Monthly Archives: January 2011

Blog This Challenge 66: Best Day Ever

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That night I slept soundly, but the night after I couldn’t rest. My stomach was alive, my mind paced. I watched the clock: 12.30am, 12.53am, 1.12am, 1.24am, 1.58am… I was excited, not afraid. I couldn’t wait for my turn on the stage.

My heat swim was solid. It put me into Lane 3 for the final, next to Sam – exactly where I wanted to be. I had always been a pm-er, so lifting for my moment that night would come naturally. I had to touch first or second to make the team. I had to swim under 2.30 to make the qualifying time. John Konrads was in the stands. I wondered if he knew that he’d been talking to me for the last 12 years.

Media were everywhere, cameras beaming the event live to lounge rooms around the nation. Everyone I had ever known filled both sides of the grandstand. My whole extended family was there; even those whose bodies could not traverse the distance were holding their breath on the other side of the globe for the telephone to give them a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Ursula had cancelled training for the afternoon so the entire club could be at Homebush. Many of the youngsters had volunteered as basket carriers and they cheered for their older club-mates from behind the starting blocks with baskets for competitors’ clothes in their arms.

‘I wonder what they’ll say, if I’m the one to break the drought. Foul mouthed, boy-crazy Olympian…’ The thought made me smile.

It seemed strange to imagine that some of those youngsters could be looking up to me the way I had adored Megan. A humbling thought. I had never considered that Megan might be a person like me. She was only ever a goddess in my eyes.

Tension built and I started seeing the evening in snapshots. The crowd. The pool. The cameras. The announcements. The warm air. The dazzling light. The pounding in my chest. The tremble in my gut. The smiles. The rituals.

There are moments when the world slows down for us, when time expands so that we can feel, see, smell acutely that instant, and we become aware that these few moments will change our life. I had a thousand thoughts that stopped rushing for a few minutes – just long enough for me to swim four laps of the pool that would play host to the Olympics of the millennium. All I felt was joy extending from my chest to the still, deep blue expanse winking before me. My feet were not connected to the earth. The passion of people in the grandstand radiated, and louder still was the itching of my muscles and the drumming of my heart in my throat. As I stepped from the marshalling area to parade along pool deck, surrounded by the very people I had visualised would be there, wearing exactly what I had imagined in those weeks before, smelling the chlorine mingling with Dencorub, they were playing my song over the PA.

“Give me one moment in time

When I’m more than I thought I could be…”

I knew this was going to be a beautiful night.

Eight people on the blocks; a lifetime of dreams calling each one of us. Doubts, fears, hopes and courage clashing in the subconscious minds of every mother, father, sibling, friend and fan.

Suck in three last deep breaths.

Right arm stops shaking.

Toes curl tight.

Silence.

Go. 

 

***

 

World champions. Commonwealth champions. The world record holder. All eight of us capable of world-class times. All of us with world rankings. All of us fighting for two places.

The TV commentators call the race:

“Riley in front, Nadine Neumann in the yellow cap is there with her, and also Brooke Hanson. This is a good swim by Hanson and not far away too is Linley Frame, and beside her Rebecca Brown. Through the 100m they go in a time of 1.11.33 – less than a second between the first five.”

“Nadine Neumann looks great in this race. She is keeping up with Sam Riley. Sam Riley is the second fastest swimmer in the history of this event, and Nadine Neumann is keeping up with her!”

“Neumann really is challenging. She is in a clear second position. They go through the last turn, the 150m mark. It’s Riley in front of Neumann, back there in third place it’s Hanson, then Brown, then Frame…”

And 40m to swim. It was deafening.

“It’s the girl that suffered the broken neck, in the come-back now. Nadine Neumann, Brooke Hanson, Riley – three of them in the middle of the pool. Neumann in front of Riley, Hanson trying to challenge Riley… with 15m to swim and it is Nadine Neumann that’s going to cause the boil-over here! Neumann! Neumann! In goes Neumann! 2.29.65! She’s off to Atlanta!”

