One of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld aired in December 1997, when Frank Costanza introduced his son George and friends to the celebration of Festivus (“For the Rest of Us!”) According to the always abrasive, yet charming, Mr. Costanza, Festivus is an alternative to Christmas and is celebrated on December 23 through the “Airing of Grievances” (while around the family dinner table — how charming!) and “Feats of Strength” (which include wrestling the head of the family and pinning him or her to the floor).
No, I don’t celebrate Festivus. Outside of TV land, I would be quite surprised if very many people do, but for some reason, the image of celebrating through “Feats of Strength” has stuck with me lo, these 13 years. (As for the “Airing of Grievances,” my family has that down pat and we do not need to set aside a special day each year. Every day seems to be a good day for the airing of complaints.)
This year, however, something funny happened when “Feats of Strength” coincided with an actual holiday. You see, on Thanksgiving morning, all was quiet, all was calm and my husband was making a list. Soon, he presented me with a piece of paper and a pen and asked me to write down some goals. He had been writing his goals and proposed that after I had written down some goals, we would share them and see where they dovetail. Aside from keeping the goals secret initially, there were no constraints — no time limits, no categories for achievement. Just goals.
I was game so I wrote down my goals. They covered travel (I would like to visit Alaska), writing (I would like to make some money), self-improvement (I hope to someday develop patience) and temporal (I would like to make it through this day with smiles all around). My husband’s goal were all about “Feats of Strength.” As we compared goals, I suddenly felt soft, flabby and all together inadequate. Why did I have no “Feats of Strength” on my list? Have I become so lazy that the idea of riding my bicycle up and down several of Colorado’s mountain passes in one day with thousands of other people no longer appeals? Am I so unambitious that I don’t even know my “personal best” time in anything, thus having no time upon which to improve? Or am I just so boring, so one-dimensional, that the only “Feat of Strength” I care about is being able to ski six or seven days in a row without needing a case of Advil?
The correct answer was apparently “All of the Above.”
I chose not to think too much about my lack of physical ambition. I mean, it was Thanksgiving Day! Instead, I hiked 5 miles and then ate a delicious, enormous Thanksgiving feast. But the next week, I received an email from the organizers of a 5k Jingle Bell run. I was intrigued. Then, my good friend called and suggested our families run together. My boys were game. I was game. My husband was not. It turns out he had a more important and challenging “Feat of Strength” planned for the same day – a cyclocross race. Three of us signed up to run, he signed up to race and suddenly our Saturday was full of athletic competition.
The upshot was that my boys and I had a great time running in the 5k. I like to run, so I figured that I would finish first and could take photos at the finish of my kids crossing the line. Wrong. My oldest son, quite frankly, kicked my butt. The race started and I never saw him again, except in the distance. He was looking cool and relaxed when I crossed the finish line and went looking for a trash can in which to vomit (I didn’t. I walked it off). Our younger son ran with his buddy and finished a couple of minutes later with a big smile on his face.
As for my husband, he competed in his second-ever cyclocross and placed third in the B Class. He is already thinking about when he should move up to the A Class — and this is someone who works too hard and trains too little. It isn’t fair, and were I ever to “Air Grievances” at a Festivus Celebration, my complaints would be directed toward his abililty to get off the couch, stretch, and podium in a crazy, demanding sport.
As for me…well…I shouldn’t brag, but I podiumed too…and while he got a 3rd, I got a 2nd. I may have to set some new goals, myself.
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