When I started this Inspiration Blog series, I had several heroes in mind that I wanted to write about. Then along came another one, that I just had to include: Diane Nyad.
You most likely saw Diane on the news recently. 64 year-old women successfully swims from Cuba to Key West, Florida on 5th attempt. 53 hours, 110 miles- without a shark cage or stopping to hold on to something to catch her breath.
While most of us heard the news and were in awe of her accomplishment, a backlash of skeptics immediately stole the limelight and challenged her accomplishment. "She wore a wet suit and face mask that allowed her to swim faster" was one foul cry. Really? If there are jelly fish with stingers so deadly they can kill you in that ocean, shouldn't that be a basic safety requirement/ "There is no way she could have swum that fast, " others contested. Graciously, without wavering, Nyad acknowledged to her skeptics that she caught a rare current that helped propel her towards Florida like those walking escalators in the airport. Her claim was backed up by Oceanographers and Meteorologists, touché.
I thought of Ms. Nyad during a recent paddle boarding excursion I took alone on a local lake. I'm a novice at this walk on water sport. It was a 90 degree day in September, no wind, during the week when the lake is quiet except for a few retirees out boating. I paddled easily to the other side of the lake in 25 minutes and jumped in to cool off. Sat on the board and soaked up some sun. As I headed back, however, the dreaded wind picked up and my body became a liability, a sail. As hard as I paddled, I went only a few feet or no where at all.
I won't be dramatic here, I could have given up, drifted to the part of the lake opposite of where my car was, and knocked on one of the beautiful lake front homes and begged for a ride to the other side. I knew i wasn't going to drown or get blown out to nowhere. I was determined, however, to get back to my starting point; wind or no wind. As I paddled harder, my core rock hard, the muscles between my shoulder blades burning, I thought of Nyad. What must she have thought as she swam, stroke after stroke, all that distance? I focused, one stroke at a time, stroke, stroke, stroke. I looked up quickly to see if I made any headway, and yes, by golly, I did! I became more determined and stroked harder, bent my knees, stroke, stroke, KERPLUNK! I must have gotten overzealous, leaned on my toes and went overboard. Shocked, I came up for air, the board was a few feet away, the paddle and my hat drifting in two different directions, Dang! I scurried back on the board, refocused and ignored my muscles that were now quivering from overuse and hand paddled quickly to retrieve the paddle and my hat bobbing in the water that were going in two different directions.
Several feet in the wrong direction, I knew I couldn't waste time resting my muscles or I would be towed even further from my goal. I cut my sail in half by kneeling on my knees and paddled again. Paddle, paddle, paddle until finally I reached a dock on the other side that I clung to and rested. Then I took the path of least resistance along the shoreline until I made it back to my launching spot.
As I savored the feeling of victory alone, I pondered on Ms. Nyad's victory. Sure, there were crowds cheering and media capturing her final moments when she reached Florida successfully. What was it like, though, to have to face all those naysayers too? From what I could see, it didn't seem to faze her. She calmly and immediately took them on and squelched their call for foul play.
While the weather and ocean experts explained the rare current that turned in her favor during her swim, I couldn't help but wonder, was there also a little help from upstairs? Did God know that we really need a good shot of inspiration once in a while? Or maybe God was showing us that if we really, really work hard at something, he won't let us fail.
Would you like to share an inspirational story about someone you admire? In 500 words or less, tell me about that person or persons who have not only managed to climb out of a deep canyon, but went on to hike to a mountaintop. I will select one guest blogger who will win a $25 Visa gift card and their entry will be posted on my weekly blog. The entry deadline is September 30, 2013. Email your blogpost to SusanAllisonDean@aol.com.