When your mind is still and your body is free to do what it knows best, you don’t really hear with your ears. The thunder of the crowd coursed through me like a flash of inspiration and there it was: the indescribable song I had chased for so many years, through darkness into this moment of exhilarating light.

Euphoria.

I have no recollection of bounding out of the water, hugging Greg, beaming joy in his nerve-ravaged face. I don’t recall doing a jig on the way to the poolside interview, but it was all over the papers the next morning! I don’t remember being interviewed by Laurie Lawrence, but my consciousness returned when I found my dad. I hugged him and the world embraced me. This was real. His tears were real and for once he was crying for the right reason. We had actually done it!

Collie howled out of control, running her nail-chewed hands through her long brown hair in an attempt to regain her composure. At 16, you don’t want to be seen on TV wailing and screeching like a madwoman, but what else could she do?! My mum trembled as though struck by lightning and she held her chest and her mouth alternately in wonder. She was speechless and tears filled her sparkling blue eyes. My aunts, uncle and cousins couldn’t stop laughing as though this were a moment too absurd, too bizarre to be true. Sean coughed his dry, nervous cough, not sure what to do with an overwhelming moment like this. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on me!

After cool-down, dancing an absurd ring-a-rosie dance with Jade, accepting congratulations from everyone and anyone, I floated, bursting with joy, through the throng of young well-wishers, all wanting an autograph from the latest local hero. It took over 45 minutes to move through them, I signed my name so often that I forgot how to spell it. My face ached from grinning and the next day none of the fervour had died down. They all wanted the story of the broken neck comeback kid. It was the kind of thing that was perfect for the end of Today Tonight on a slow news day and every station wanted a version for their back-up shelves. I soaked it up, every flattering ooooh and aaaaah.

I floated in a dream and I never wanted to come down. We drank champagne. We laughed and relived the telecast over and over and over. I ate pizza and danced in the lounge room. I smiled, wide-eyed in bed, adrenalin keeping me wired. I stared at myself in the mirror and asked my reflection, ‘Did we really do that? Was that really me?’

And on the last night of the Trials, as they announced the team, gave us our first item of Olympic clothing and walked us, one by one, along the pool deck, past an honour roll of swimming greats lined up to welcome us to the club for the best in the world, I shook his hand.

He said, “Congratulations, Nadine.”

He patted me on the shoulder.

And I smiled, speechless.

John Konrads welcomed me to the Olympic Family, no longer in black and white.

In technicolour.

(Wobbles – An Olympic Story by Nadine Neumann)

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C25k – it’s a wrap!

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Week 1 – Wow! I can do it…

Week 2 – I am doing it!

Week 3 – I actually want to do it!

Week 4 – It’s a challenge, but I’ll do it.

Week 5 – Can I really do it?

Week 6 – It’s hard but I’m going to keep doing it.

Week 7 – Oh alright, I’ll do it.

Week 8 – I’m so close now it would be silly not to do it.

Week 9 – I can’t believe I’ve done it!

And now I’m going to keep doing it because I can and because I want to and because I actually enjoy doing it! Freaky, hey?

There is hair back there…

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I’d like to preface this post with an Over-Share Warning. If you are not game to get more than you bargained for, to find yourself privy to waaaaay too much information, look here instead. Or here. Or here.

You see, I have a hair problem. I’m not especially hairy, but there’s this one area that really causes me grief… oh think outside the square for a minute, will you? We all have hair there, and unlike many, that hair doesn’t give me grief – I have no pre-pubescent aspirations, thank you very much. Oh, except for the divine, clear, taught skin, and the freedom to believe in fairies and dragons and little gnomes that will tidy my house while I’m asleep… but I digress. My problem zone is the back of my thighs.

If you look at my legs from the front, I look like a girl that probably needs to get a razor to the bottom half, but the top half is really quite passable (except for the bruises from being a human jungle gym, that is). But turn me around and WOA MUMMA! What the Hell is that about?!

Tarantula Legs. Ape-WO-man. Fuzzy McWuzzy.

