Gabrielle Daleman

Gabrielle is a Canadian figure skater who has done well at home and internationally. As with most elite athletes, she has devoted much of her life to her craft.

At the Canadian Figure Skating Championships this week, Gabrielle was leading after the short program. Then it was time for the long skate, which would decide who gets the gold medal:

But the 21-year-old from Newmarket, Ontario, a bronze medallist at the 2017 world championships, fell twice in her free skate, and nearly fell twice more, plummeting to fifth place. She burst into tears after her marks were shown.

I saw her face fall to her hands, and she wept deeply. My eyes moistened. There was a human being in agony on the other side of the TV screen, and she was me. We’ve all been beaten up by life at times and we simply need to know that others care. Both of her coaches put their arm around her when the scores came up.

We’d like to do well whenever we enter the arena of life but there are times when it all falls apart. Strangely, I heard today about the exact opposite: my nephew scored with a few seconds left to win his high school basketball game. The gym erupted in joy. Ecstasy and despair – strange bedfellows, but they show up for each of us.

Gabby was interviewed on TV after the competition. First of all, she showed up. No hiding under a pillow. Tears rimmed her eyes as she spoke, and her gaze was strong as she looked at many thousands of us. Head up … speaking the truth. I was blown away.

This athlete has mental health problems and has admitted so publicly. What an example for each of us – nothing hidden, the warts exposed as clearly as the shining smile. Wow.

“Athletes who are attracted to figure skating are perfectionists, which is about being concerned with the achievement of perfection,” said Rebekah Dixon, who holds a Master’s degree in developmental psychology.

“This leads to being more focused on other people seeing you as perfect, which in itself is a problem, because you’re focusing on something that is unattainable.”

Gabrielle sunk low for awhile, and spent months away from skating, dealing with her demons. How many of us face similar gargoyles every day, but no one else knows? It might be physical problems, relationships, money – all most likely under the umbrella of self-esteem. How important is it for me to see every person I meet as probably in the middle of a life problem that’s very tough? Very important. A kind word, a smile, a hand on the shoulder … can heal.

The rink was a great place for Daleman. She experienced success and accomplishment – satisfactions that were far harder to come by at school. Daleman has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and a learning disability. The challenges she faced in the classroom led to teasing and bullying by the other students.

Even with acid comments and demeaning looks coming her way, Gabby skated. She trained. She persevered. And she will continue to do so.

I’m glad you’re on the planet, Gabrielle Daleman
You inspire me to be great
Thank you

ta-pocketa

It was 1964 and I wasn’t liking much of Grade 10.  A notable exception to the muddy flow of life was Miss Bruce (no relation).  She was our easy-to-look-at young English teacher.  The source of many a fantasy for Bruce Archer Kerr. Plus we got to read a lot of cool stuff in her class.

These days I ask myself what I remember from high school studies.  Not very much of a pleasant nature, I’m afraid.  But there was a short story by James Thurber that has stayed with me all these years: “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. Now it’s a movie, and I read recently that it doesn’t keep to the story very well.  I don’t know … haven’t seen it.

From the very beginning, I’ve yearned to be a hero, and in Grade 10 Walter was my guy.  Henpecked by his semi-lovely wife, he sought solace in his mind.  As a navy pilot in the heart of a hurricane.  As a renowned surgeon inserting a fountain pen into a damaged anesthetizer.  As a World War II flying ace in a pitched battle with the Germans.

And in each desperate situation, there was the noise of a machine in the background, urging Mitty/Kerr on to victory.

“I’m not asking you, Lieutenant Berg,” said the Commander.  “Throw on the power lights!  Rev her up to 8,500!  We’re going through!”  The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa.

I stood taller after selected English classes.  Never mind the acne.  Never mind the monosyllables with girls.  Never mind the nude swimming classes for a terrified non-swimmer.  Inside, Kerr of the Yukon forged his way through the great northern wilderness.

In 2000 or so, Jody and I bought titanium road bikes.  I had the choice of keeping the frame’s metallic sheen or having it painted.  I chose a blended red and yellow.  The bike shop owner also said that I could have a name printed in black on the top tube.  So yes to that too.  Not “Bruce”.  Not “Road Warrior”.  Certainly not “B Kerr”.  You know what bubbled to the surface of my latently heroic mind.

As senior citizenship has somehow snuck up on me, Walter is alive and well. A spiritual teacher speaking to hundreds in Boston’s Beacon Theater.  A humble Canadian author stepping onto the stage in Stockholm, Sweden to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Roger “Bruce” Bannister circling the Iffley Road Track in Oxford, England four times on May 6, 1954, hitting the tape in a time of 3:59.4, the first human being to break the four-minute mile.  The crowd went nuts.  Bruce acknowledged them with a tiny wave.

I love being in the here and now.  There and then isn’t bad either.