I just read that Diana Nyad is heading for Cuba tomorrow to make her final attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. I got nervous for her. I feel invested in this woman, not just because I love endurance events, but because I’ve met her and felt the magnitude of her heart in person.
What struck me most in the documentary that I recently saw about her and in the question and answer session she and a member of her team did afterwards was how she handled the people in her inner circle who expressed doubt about her efforts. There are people on her team who looked at her when she was deciding whether to try again and told her that maybe she shouldn’t, that maybe she should stop. My brain translated their doubts to, “Enough is enough. You’re being ridiculous.” When they said those things to her, she looked back at them and said the equivalent of, “I love and appreciate you, but I know what I need to do for me, and I’d love to have you out there with me.” How confident she must be to be able to so lovingly deal with people. I want her spirit, and I think I have some of her spirit in me.
I have long believed that the people I love have the greatest ability to hurt me. If a total stranger says something harsh to me, I can let that slide pretty easily. But when someone dear to me says something harsh, that burn lingers in my heart for quite some time. Still, I don’t write people off even when they cause me pain. When I know someone genuinely cares for me, I can’t write them off, even if they say or do something that indicates a lack of belief in me, in my choices, or in my ability to achieve my dreams.
Parents are a perfect example. They don’t always say or do what I want them to, but I know without even a speck of doubt that my parents always – and I do mean always – are coming from a place of love for me. I’ve had my share of differences with my parents on everything from what I should study to who I should date to where I should live. I know that I have let them influence me more than once down a path that was inconsistent with my heart’s desire. I’ve had arguments with them that resulted in seasons of not talking to them as much as I would have liked. But I have never reached a point of thinking that my life would be better without them. I will never reach that point. Whatever happens between us, I will always, always try with them because I believe their hearts towards me are real and huge.
I’m the same way in relationships. After a breakup, I sometimes let go of people, but I don’t let go of someone I love who I believe loves me. Even when I’m the one getting dumped, I try to maintain at least a friendship if I can’t have the relationship, and I hold on and try some more and continue to try until I reach a point of believing that they have no love for me. Sometimes it’s painful to be unable to let go. Sometimes it’s hard to watch someone I love start a new life with someone else, but I do it when I believe the love was real and remains, despite the circumstances.
When I met Diana Nyad, she said “It’s easy to do anything with heart. And when you lose heart, you can’t do anything.” I believe that to be true whether the issue is a chosen physical task or the emotional task of loving others who don’t believe in you or your dreams in quite the same way that you do.
Diana Nyad is trusting her heart in this effort. She’s doing what she has to do – what she knows is right for her. She believes her goal is worth all of the energy she can muster and all of the pain she can tolerate. And she isn’t doing it alone. She has a team of people working with her, some of whom think she’s gone too far, but she loves them deeply and believes in the relationships enough to want them by her side to the very end.
I’m rooting for her with all my heart because I admire that kind of drive and commitment to who and what you love.
Diana, you are and will always be an example to the rest of us to chase dreams of all kinds with everything we have in the most gracious and loving way. Swim safely. Swim strong. May this and all of your dreams come true.