January 20th, 2013

011513-Oprah-Armstrong-Interview-600I will confess to having an unhealthy fascination for the Lance Armstrong saga. I watched his interview on Oprah last week.

I am not a fan. I do not follow cycling. I have no stake in his guilt or innocence, punishment or redemption. But I have a stake in the human story and what we can learn about ourselves by opening our eyes to one another. I don’t share the views of those who say, “Cheating doesn’t matter” or “Everyone does it” or “He is a demon” or “He was persecuted” or “He should rot in hell.” I have an interest in pain and suffering. That’s all his story is about. His story is about how we suffer and cause others to suffer. Pain should interest us all.

What I saw on TV last week was not what some saw. I did not see dispassion or denial, not the face of evil or greed. I saw a man stupefied by his own deep terror, his unmet fear. A man who has broken his own heart. And by seeing it, my heart breaks too. Our hearts are lanced—how can they not be?—when we finally face the savagery of our self-deceptions.

He talked about all of the events, all of the doping and dodging, as part of his life strategy to “control the outcome.” And not just in competition. Not just after cancer. He is a small man, actually, and you can see in his slightness the shadow of a small boy. A boy without a father, without a family, without the birthright or build that gives men swagger in Texas. Even then he was mortally afraid. And so he fought, he stole, and he bullied. Audacity can take you far, it just can’t take you to the finish before the cracks open up and the road crumbles beneath you.

His delusion is our own delusion. We all live as if we can control the outcome.

Some were unsatisfied with his stiffness, terseness, and the apparent stinginess of empathy and emotion. But I saw a feeling so big it swallowed him whole. I saw it in the way he turned his head or covered his mouth. In his choking, wordless paralysis. He cannot run. He cannot ride. He cannot even move.

A friend who knows all about the side effects of cancer observed that Armstrong rarely called cancer by name but rather as “the disease.” It’s not really his cancer that goes nameless, because that is not the disease that has killed Lance Armstrong. The disease that felled him—that destroys us in the prime of our lives no matter what the prognosis—is fear.

I am sorry for Lance Armstrong and collaterally, for everyone hurt, down, sad and overcome, like me, by the poison pierce of rampant fear. Let each of us, in our own way, face our fear before we cause more harm. Before our time is up. Then maybe we can live strong.

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  1. Like.

    Comment by Jon — January 20, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

  2. Beautiful said. Thank you.

    Comment by Heather Plett — January 20, 2013 @ 1:21 pm

  3. Very perceptive and insightful, Maezen.

    Comment by Angela DiGiovanni | life * poetry * art — January 20, 2013 @ 1:31 pm

  4. This is so beautiful & incisive. Thank you.

    Comment by Anna — January 20, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

  5. When I’ve told others this week that I had so much compassion for Lance Armstrong, no one that I talked to understood my feelings. I see myself and everyone else in his actions and I also saw his immense fear. There is no easy fix for facing fear. No one will ever know what it’s like to be in Lance Armstrong’s skin. I still have compassion for me, regardless of what’s next.

    Comment by Kim — January 20, 2013 @ 1:53 pm

  6. My struggle with this saga, really my only attachment to it, is that Lance was a hero to my son, and finding out that was all an illusion is a powerful lesson.

    Comment by MJ — January 20, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

  7. This is just what I needed to hear. I was struggling with how I felt and now I understand. Yes, let’s all face our fears now before we are swallowed by them.

    Comment by Flo — January 20, 2013 @ 3:40 pm

  8. Karen; You expressed so beautifully what I felt….

    Comment by marilee pittman — January 20, 2013 @ 3:58 pm

  9. Thanks for your beautiful expression of deep compassion . . . His failings are the failings of all of us, and we can all learn from his angst . . .

    Comment by Sharle Kinnear — January 20, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

  10. Love this. Great sadness for Lance and for all of us, and for all the painful learning to come. Thank goodness for those small moments of goodness that come anyway. Love to you.


    Comment by Tara — January 20, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

  11. Oh this is wonderful. Thank you for illuminating the fear that we recognize in ourselves when we see Lance. He is only a mirror. Wishing him success and love.

