Together We'll Get It
When you wake up feeling under the weather and weary on a Monday, you know it's going to be a long day. On mornings like these, when my motivation wanes, it helps to remember what is real. And what is real is what I was privileged to witness last week: an NBC Olympics video sharing the story of Alex Bilodeau, an Olympic champion skier, and his older brother Frederic Bilodeau, who has cerebral palsy. It's a simple story, really: The brothers love, support, and inspire one another. Yet it's also a complex story in that these brothers—so close at heart—are at opposite ends of the spectrum that most of us consider “success.” An Olympic champion, and a young man who cannot walk without support? Initially, the juxtaposition of the two brothers and their physical abilities is arresting. And yet, if you watch the video, you realize that their differences are effectively eclipsed by what illuminates both their faces. As I wrote on Facebook, “This is what it's all about. This is what's really important. This is love.”
Love just shines from them, doesn't it? It's a palpable warmth. When I watched them interact, I could feel an inner cold melting away. To put it in more concrete terms: I just could not stop crying. It was painful, but in a healing sort of way, as though my soul itself was recovering from frostbite. I was fine with that, fine with freshly-applied mascara streaking down my cheeks, as long as it meant that I could stay just a little longer in the real.
“My brother is my ground … his everyday life brings me to reality,” Alex Bilodeau says, and I know just what he means. When I start stressing out about my writing career, I remember my brother's workdays. For now, my talented-yet-volatile brother shreds x-rays and stuffs envelopes. And even on days when I don't feel well, I know that it is a privilege and a dream come true to earn a living writing. Likewise, when I start worrying that I don't do enough for my family, for my brother, I call this video to mind. Once again, I see that the most powerful thing I can do is love my brother, and let that love lead me on.
Though our circumstances are quite different, I can relate to Alex Bilodeau. At times, my dream of writing to a wider audience seems like as much of a long shot as an Olympic gold medal. Yet ever so slowly, with faltering steps, I'm growing to be more like Alex in that I'm not dissuaded from taking chances. I'm learning to let go of perfectionism, to trust that my brother wants me to succeed. That's not to say that it's easy to follow a dream. Sometimes my writing feels like a forced march, a trudge through deep snow in which the smallest movements take concerted effort. But every now and then, I look up to see a brilliant night sky. I glimpse something beautiful, and all at once, I'm galvanized to go on.
That's how I felt when I watched the video of the Bilodeau brothers. It was like hearing Willie sing, “Happy Birthday,” or “Beautiful Kittenfish”—it was a moment that opened windows in my mind and heart. I have not been the same since I saw that video; we are never the same again after these moments in which the real seems tangible and close. But how can I live into that each day? How can I connect with the real, and then pass it along? Because that's what I most want to do. It's the journey and the destination, all rolled into one.
With that in mind, I take up a pen. I choose a brilliant blue note card from my stack, one that looks like Willie's eyes when he laughs, and I write a note to my brother. It's a simple thing. But after all we've been through—after every complex decision, frightening meltdown, and lesson in forgiveness--I know it's the right choice. Simple things done with love will see us through. Or, in Frederic's words: “Together, we'll get it.”