The headlines and news snippets said that Diana Nyad “quit” her most recent attempt to swim from Florida to Cuba. Technically, that is correct, but it belies the underlying fact: Nyad called off her attempt after her medical team warned that one more sting from a Portuguese Man-of-War could have a long-term negative affect on her body.
Did you catch that? One more sting from a Man-of-War? Oh and by the way one of those stings? Was in her face. She got out of the water for medical treatment. Independent international swim observers said she could continue her swim as a stage swim rather than a continuous swim. And you know what Diana did? She got back in the water. In the end, she swam for 40 hours, took 130,098 strokes and covered 92.2 statute miles or 82.0 nautical miles.
And she swam after being stung by a Man-of-War. Twice. Once in the face.
Dude, I whine about getting in the lake if I see a dead fish. And while the dead fish has a certain gross factor it is nothing compared to man-of-war injecting poison into a human body. Seriously, how much do you have to want it to keep swimming after that?
But Diana Nyad impressed me when she started the swim. You may recall in August Nyad attempted to swim from Cuba to Florida at the age of 62 — more than 30 years after her first attempt at the swim. She was haunted by the aborted attempt of her youth and decided to give her dream another shot. Asthma and bad weather conditions got the best of her August attempt. A nobel effort, right?
Only Nyad didn’t wait another 30 years to try again. She waited a month. With good weather conditions and her fitness, both mental and physical, in tact she dove back in the water for another attempt. Seriously? After two “failures” she got back in the water. After painful and potentially life-threatening Man-of-War stings, she got back in the water. That is resiliency.
Her dream is hers and hers alone, and there is something magical, something inspiring about a woman damning conventional wisdom and following her own inner guide, no matter how crazy it may seem to the rest of the world. Because it’s not the rest of the world that has to live her life. Only Diana Nyad gets to live that life. And only I get to live mine. True wisdom, and perhaps true freedom, comes when I realize that I have much more control over my own life than I believe I do. I make choices every day and while some may point out that those choices are confined by institutional structures (my graduate school training coming through) I say phooey. There is always a choice to be made, and the more I learn to match my choices with what I truly value, the more opportunities begin to open for me.
After the swim, Diana was quoted on her blog saying:
[F]or each of us, isn’t life about determining your own finish line? This journey has always been about reaching your own other shore no matter what it is, and that dream continues.
I still will be grossed out by swimming with dead fish. But I’ve got my own finish line sight, my own shore, to reach. And I get to choose what it is.