    Comment by pamela — January 20, 2013 @ 6:20 pm

  12. I agree completely. I came to the same conclusions several years ago when I read his book, It’s Not About the Book. I read it as I was going through my cancer treatments. Without the doping, I watched him fail through the years at the real things he wanted to be successful at, the things that meant the most to him, his relationships and being a father.

    Not having a father had so much impact on this man.

    I couldn’t imagine riding a bike between treatments, I took his abilities afterward as more of that determination. And to tell the truth, if I had known of something that would give me more strength to return to my life after my treatments, I might have used it too.

    Comment by Lyndie Blevins — January 20, 2013 @ 7:04 pm

  13. Maezen, your Buddha nature is showing. And it looks heart-wrenchingly beautiful.

    Even your prose is poetic. Much love to you.

    Comment by Kathryn — January 20, 2013 @ 7:39 pm

  14. I saw it too…but you gave me the words. Thank you as always…

    Comment by Kirsten — January 20, 2013 @ 7:48 pm

  15. Amen…

    Comment by celeste — January 20, 2013 @ 7:56 pm

  16. Hmmmmm………watched it twice….really can’t say I saw the same…thanks for sharing though…

    Comment by Grace — January 20, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

  17. Karen, thank you so much for articulating this. I saw it, too. All of it. The fear, the shame, the prison he put up, and is now residing in.

    Thank you for putting it into words. I’m sure there are very few people in this world who can see,the way you did, the shadow of that small boy, as you so beautifully put. But it’s there, as are all of our Shadows.

    You are so beautifully wise, and you help remind us that we all are, too.

    Comment by Sara — January 20, 2013 @ 8:30 pm

  18. I have not followed Lance’s career, except at a distance when the headlines roared his name. I did not watch the interview. And yet I see the truth in your words – I feel them deeply. For without fear, without his pain, there would be no reason for any of the lies he told.

    Beautifully seen, and articulated, as always.

    Comment by Alana — January 20, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

  19. Thank you for putting into words what i felt so profoundly.I pray he will recover his soul and leave many people examining their own.

    Comment by sue lyallwatson — January 20, 2013 @ 11:48 pm

  20. […] to lance armstrong and bicycle racing, but people were talking about it a lot this weekend and then i read this reflection, by karen maezen miller that has some good food for thought “We all live as if we can control the […]

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  21. Feel the same – thank you!

    Comment by Micha — January 21, 2013 @ 2:34 am

  22. You wrote all this beautifully, and I agree to a point – the point where he was caught and knew he could no longer “control the outcome” and chose to lie about it. He went from a man who did something wrong, evidently for many reasons, who thought all the things he did would help. But when he was caught, he was caught, it wasn’t going to change, THEN he should have given up the lies and thrown himself on others’ mercy. Humans are more able to forgive someone who did something “bad”, for reasons, thinking it would get right, but when he added lying about it, it became more of a problem. On the other hand, if our society didn’t make heroes out of people who aren’t, then none of this would have happened, or mattered if it did. He rides a bike for Heaven’s sake, what’s so hero-like about that??

    Comment by JustB — January 21, 2013 @ 3:04 am

  23. As an alcoholic, I see myself in everything you write. It is amazing that in the midle of the fur ball – we don’t see the damage we are doing to ourselves and others.

    Comment by Mark — January 21, 2013 @ 4:19 am

  24. Thanks. A nice alternative vision of the saga. I have found myself judging. This is my habit – judging myself, my partner and every thing around me. I think my judging mind is another thing to sit with as best I can. Sitting with our fear and anxiety requires a lot of bravery. Thanks for your inspiring words to encourage me to continue doing that.

