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Better Than Doping

Lulu and the bookcase

Lulu and the bookcase

She rented the van, a handtruck and locked in the deal of a century. A local furniture warehouse had a massive blowout and my wife landed a beautiful bookcase for our reading room. The cost: a meager $300. I was happy for her, eager to see the latest addition to our décor and more than willing to move it in for her.

That is until she pulled into our driveway and opened the rear door of the van.

Judging by volume alone, the piece was definitely a steal. Wrapped in cardboard and airbubbles it was about the size of a smallish Boston Whaler. I was incredulous that she had not opted for the $150 delivery charge.

“The guys at the warehouse said ‘I hope you’ve got a lot of neighbors’ when they put it in the van,” she said brightly. She was clearly pleased and excited. I was pissed off.

“What were you thinking about? There’s no way we’re getting this into the house.”

She suggested we call some neighbors. I said we didn’t know anyone well enough to sacrifice their bodies for our interior design.

Again, I asked “What were you thinking?”

And then she said those magic words, “I thought you could do it.”

Ah, belief.

Better than doping, it commands performances that are supernatural. Its power is without limit, fill people with it and watch them succeed.

I tried to pick up a corner of the behemoth. It was at least 300 pounds. This was not going to be easy but Lulu believed we could do it, maybe she wasn’t crazy.

We eased it out of the van, settled it on the front lawn. Keeping it on its back, Lulu put the top on the handtruck I pushed from the bottom. We made it across the lawn. Up our six front steps, one giant heave at a time. I put ski gloves on to keep the ropes from cutting into my hands. My back felt like it was going to snap. Once again, I was reminded that, pound for pound, my wife’s strength makes a mockery of my own. She pushed that thing around like it had taken one of her kids away.

Forty-five minutes later, we’d traveled a distance of maybe thirty meters from van to final resting spot. She put it in the corner and was even more pleased than when she’d shown up. It looked great, a perfect fit. And, she was right, we could do it.

Last week, I finished “The Perfect Mile” by Neal Bascomb. The book is a superb telling of the three man race for the world’s first sub-4 minute mile. Of the winner, Roger Bannister, Bascomb suggests that it was his coach Franz Stampfl who ultimately pushed the Englishman to his achievement. Bannister had trained for several years on his own with solid results. Friends, however, convinced him to join them for their weekly sessions with the Austrian and on a whim, Bannister did. Though Stampfl brought nothing innovative to the training, he still provided the final element in Bannister’s solution to the much pursued problem. That element was, of course, belief. Stampfl believed Bannister could go under 240 seconds and in their time together he made Roger a believer too.

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