recovery. Both gave great credit to the medical teams who had worked with them. But most of all, both acknowledged that the fullness of their recovery could not have occurred without the support of people close to them in their lives.
This is not a new theme. We often hear people crediting their success, or their recovery, or their courage to having someone in their life who willingly takes on the role of ‘walking beside’.
In a far less prestigious venue, I was dancing at a seniors’ centre this week with some of the Chinook Country Dancers. This year I have moved to the advanced level of dance and I find that I have a LOT to learn. I now know many of the new dances, but I am still very uncertain about some of the older dances that were taught in the years before I was part of this group. I am not the only one in our group who is in this situation. One of my dancing friends, Marguerite, is also in the advanced group and she is also still needing a few refreshers on some of the dances.
When we danced on Wednesday, Marguerite was in the back row of three rows. She had planted herself between two seasoned dancers so that she could look toward them for cues if she needed to. To make more room, the group of dancers turned to the side and in the shuffle, one of the dancers had moved Marguerite to the end of a row. This is not the place you want to be if you are not sure of the steps because as the dance goes on, the person on the end soon finds themselves in the front row, with no one in front of them to watch and no one on the side either.
One of the other very seasoned dancers, Mary, noticed what had happened and quickly offered to switch with Marguerite. The dancer who had made the switch to begin with recognized her mistake in moving Marguerite to the end and quickly apologized and suggested she move back in between. Marguerite answered, “Oh, that’s ok. As long as Mary is by my side I know I will be fine.”
In that moment I recognized the truth in these words; in whatever journey we are taking, Olympian or other, as long as we have someone beside us who we can trust to have our best interests at heart, there is almost nothing we cannot do. In dance, Mary is one of these people. So are Pat and Diana and Karen and Shirley and Bonita and Barb and Toni and so, so many others. It is part of the culture created by our instructor, Reba J, and most often it is done so subtly by the dancers that no one even notices us making sure that each of us has someone ‘by my side’.
Often, the person who walks, or dances, beside us doesn’t really have to do much. It is their steady presence, their belief in us, their ability to make us feel safe, their quiet reassurance and their encouragement that gives us the courage to move toward our goal. Sometimes they are well aware of their vital role, as I imagine the wife of Denny Morrison was. Other times, they, like Mary and my other wonderful dancing friends, just slip into this comforting role as no doubt dancers before did for them when they were learning.
On the same day as our dance performance, we received a message from Jim’s brother, Greg, telling us that he had just proposed to his partner, Sheila. I’m guessing they both knew they wanted to create a life full of travelling with someone ‘by my side’.
In my life, I have travelled many journeys. Some have been short and others years in the making. It is always most lovely to make the journey with a trusted partner by my side. On Wednesday, the same day as the dance, the same day as the proposal, in the same week as the Olympic stories were told, I realized that I had travelled forty Valentine’s Days with Jim by my side. I am so grateful for him and for each of my ‘by my side’ travelling companions.
As you venture into this next week, notice places where you might step into the ‘by my side’ position. Recognize that whether it is acknowledged or not, your presence there lightens the load of someone else’s journey.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘How can I be ‘by my side’ for others?’
Elizabeth creates and facilitates custom workshops for corporate, public and private groups. She provides leadership coaching for individuals and groups. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to practice being ‘by my side’.