I hope you will forgive me for not writing about food and nutrition or GMOs and pollution-tainted seafood today. Something happened this week that seems much more important.
This past Monday, while many of us were celebrating Labor Day with food and family, a woman named Diana Nyad became the first person to complete the grueling 110-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, Florida.
No one has ever managed to complete this swim before.
Those waters are infested with man-eating sharks, poisonous jellyfish and relentless waves – yet she courageously swam on (and without a protective shark cage!).
The endless ocean chop forced saltwater up her nose and down her throat, causing her to vomit constantly. Fatigue wracked her body. And sleeplessness pummeled her brain. No doubt, her mind tried to talk her into giving up 1000 times or more.
Yet, on she kicked and churned for 53 hours non-stop.
Many had tried the swim before – including Diana – yet all had failed. (Her first attempt was in 1978, when she was 28. Since then, she had tried to on three other occasions — all without reaching her goal.)
But instead of retiring to the couch and giving up, Diana was determined to try again.
This time she succeeded when many (if not most) of us would have given up.
Yes, at an age when many of us believe that our greatest accomplishments are behind us – and after four previous “failures” — Diana climbed back into those dangerous Caribbean waters “to try, try again.”
As I reported in this column before she made her previous attempt more than two years ago, Diana explained:
“I was stunned, at age 61, at how fast it all flies by. My Mom had just died. We blink and another decade passes. I don’t want to reach the end of my life and regret not having given everything in me to make my days worthwhile.”
It is so easy to let world events, personal disappointments and our deteriorating bodies get us down. And it can seem so tempting to just give up.
That’s why I keep a picture of Diana Nyad on my desk — right next to this George Eliot quote: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”
Whenever life’s frustrations get to me, I glance over at Diana’s picture and imagine her tenacity and grit out there in those choppy, danger-filled waters. That’s usually all I need to bounce back.
After Diana’s previous failed attempt, I wrote a column to honor her courage and determination. In it, I penned:
It is now our role to be the wise ones … the elders … the shining examples and guides for the younger generations searching for the path that might lead to a fulfilling, meaningful life.
This is our duty to life itself — and our obligation to those upon whose shoulders we have ridden in order to arrive at this point.
The undeniable reality is that the future is largely up to us.
It may seem like a daunting assignment, but it is one we can’t shirk from, nor delay, for time is passing swiftly.
Nonetheless, we can’t let this deter us.
We must dedicate ourselves to true health and vitality, and abolish any weakness of will that keeps us from realizing our individual strength and power.
►If we are prisoners of the couch and TV screen, it is time to liberate ourselves.
►If we are alienated from the natural world, it is time to reconnect and discover its wonder and inspiration.
►If we are addicted to foods and substances that make us sick and sluggish, it’s time to reclaim our freedom.
►If we have grown dependent on medications and doctors, it is time to discover how to be truly healthy without them.
Your health can’t be taken from you without your acquiescence.
You are far more powerful than you realize — and now is the time to realize it.
I urge you to discard those false notions about aging, deterioration, and irrelevance — for they are only self-imposed limitations without root in reality.
Please remember that the eyes of your children and grandchildren are watching you to see what they can expect from aging. Don’t disappoint them by becoming yet another feeble stereotype.
If they see you selling out … giving up … or just getting by, that’s what they will do. Your example to them — and to future generations — is important.
Be inspired by Diana Nyad and by everyday heroes and heroines who never make the newspaper headlines — yet who, just like her, don’t shirk from challenges or difficulties, but rather hurtle themselves towards both and in doing so, wrestle meaning from the struggle.
Now is the time to swim or sink.
Winning isn’t everything. Trying is what really matters most.
When you put your mind to it, you can discover plenty ways to make a difference in our world. Just open your eyes and look around you.
There are neighbors in need who can use your help. Organizations seeking volunteers. People to be fed. Children to be cared for. Animals to be rescued.
Ultimately, the only way you can change the world is by changing yourself.
In this money-obsessed culture, in which every activity and communication now has a price on it, volunteerism is the most revolutionary act you can perform.
What the big shots in Washington and on Wall Street will never realize is: The more you give away, the more you will receive. These are the “economics” of the natural world which the materialists cannot comprehend.
Diana Nyad was determined to succeed. Unlike the vast majority of us, she wasn’t daunted by her earlier failed attempts. Wisely, she learned from them. They weren’t “failures” – they were learning experiences. True failure would have been to never try again
As tortuous as her two-plus days in the water were, I’m guessing that Diana never once considered that she at “retirement age” and should be sitting on a couch somewhere. As she told reporters after her historic achievement:
I find Diana’s recent success a source of inspiration, as much for her accomplishment as her desire to push her limits and just keep trying.
For most of us, our daily struggles are much more mundane, but the lessons we can take from Diana’s unflappable perseverance are just as applicable to whatever goals we set for us.
Whether we are battling a chronic illness, daily pain, weight-gain, addiction or an eating disorder, success is about trying. Every day. Over and over again.
In the words of Samuel Beckett: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
What big (or small) challenge are you dealing with right now?
What gets you most frustrated and tempted to give up?
And what keeps you hanging in there – and inspires you to keep on trying?
We would all love to hear from you and learn from your hard-won experience. Please share your example or advice in the Comments section below.
We all look forward to reading your story!
Till next time…
Keep Getting Better,
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