The bizarre thing is, it’s just that strip down the backs of my legs. Bikini – fine. Knees – bare. Arms – no worries. Brows – maintainable. Pits – the same. Moustache – only in the right light or when standing side-by-side with my heavily bearded father (he brings out the mo’ in me, I don’t know why). But the black wires adorning the backs of my thighs are downright disturbing.

“Wax, girl. It’s called wax…” I hear you cry, and that’s all very well, but when it comes to grooming and paying someone to do the grooming, I struggle a bit. I mean, isn’t it a tad unreasonable to have to pay for a full/half-leg wax when it’s really only just under a quarter that needs help? Sure, it may take a barrel of the hot stuff to get that rug off, but beauticians go by area, not volume, right?

And I can’t very well go calling those hall-runners a “bikini line”, well, not unless I was a man and hung like a dinosaur… So how do I explain what needs to be done when invariably I find myself talking to a smoothed and lacquered teenager who never had more than an eyelash out of place? And in any case, do beauticians even give quotes for a prospective job? I mean, I’m not going to wait until I’m stripped and on the table to ask for a discount, am I?

I have tried the DIY option, but it’s the most challenging part to get to (unless you’re going for the crack-wax and I am not about to go there – see point above). Don’t worry, I have tried and I ended up with welts and bruising that made me look like I was into some seriously kinky stuff and didn’t that raise the eyebrows of my fellow swimmers!

I have hidden behind board shorts when at the beach, but with my Triplodalong career about to begin, I need to do some lappage and that lappage doesn’t go so nicely when weighed down by thigh rugs. I need to get into a swimming costume without the locals calling the RSPCA to come rescue the baboon lolling in lane three.

So, a little help? A few ideas? Maybe even some hairy scary stories for encouragement? Otherwise I fear my triplodalong career may be over for a third time. Or worse, I will have to hide my hail-damaged, sun-deprived thighs forever more… and what a shame that would be!

The Big Question

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Ok, so maybe it’s not The Big Question, but it’s A Big Question:

What does it mean to be Australian? What is great about being Australian? What is Australia Day all about?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Three Big Questions. Whatever.

The point is, I’m the Australia Day Ambassador for the lovely town I live in, which means that… I don’t really know what.

I will be giving a 10-15 minute keynote address to whoever happens to be  at the showground for the official Australia Day activities, but other than that, I can’t really say. It’s a good gig, a warm fuzzy one, but I’m not sure that I’m exactly qualified to speak on behalf of… I don’t really know who.

I mean, maybe I swam a bit, maybe even represented Australia on the international stage, but for me (and I dare say for many) it was more about competing at the highest level than about “representing” a country. I didn’t really care where my competitors came from, just how freaking fast they could swim and I’m pretty sure that the feeling was mutual. Sure there’s rivalry – who doesn’t want to beat the Yanks at everything? But that has nothing to do with nationalism, patriotism, oi-oi-oi; it’s because the Yanks are good at stuff and we want to be better! Simple competition.

I’m facing a challenge here, folks. I’m supposed to get up and talk to a crowd of people gathered to celebrate Australian-ness but I don’t really know what to say and this is an unusual dilemma for Miss Verbosity. In fact, truth be known, I’m a little overwhelmed that I’ve been asked to share what I think at all.  I mean, what makes my opinion more valid, interesting, worthy of being heard than anybody else’s? Australia Day organizers have been asking all kinds of “significant” people what being Australian means to them and their snappy, enchanting, titillating wisdoms are forming the basis of this year’s celebrations. But me?

This past week has certainly given me plenty to think about – sadness everywhere, so many people facing heartbreaking loss, tragedy, calamity. And despite the constant nagging ache that sits in my gut, the thoughts continually flying to Lori, to Queensland, to WA, now to Victoria and floods in Brazil, it has made me proud. Proud to be human. The opening of hearts, the generosity and compassion that have flowed from Austrailians everywhere are the best parts of humanity. But such love is not exclusive to one nation. There is no patent on “Willingness to Help”. Supporting others is not an “Australian” trait…

And herein lies my problem. Every quality that I love about Australian-ness brings me back to the fact that we are a nation of… drum roll, please… Humans! So what am I supposed to say on Australia Day? “Hey everyone, we’re humans, boom-boom!”? Hardly.

