Diana Nyad and "The Other Shore"

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” - Joseph Campbell 
When I first read about Diana Nyad's great swim from Cuba to Florida I thought, "Wow. Epic feat, sister. Nice work." And then I moved on. It wasn't something that struck me as anything more than a blip, a trending topic, a feminist battle cry from which everyone could extend virtual  high fives... 

Not that I wasn't in awe because I was. I guess I just got caught up in not wanting to get caught up in a commentary that so often becomes bigger than the thing itself. 

Join the chorus or walk out of the chapel. 

I walked out of the chapel. 

Diana Nyad was 64 years old when she swam 110 miles, cage free, in open water, after four failed attempts. (Although I wouldn't call them failed attempts, sheesh.) I knew the facts before seeing the doc, but I didn't know Diana's story. I didn't know about her childhood, the abuse from both her father and her coach, men who were supposed to guide her, protect her, take care of her. Men who instead abused and took advantage of her...

Swimming was safe. The pool was a refuge so she surrounded herself with water. She was safe with the sharks and the jellyfish and the songs she played in her head as she paddled, left arm in front of right. 
Diana's jellyfish scars, photo by Catherine Opie

At thirty years old she attempted her dream: to swim from Cuba to Florida.  The attempt "failed" so she retired. She climbed out of the sea and into a life of sportscasting and journalism. 

Diana hadn't trained in three decades when she got back in the pool. And that is where The Other Shore begins. 

One day she woke up and felt the weight of an incomplete life. It was that simple. Something was missing. To hell with lost time.  Because sometimes the only way to get rid of the haunting is to strap yourself to the ghost. So she rallied together a group of men and women who believed in her in the same way she believed in herself, coaches and doctors, navigators and scientists.  Together they would do something extraordinary. 

They were her guards and her guides, her protectors and caretakers. She would put her life, her dreams, in their hands. 

When I sat down to watch The Other Shore, I did not know what to expect. Not from the film or from Diana, who was scheduled to speak afterward.

I didn't recognize her as she crossed the street in front of the car I was driving into the parking structure. 


As I drove.

This is my body, she said with her life. 

This is my body, she said with her drive.

This is my body she said as, again and again, she leapt into the ocean, to fail, to fail, to fail. To risk, to risk, to risk.

This is my body and I'm here to move it forward. 

Diana's is a story of rebirth. It's a story of strength in every aspect of the word, a battle of will, a slap in the face of the demons and all things that hold humans back from reaching our full potential. This was a true hero's journey. 

In the words of Joseph Campbell, (who I already quoted but it's impossible not to, given Diana's story) “Where you stumble and fall, there you will find gold.” 

And that's what Diana did.
via OWN

That's what every hero in every story, true and fictional, has done. And to be heroes in our own lives and across our own oceans, we must do the same. We must dig beneath the very roots that trip us up and start mining. 

Diana Nyad's story is an extraordinary one in that her OTHER shore is a literal one. Her swim through shark and jellyfish infested waters was actual. But we ALL have our OTHER shore. We're all in the water swimming, cage-free if we can, and in a perfect world, we are surrounded by people who love and believe that we can do this thing. We can make this journey. 

Nyad's journey was as biblical as Daniel in the Lion's Den or David and Goliath. And being in her presence was like standing with PERSEVERANCE in its human form. It just so happens that perseverance is a 64 year old woman named Diana. (And hell yeah, it is.)

I recorded part of her talk and edited together the parts that especially struck me. The sound isn't great and apparently I was panting while watching because my breath is all HEH HEH HEH, but I wanted to share it because there is so much in here. So much to think about and remember and tuck away into our psyches as a reminder to BE ALIVE and FIND A WAY. To open our hearts like we do our eyes and mouths and ears. To take what ails us and spin it into the very thing that makes us strong. To get off our cell phones (self owns?) and back into our lives where we can write with unlimited characters and live limitlessly in this limited life.