Have you ever been disillusioned? Rhetorical question? Of course. We all have been disillusioned. There is a taste of it for me every day that I bike, swim, or run in an attempt to turn a 54 year old body into that of a triathlete. Should have thought of that on the third trip to the soft-serve ice cream machine at Jason's Deli. I go to the website for the race and look at last year's results. Look at the times for people in my age group! I know I can beat those times! And I envision it happening--me emerging from the water like James Bond with washboard abs, jumping on my aluminum steed to dash off, returning to dismount like Roy Rogers to continue in a full run to the finish line. Sure I can do that! Then I go out for a ride. Man, it's hot. And how can all the roads be uphill? Why won't this thing shift gears correctly? The runs are similar except my mind knows that my body once ran 10K's in sub-seven minute miles so something seems wrong now. But the biking and running are shining success stories compared to the swim training. Mostly I avoid the swimming because 1) I know I am not good at it and 2) I am afraid. There it is. I am afraid of the water. Yes, I have kayaked rivers and rafted mighty rivers. Yes, I have survived a few triathlons. Yes, I love to swim--if by that you mean splashing around in a pool with family and friends. But when I dive into my friend's pond to train for the race, I will have the same feelings I have at the lake during the race. Not so much a vision of James Bond finishing strong as of an old guy's body floating face down. I am not likely to drown because I am not likely to push myself anywhere near my physical potential in the water. I am, however, very likely to embarrass myself.
Here is why I bring it up; while reading Oswald Chambers' book "My Utmost for His Highest" this morning I found this thought "The refusal to be disillusioned is the cause of much of the suffering in human life." What? That seems backwards--so unamerican. On the surface, being disillusioned seems to be a bad thing. If you take the word literally, however, it means not believing an illusion (or delusion). Some of you read the first paragraph and immediately began thinking of things you could say to encourage a would-be athlete. And that is good as long as the TRUTH is told. We so often withhold the truth from people so they will feel better. In so doing, we perpetuate the illusion. They are not disillusioned...yet.
The reality is that it is fine if my muscles hurt, the equipment is less than perfect, even if I have fears. Reality is not James Bond or Roy Rogers or six-pack abs without sacrifice. Those are illusions. The sad thing is that so many have fairy tale illusions about sports, marriage, finances, and life and when reality differs, they just give up. I found a Flair button on Facebook that reads "You don't have to win, you just have to TRI!" At the top of the button is a swimmer, cyclist, and runner. I love that message. It is not an illusion. Some call those who just survive a triathlon rather than compete "Triathloids". That was me last year. This year I have made some effort, though not enough, to get better, stronger, faster. In my mind that makes me a triathlete. If facing the truth about my athletic possibilities enables me to overcome the illusions and succeed, maybe it is possible in other areas of life as well. What do you think?