Saturday, September 6, 2014

Who's Not Afraid of Falling?

Not long ago Venus Williams was quoted as saying that in continuing to play through illness, "I don't want to fall on my face or do something stupid. Once I'm done I can look back and say I didn't make a fool of myself." 

Being a self certified Falling Instructor, I can tell her that she's doing just fine. Not only is she facing her most formidable foe, Sjogren's Syndrome, with grace and dignity, she's showing the world how to manage adversity.

There's something so vulnerable about falling that we forget how often we avoid it. Or somewhere in the recesses of our subconscious we totally forget that we all must learn to fall before we can take flight. 

As her Falling Instructor I would most certainly gush with pride. 

Last week Hubby and I were catching a quick bite to eat and the restaurant had the US Open playing on their television. Venus Williams was playing Italy's Sara Errani. 
"Do you find yourself not cheering for Venus Williams because you don't want people to think that Sjogren's isn't that big of a deal? Like, if Venus Williams wins a match, then some people will think Sjogren's Syndrome can't really be that bad" he asked.  

I nodded yes because I understood the point he was trying to make but then quickly added that I wished for her success. That horrible disease is impacting the phenom in ways she can't yet disclose due to her career. 

During one of her press conferences after a big win she was honest about the difficulty she has living and playing through the symptoms of Sjogren's Syndrome. When asked what specifically she's changed to manage her symptoms she confided that she's made some changes to her training and also she's using new drugs, pharmaceutical drugs she smiled. She concluded by saying that she will give the specifics of her treatment when she's done with the game of tennis. 

How hard it has to be to have so much riding on your body's ability to perform. The pressure must be so intense to know that so many people are depending on you financially. There are endorsers that pretty much own you, trainers, the league, family. 

I was sad to learn that she had lost the match that Saturday. I was sad as if she was on my team. Us Sjoggies stick together and I could pick up on the subtle tell tale signs of stupid Sjogren's. She just seemed off her game but I so wished I was there to say how much a champion she was just qualifying. 

I've read a few articles that popped up on the internet about that day's match. One writer implied that her choice to play doubles with her sister Serena nixed her chance of playing well in singles play. The tone of the article was really salty, as if she had done the whole league a dishonor. 

Perhaps. But perhaps the writer should recognize the fact that while there are limitations to playing with a chronic illness there is also a desperate need to continue doing the things we love. I am just surmising here that Venus Williams loves to play along side her sister Serena. It must give her great joy for which will boost her spirit, thus filling her exhausted tank. 

To be honest if Venus Williams had skipped playing doubles with her sister to "save her strength" for singles play, Sjogren's still could have reared it's ugly head and taxed her body's ability to play well. That's the nature of Sjogren's Syndrome as with many invisible chronic illnesses. 

Venus Williams if a fierce competitor who is commanding respect as she navigates through her journey with grace. She may fall but she will pick her bad ass self up, brush the dust off of her self designed tennis skirt and stand tall. And she's nobody's fool. 


  1. "perhaps the writer should recognize the fact that while there are limitations to playing with a chronic illness there is also a desperate need to continue doing the things we love."

    I love this! This is why I am still pusuing a career in teaching although many days I wonder if I'm crazy. I just can't make my life about this disease. I'm proud of Venus for doing what she loves.

    1. Good for you Nicole for sticking to your plan.

      It is a hard balance to figure out but it's so important to seek out those things that bring joy. I've noticed that while Sjogren's might be depleting my energy tank, doing something I love is filling my soul tank. The soul tank's energy can be just as powerful.

      Good luck pursuing the teaching career!


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