Biff America: It feels so good when you stop
“No matter how much it hurts, this is not going to kill me.”
Those words were spoken by a 17-year-old girl named Cara who was, at that time, one of the best cross country ski racers in the country.
I was hosting a show out of Devil’s Thumb Nordic Center outside of Frasier, Colorado, at least 10 to 12 years ago.
Cara was a senior in high school ” I think she was from Alaska ” who just medaled in the Junior Olympics. I had spoken to her coach right before the interview. He told me that there were other racers with as good of a technique as Cara and some with as powerful a human engine, but he had never coached an athlete ” male or female ” who had the ability to suffer as did that 17-year-old girl with green eyes and a pixie face.
I remember the young girl seemed awkward being interviewed. But when I asked her about what her coach told me, her ability to suffer, her face took on an entranced appearance and she said, “Sometimes when I’m racing everything hurts so bad ” my legs, arms, back. My lungs are burning, I’m seeing spots and I just want to slow down.
When that happens I remind myself, ‘Cara, I know it hurts, but you are not going to die doing this, this will not kill you.’ Then I tell myself to push it a little harder, to go a little faster, and make it hurt just a little more. When it gets so painful I could cry, I remind myself that when the race is over, I can stop and it will feel so good. I tell myself the more it hurts now, the better it will feel when I stop.”
I’ve tried out Cara’s mind-over-misery exercise myself a few times in cross country ski and bicycle races; it does not seem to work for me. Perhaps that is a good thing because, at my age, ignoring pain could in fact kill me.
Be that as it may be, I have been thinking of Cara’s philosophy in terms of the recent financial crisis.
No matter how bad the economy gets, it is not going to kill us.
The commentators talk as if it’s the end of the world. Actually, it is only the end of an unrealistic, over-speculative and self-indulgent cycle. For most of us, it will only hurt us to the extent that we derive our happiness from tangible objects.
I don’t mean to downplay the fiscal harm that some people, through no fault of their own, are going to experience. Yes, some might suffer profound financial losses, some might lose their business or even their homes. But most others will get though it financially intact ” albeit damaged ” and no one will die as a result. It should be mentioned that this is not the case in some other countries.
Though this country is a long way from a nationalized health care system and comprehensive preventive medicine for all, there are social services in place that will provide the basics for anyone in dire circumstances.
As far as this economic debacle goes, I’m still not totally clear about how it happened and why it happened when it happened. I also don’t understand why it didn’t happen sooner.
But really, what did we expect? We live in a nation where success and even happiness is defined by wealth. Where having more than you would ever possibly need is a badge of honor.
There are homes in my town that have 12 bathrooms. Who needs to go that often?
There are CEO’s making $100 million a year. If I made a $100 million a year I would work one year and quit.
There were loans available as recently as last year in which you didn’t have to prove your income or that you even had a job.
A buddy of mine paid $4,000 for a dog. For that price, the dog should pick up its own poop. it doesn’t.
We have fought two wars on two separate fronts and at the same time demanded tax cuts and rejected any suggestions of conservation or self sacrifice. Rather than nation-wide rationing and recycling programs like were in place during WWI and WWII, we supported our troops with bumper stickers.
Our auto makers have built a less reliable and efficient product and relied partly on cries of “Buy American!” to maintain market share.
We created an economy dependent on illegal cheap labor and then became indignant when that labor force wanted to become permanent residents.
In a nutshell, we have wanted to have our cake and eat it too.
Yes, hard times are ahead. Will it last six months or six years? No one can know. Yes, it will be painful, for some more than others. But the good news is this won’t kill us and it will also feel so good when it stops.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.