So, instead of having a crack at my own clever summation of the nation, I’ve decided to put it to you. Why get up and give my unwise, unremarkable, un-earth-shattering opinion (that is nothing more than a shadowy, hard to articulate concept anyway) when I can voice the ideas of the hundreds of “little people” like me whose thoughts about our community are just as significant as everybody else’s?

So go on. Have a crack at The Three Big Questions. Let me know what you think.

I’ll use your ideas as the basis for my speech. I’ll give credits where credits are due. I’ll let everybody know that The Blogosphere has spoken from suburbia everywhere, and when the fat lady has sung, I’ll post my Australia Day Address up here so you know that your voice has been heard.

So come on… where the bloody hell are ya?

And after you’ve commented, head over to the Flog Yo Blog Friday list at Wanderlust, hosing for RRSAHM Lori.

A Voice from the Dark Side

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So when you’re tired and it all goes to shit you grab a Mint Slice.

And since you swallowed it whole, you missed out on tasting it, so you’d better have another.

And since you’ve already had two, you may as well have your quota of “only three at a time”.

But now you feel like a fool for eating your after dinner weekend treat, so you’d better punish yourself with one of those Furry Friends you bought for The Little Lion… I mean, he’s been naughty today anyway, right? He doesn’t deserve it, you do…

And since you’re only choosing one Furry Friend, it may as well be the Numbat, because that’s what you are, a Numbat, for eating chocolate so out of line like this. A Numbat and don’t you forget it.

But there are two Numbats in the pack… well, since they’re so small and thin and measly as far a chocolates go, you’d better eat both.

And now that you’ve gone this far, you may as well knock off the last icecream from the freezer.

So now you feel like something salty to wash the taste of sin from your mouth, don’t you? Ah well, there’s half a pack of chips left from Mr D’s Friday beer accompaniment, best take care of that… we don’t want any temptations left in the house now, do we?

And finally, as you hide the evidence before Mr D gets home, you cry because you realise that I am still your comfort. You’ll have to do better than a divorce letter to get rid of me… sucker!

Lori

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I have no words of my own, Lori. Silence seems the only response to the news today. You are in my heart, in this silence, and I hold you.

“Just lay it all down.
Put your face into my neck and let it fall out.
I know, I know ,I know. I knew before you got home.
This world you’re in now,
it doesn’t have to be alone,
I’ll get there somehow, ‘cos
I know I know I know
when, even springtime feels cold. 

But I will learn to breathe this ugliness you see
so we can both be there and we can both share the dark.
And in our honesty, together we will rise,
out of our nightminds, and into the light
at the end of the fight…”

~ Missy Higgins

 

Travel well, Tony.

The angels be with you all.

Compassion

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There is a message that I need to send to a relative stranger. Her husband lies in Intensive Care while she holds her two small children and prays. I don’t know why he is there and I don’t know who is there supporting her. But I know that I ache for her pain.

So I need to send a message, but I don’t quite have the words…

Is it a message of hope, or will that hurt too much?

Is it a message of support, or will that ring hollow from a faceless name a thousand miles away?

Is it a message of solidarity in the face of battle, or will that hold no meaning from one who cannot fully know the pain?

Perhaps it is a message of love. A message of a foreign heart breaking for the suffering of another. Perhaps a message sent from the purest part of my humanitiy to what is common between us. 

And the message goes something like this:

When you are in your darkest hour, when you are at your lowest ebb, when the walls close in around you, when there is no way out and the blackness swallows you whole, it is then that a trapdoor will open beneath you and you will fall into the light.

Hold on, Lori. The trapdoor will come.

 

Thank you, Wanderlust, for getting the word out in this special edition of FYBF