August 21, 2012
Finding Inspiration in Deadly Jellyfish, White Bras and Staggering Disappointments
It really bummed me out this morning when I saw that Diana Nyad was pulled out of the water after her fourth and (final?) attempt to be the first person to swim, without a shark cage, from Cuba to Key West, FL. Similar to her other attempts, horrendous weather, jellyfish stings, severe sunburn, asthma and a pulled bicep took her out. 50 miles into a 103-mile record. Foiled yet again.
As I read the news, my throat constricted, I looked at my dogs, Lucy and Ethel, feeling silly to be so emotional.
If you are not familiar with Diana, she is one of the greatest long-distance swimmers in the world and she is turning 63 this year.
It’s not like I was an avid fan, or contributing to her “Xtreme Dream” – but I had read an article about her when I started my own journey to reclaim my health by shedding over 75 pounds and taming my fickle AS (Ankylosing Spondylitis). She was speaking at a banquet in the Waldorf Astoria ballroom when she suddenly stunned the crowd by stripping off her dress, standing on stage in nothing but a swimsuit and high heels in her, at the time, 61-year-old glory. The article then went on to talk about her then third attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida.
Now, this was a woman who could inspire me – she was a bad-ass. She stated on her blog, “I have no idea what age I am.”
In a recent interview reported by CNN about her fourth attempt, she said, “When I walk up on that shore in Florida, I want millions of those AARP sisters and brothers to look at me and say, ‘I’m going to go write that novel I thought it was too late to do. I’m going to go work in Africa on that farm that those people need help at. I’m going to adopt a child. It’s not too late, I can still live my dreams,'” she said.
Dammit to hell!
As I drove to work, I was imagining her hours upon hours of repetition until muscle failure, pushing until the fear of vomiting, driving herself until utter fatigue type training. I imagined her body aches getting up out of bed. I imagined the utter disappointment (and physical pain, by looking at the press footage) she must be going through today.
It was hard for me to imagine going through all that and NOT finishing. At least in my microcosm of being an “athlete” this last year – I knew what it felt like to do push ups with the fat equivalent of a bag of cement weighing down on my body, the elation of clicking off 6.5 miles for the first time, the fear that a certain pain was just soreness, not an injury. To finish my first race and try not to puke and cry from joy at the same moment. But I had the joy of finishing, I had the joy of not being the sweaty fat girl anymore (just the sweaty girl).
And I thought AGAIN about how you can prepare yourself all you want, try to make all the right choices, plan your life, plan your moves, and still be taken out by identified risk-factors. For her the risks: potentially deadly jellyfish, inclement weather, sharks, her own body, etc. For us, in our everyday lives, well, we all know those identified risk-factors and fears that lurk in the back of our minds. The fear that we’ll run out of time – just when we really got up to speed.
In a December 1971 interview in Sports Illustrated Diana said, “Sometimes I feel so desperately afraid that my life will be over before I’ve had the chance to find out my potentials and my limitations, before I’ve had the chance to come to terms with myself, at best somewhat better than I have in the past.”
So, here I’m driving down 4th Street on my way to work, thinking about all this, giving myself a pep-talk, giving Diana a pep talk about it is “all in the journey – this isn’t the end” and I look over and I see two, somewhat straggly, 20-something men walking along on the sidewalk and one dude has a white bra casually draped over his head.
I laugh out loud at this; it distracts me from my weird bumming about Diana Nyad and how it is making me feel about my journey. About failing myself.
It strikes me as so silly and I think of how I wouldn’t be brave enough to walk down the street with underwear on my head.
Seriously, I wouldn’t be BRAVE ENOUGH to wear underwear on my head??? But I’m “brave” enough to push myself where I’ve never gone before in my 40’s??? What’s wrong with me?
Instantly feeling better, I take a breath and thank the universe reminding me not to take everything so damned seriously. For putting things in perspective, once again. For finding unexpected humor. If my journey ended today, well, I certainly it ended with a good laugh.
Thanks Ms. Nyad for your continued inspiration. Thank you white-bra-guy for your excellent timing.