I recently heard about a woman who, as she neared her 60th birthday, decided to take on something challenging. “I know,” she said. “I’ll swim from Cuba to Florida!”
I, too, have a birthday approaching, and I’d been thinking in terms of new challenges, but more along the lines of adjusting a succotash recipe, or organizing my sock drawer. If I told my husband I wanted to swim 103 miles, he would have me committed, or at least suggest I upgrade my bathing suit. But we live by different standards than the woman quoted above. She is Diana Nyad, once the country’s most famous female long-distance swimmer.
Ms. Nyad swam around Manhattan in the 70’s, which made her famous for way more than fifteen minutes. Shortly after that, she made her first attempt at the Cuba-to-Florida swim, She failed (due to bad weather), and gave up swimming for thirty years. This fall, she’s again undertaking that 60-hour swim. She’ll be followed by a boat whose crew will hand her food and water. These are the rules: “You can stop, “ Nyad says, “But you cannot touch the boat.”
I am quite a bit younger than Nyad. (Well, maybe not quite a bit. Let’s just say I’m younger than she is and older than Justin Bieber.) But I am inspired by her example. I went in the pool the other day and swam twice as long as usual. While swimming thirty minutes using a flotation device does not put me in Nyad’s league, I felt that it was a step in the right direction.
More to the point, when my birthday comes next week, I am going to make my goals for the coming year a little loftier. I might even start that new writing project that seems so huge, so daunting. I know that to get through it, I will have to stay focused, pace myself, maybe stop occasionally along the way to summon fresh energy. But I’ll be thinking of Diana Nyad, and, I will try my damnedest not to touch the boat.