Carnes: Habits can be tricky things
I am a creature of habit.
I’m a M-W-F guy at the gym, always around the same morning time, always following the same routine as if my body would collapse if I dared induce any variety.
One day last week, as I entered what I call the “Stretching Room,” I noticed a number of mats on the floor and a few people doing stretches and such to the sounds of Jimmy Buffett, all normal signs of a class being in session.
But the door was open, and instructors are usually pretty anal about making sure no one enters during a class.
A large man with arms the size of my thighs (granted I have chicken legs, but you get the point) turned around I as strolled in, so I asked, “Is this a class?”
“No-no-no,” he replied, “There’s plenty of room, come on in.”
I thanked him and proceeded to grab a mat and walk over to my usual spot near the southwest window.
With eyes closed, I began my habitual routine of floor stretching, going into my own little world of meandering thoughts.
And that’s when I heard the voice.
The very recognizable tone, with what I’ve always thought of as a slight Minnesota-styled accent, could only belong to one specific person at this gym.
Opening my eyes, head turning slowly to the left, and sure enough, it was her, Mikaela Shiffrin, back in the gym in the aftermath of dealing with the tragic death of her wonderful father, Jeff.
My head snapped back forward in an instant, my first thought to quickly stand up and scurry out of the room. I’ve had the pleasure of working out with her around many times, but this was obviously different.
The day before she had released an update to social media, thanking the Vail Valley community for words of support and the media for respecting their family’s privacy during such a devastating and overwhelming time.
I continued to stretch with my mind racing about what to say, if indeed the opportunity arose.
How’s your mom? How’s Taylor? How are you?
Every single one of us lose our parents, eventually, but few to unimaginably tragic accidents.
Rare is the person who can relate, but we all try. We attempt to connect within our own minds, thinking of our own family members while sincerely showing concern for another’s loss.
Fifteen minutes passed, with my self-indulgent thoughts cornering my focus while pretending the greatest ski racer on the planet with a severe habit of winning was not 10 feet away, attempting, in one form or another, to return her hectic life to some semblance of normalcy.
But today is a new normal for Ms. Shiffrin.
Like everything this young lady has ever done, she’s handled the tragedy with the humbling grace and style not necessarily expected of her as a top athlete and celebrity, yet she always does.
The ski industry and all involved want to know when she’ll return to the race circuit. Will she be the same racer? Will her habit of winning slow down?
While certainly important on some level, none of that really matters, for if she never races again, chooses to retire and help her mom and brother heal along with herself, this community will have her back.
Some habits are really hard to break, especially good ones, but whatever Mikaela Shiffrin does from this point forward, Happy Valley will be there for her.
Even when she has to share the gym floor with a 60-year-old routine dork.
Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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