    Comment by Paul Brennan — January 21, 2013 @ 4:38 am

  25. Hi Karen, read this yesterday:
    I like your view on this interview as well. Interesting how many ways you can view one thing. Imagine having to lie to everybody (even your family) on a daily basis. No wonder he is in therapy.
    Lately I am thinking about ambition and striving. When you reflect on it it can be everywhere. So I am working on “It’s OK” and letting that be, just doing my best in what I do and giving things the time they need. Trying to be better (than something outside oneself)/ the best is really an automatism like flexing a muscle almost, that sets you apart and creates a lot of loneliness.
    Have a wonderful day!

    Comment by Simone — January 21, 2013 @ 5:15 am

  26. Wow, Karen. So thoughtful, so revealing, so full of forgiveness and truth. What a gift that your eyes can see with such utter clarity. I will be sure to share this with many who will benefit from looking with news eyes, not just at this story, but their own.

    Comment by Kasey Mathews — January 21, 2013 @ 5:18 am

  27. P.S. Sorry, link doesn’t work. This one does:

    Comment by Simone — January 21, 2013 @ 5:19 am

  28. thank you, karen, for your wholehearted reflections. I too felt his fear paralysis and my own. after watching the interviews last night, this morning I woke up in a fear spiral. hoping to move it a bit with yoga and sit with it in meditation. breathing…

    Comment by melissa — January 21, 2013 @ 6:14 am

  29. today. thank you.

    Comment by kelly barton — January 21, 2013 @ 7:46 am

  30. Until you can see yourself in another, you haven’t really seen.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 21, 2013 @ 7:48 am

  31. Lance didn’t just cheat, he sued people who told the truth! He didn’t just hide behind a rock and inject drugs. Instead he actively PURSUED innocent people and harmed them.

    Comment by bubba — January 21, 2013 @ 9:49 am

  32. This essay is exactly how I felt and feel but could not put it into words. I know that every human being makes mistakes, some bigger than others. His fear of failure and not being good enough has now been completely exposed. Thank you for saying what others can’t.

    Comment by Vanessa — January 21, 2013 @ 2:25 pm

  33. We all hide our fears. Some of us just go to greater lengths to do so. Wonderful post – thank you.

    Comment by Allison Murray — January 21, 2013 @ 5:10 pm

  34. Ditto, Insightful, beautifully put, gently forced me to feel more about this than I had, compassionate. Thank you…

    Comment by Stuart Watson — January 21, 2013 @ 10:07 pm

  35. The truth about us beautifully said.

    Comment by Donise Davidson — January 22, 2013 @ 5:23 am

  36. I love your compassion.

    Comment by Trish — January 22, 2013 @ 7:30 am

  37. Thank you, Karen, for once again putting into words what was in my brain. I have had a strong obsession with Lance Armstrong since his early days of winning the Tour and reading his book. I have yet to watch the Oprah special as I was off having a baby. We do think we can control everything in our world, I just did it this past weekend, leaving my daughter to go a have another. I did it out of fear and I did it because I thought if I could control the little things, I could control everything. Who knows if my multitude of lists were even read!! Again, thank you!

    Comment by Diamond Cambareri — January 22, 2013 @ 1:18 pm

  38. Dang! Exactly! “Our hearts are lanced—how can they not be?—when we finally face the savagery of our self-deceptions.”

    Comment by Michael — January 22, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

  39. Wow what an amazing post. Your insight is unique and refreshing. The doping saga is always polarized into good and bad but you give it the humanness it deserves. Found you through Edenland and will be following your blog for certain. Zanni

    Comment by Zanni, Heart Mama — January 23, 2013 @ 12:27 am

  40. […] “I have a stake in the human story.” […]

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  41. […] so great after all. I don’t just mean that they make mistakes, but that their hearts are hollow. They cheat, lie and hurt people. They are selfish, ignorant, undisciplined and up to no good. Real heroes are something else […]

    Pingback by There’s Nothing More To Say | Senior Samurai — March 4, 2013 @ 7:09 am

  42. […] so great after all. I don’t just mean that they make mistakes, but that their hearts are hollow. They cheat, lie and hurt people. They are selfish, ignorant, undisciplined and up to no good. Real heroes are something else […]

    Pingback by Mindfulness as Heroism — March 12, 2013 @ 10:53 am

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