Defining moments…

“Find a way,” shared Diana Nyad in a recent interview.  Nyad is the 60+ year old distance swimmer who recently completed a historic swim between Cuba and The United States.  The phrase, it seems, served as her mantra for close to 53 hours in the water.    She went on to offer that it allowed her to, “get through this one minute.”   A minute that could have held a cramp or a pain or an emotion.  Her swim was exactly that  – a series of minutes.  Could your transition benefit from such a simple perspective?

Earlier this week I met with a friend and one of her former colleagues.  This colleague was starting a transition and wanted to hear my war stories.   My words, not hers.

My friend joined us for a few minutes over coffee at the meeting’s outset.   What surprised me is how my friend introduced me.  ‘Balance is really important to Linda.’  Really?   I was speechless.

My transition isn’t about balance – a word that I purposely avoid out of total disdain.  My transition is about rethinking my identity amidst a series of changes.   Kids, career, elder care requirements, a desire to contribute to my community.  And me.  Am I different in all of this?

What struck me in that coffee shop moment was how totally clueless my friend was  about what I was up to.  After 2.5 years?

Once I regained my composure I responded as many women would.  I decided it was my fault. I’d failed to give her the proper vocabulary to think about my transition.  ‘Seeking balance’ seems utterly vacant in terms of the enormity of the change I’m going through.   Balance itself would suggest that I have all the right parts on the table.  My task would be simply to order or align them in some way.

I have to be honest I didn’t follow the Nyad story in September when she tried for the 5th time to swim between Cuba and Florida.  I glanced at it or heard it on the radio but I didn’t connect to it.  Blame it on sick kids or unbounded work demands or back to school or whatever.  It didn’t get my attention.


Once I paid attention here’s what I learned.  Nyad was a distance swimmer until she was 28.  Between 30 and 60 she enjoyed a busy life, like author and sports journalist, but didn’t swim.  A series of events around her 60th birthday made her realize that she missed the “high of unwavering commitment.”

In her TED Talk she describes her realization that she wasn’t ‘living with passion.’  Her response?  Jump into the water.   ‘Dream big. Dream Extreme.’

Of her 60th birthday wake-up call she notes, “It’s been the wake up call that I wanted.  I am awake and alert and alive like I wasn’t between 30 and 60.”

Maybe ‘dreaming big‘ is the vocabulary I lack.  Even closer to the point I don’t want a thirty year passion gap in my journey.  What about you?

I too need to feel connected and alive and awake, always.   I view my efforts as similar to Nyad’s.  In the moment I began my transition there was no other path for me but to reach.

In prepping for her historic swim Nyad spent 12-18 hours a day – everyday – swimming.  It took her 4 years with this type of time commitment to reach her extreme dream.   The time I can commit to my transition doesn’t hold a candle to Nyad’s  but its baseline assumption is exactly the same.

Merriam-Webster’s defines transition as “ a passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another:  b:  a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another.  C.   an abrupt change in energy state or level (as of an atomic nucleus or a molecule) usually accompanied by loss or gain of a single quantum of energy.”  I get the abrupt change and the passage from one state to another.  I’ve adopted a definition for Novofemina that it requires ‘a rethinking one’s notion of self.’  I’ve learned it doesn’t play well in the coffee shop….

Maybe dream big is all the vocabulary I need.  Transition isn’t about balance but about choosing to live differently.   To connect your passions to your reality.  It is irrelevant how long it takes.   I firmly believe that we can get there even if we only have one hour a month to work on it.    Choosing to begin is what’s important.

That moment in the coffee shop was more important for me than my friend.  It further strengthened my resolve for the path I’m on.  I’ll keep working on the right words – I only hope that I can convince her that a journey into the unknown guided only by HER passions is what matters.

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