Like millions of others around the globe, I was entranced with the Olympics this year. Each night, I sat down to several hours of TiVo’d events, marveling at the athletic spectacle. Almost as much as I enjoyed seeing athletes compete, I enjoyed watching the athletes themselves – their toned, muscular bodies competing at the highest pinnacle of athletic prowess. Having trained for and competed in a few sprint-length triathlons, I am slightly aware of the amount of work that it takes to get into shape for the events that I have competed in. It takes hard work and dedication to make it to the gym every day, sweat, strain, and push yourself past what you think is your limit. Now, multiply that many, many times, and you have an idea of what it takes to become an Olympic athlete. I realized, as I sat watching these amazing specimens of humanity, that these people did nothing else but train for their sport. All day, every day, for years and years – they swim, bike, run, jump, dive, throw, and stretch themselves to their very limit, only to do it again the next day.
One of my favorites to watch (next to Michael Phelps, of course) was Dara Torres. 41 years old, the mother of a two-year-old, and she was competing against – and many times beating – women less than half her age in her FIFTH Olympics. Hooray for Dara! As a mother of three approaching 40, she inspired me. The Olympics are not only for the young and perky! I can have a body like that when I’m 40! I watched a few of the human interest stories about her, and I realized how she did it – she has “Team Dara” – a team of 6 – 8 people dedicated only to her and her training. She has coaches, trainers, massage therapists, people who stretch her, knead her muscles, cook for her, clean for her, and of course, help care for her daughter. I thought to myself, “If I had ‘Team Andrea’ maybe I could have a body like that and a few Olympic medals to boot!” I can’t imagine having the luxury and the help that it would take to train for that kind of an event. My life is too full of cleaning, cooking, chasing, diapering, and all-around mothering to hone my body into Dara’s goddess-like shape. My 2 hours at the gym a few days a week is all I get. What would it be like to be able to have that kind of intense focus?
The only thing in my life that has ever come close to that kind of intense focus was my mission. On my mission, I had only one goal: to bring souls to Christ. All of my time, talents, effort, blood, sweat, and tears were dedicated to serving Christ and my fellow man. My focus was clear, my goals were singular – missionary work and nothing else. It was kind of liberating to know that what I was doing at that moment was the most important thing in the world, and it was what Christ would be doing if He were on the earth. As a sister missionary, I realized that my mission was the only time in my life when I would have an inkling of what it might be like to be a General Authority – to have my whole life dedicated to the Lord. Like an athlete, I was in training every day, all day, and by the end of my mission, I had finally gotten kind of good at it. When I came home, I felt at loose ends – I had all these great missionary skills and not many places to use them. I had some goals, but nothing as concrete as missionary work. I floundered for a while after my mission because I no longer had the “missionary mandate” – sure, I could serve the Lord in other ways, but my focus had changed and diluted somehow. I had to think about school, work, and dating. I was no longer putting my whole effort into one thing.
So, back to the Olympics and obsession intense focus. As I sat on my couch, eating Cheesy Poofs and thinking about “Team Dara,” I wondered, what would I do if I had the freedom and means to focus on only one thing? What if money, child care, housing, bills, and all of the other distractions of my life were taken care of and I could focus on one thing, what would I do? For me, the answer was easy and entirely selfish: Fencing. After my mission, I began fencing and competed in a number of national events. I was obsessed…I mean, I had an intense focus on fencing for a number of years. I loved it, but I also realized that at some point I had to finish school, get a job, get married, and be a responsible adult. Part of me still misses it every day, and I wish I could go back to it, but my money and time are not entirely my own, and my focus has changed. Although I love my husband and children, I love my life and everything I am involved with, if I had the money and the time, that’s what I would do all day, every day, as much as I could.
What would you do?