As I am facing this vast expanse of what to do next with my life once this convalescence is over, I am spending a lot of time reading about women who have accomplished great things when they have been faced with adversity. Sometimes these women were stricken with illness such as myself which forced them to alter their lives, other times they just realized that their lives were not turning out the way that they expected so they decided to change course. Regardless of their reasoning for making the change, something propelled them to step thoroughly outside of their comfort zone and go in a completely different direction. My life is at a crossroads right now and I have decided that the answer of which way to go is not making itself apparent to me so maybe I can figure it out by learning from others.
I became intrigued by this concept of “learning to find my new goal” as I watched the open water swimmer Diana Nyad accomplish her lifelong dream of swimming from Cuba to Florida just recently. It was her fifth attempt to make this swim after failing for numerous reasons in the past. She is 64 years old and this was the last time that she was going to attempt it. As I watched her entire story, her preparations for this attempt, her progress throughout the swim and her eventual finish on the shore of Key West, I couldn’t have been more pleased for her. Her words of advice when she landed on the beach that day still roll around in my head, “You should never give up. You’re never too old to chase your dreams. It looks like a solitary sport but it’s a team (effort).”
She had finally done it and I thought that her soul could finally rest. Not Diana Nyad. Even after reaching this extraordinary feat, within hours she was already talking about swimming a 24 hour marathon in New York City to raise money for a charity event. You see, swimming is in her soul. She has to do it. To swim for her is like breathing is to us. That is what makes her happy. So, it shouldn’t surprise any of us that she would be looking for her next personal challenge that involved swimming.
Then I started looking for my next role model who could teach me about rebuilding my life and I stumbled upon Roz Savage when I was studying Diana. There was a Skype video of a conversation between the two women on Diana’s website and I was so intrigued by Roz that I knew she was the next woman that I needed to learn more about. Roz Savage is a woman who has rowed a boat solo and unassisted across all three oceans (Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans) in her lifetime. She was living a corporate life as a law school graduate, working in international banking for UBS and hated every minute of it. When she examined her life and the direction it was headed in, she knew that she needed a change.
Roz decided to completely dismantle her life. She walked away from everything that we would normally call “stability.” She had a marriage, a financially stable job, a big house with a mortgage and a law degree and she was miserable. Her soul was as an adventurer so she set out to accomplish her goal to row across the ocean. She had been on a rowing team while at Oxford University and it was her passion. She began soliciting for sponsors and with the support of family and friends she spent the next 14 months preparing for her voyage. I know a little bit about the history so I know that she accomplished the goal but I am currently in the middle of reading the story of her first voyage.
What I am learning from these women is not the logistics of how to raise money to swim across the ocean or row a boat across three oceans because my body would never allow such physical feats of excellence, courtesy of Chronic Lyme Disease. The thing that I am learning from them is the mental tenacity to change the course of my life without reservation. When this disease took over, I was perfectly established in a career that I had worked very hard to obtain. I had a Master’s degree with a career in medicine, financial stability, an apartment that I loved with my mother living in the apartment right upstairs, a ballroom dancing hobby that was my artistic outlet, a social life with close friends and I was still miserable.
The thing of it is, I didn’t realize just how miserable I really was at the time. It took getting sick and losing everything to figure out that I hated what I was doing as a career. I had simply been doing it for so long that I just didn’t know how to do anything else anymore. I was so trapped by student loans that I HAD to keep doing what I was doing in order to bring in enough money to pay off the education I had amassed just to have the career I hated. What a catch-22 eh? Getting sick had actually freed me from that burden. It gave me a clean slate to start all over again.
However, it is very scary to start all over again. I have no idea what direction my life will take when I finally get better. IF I finally get better. I really don’t know what condition my body will be in when this disease process is over so it is hard to even lay the groundwork for a future. I have never been afraid of hard work so that is not the issue, it is all about, “How much will my body allow me to do now?” It is a little more complicated when the mind is willing but the body is not able. So, I lie in my sickbed with far too much time on my hands and I wonder what the future holds for me from a career standpoint. One day at a time is an easy phrase to say but after saying it for three years, it gets a little old.
So, I have decided to start reading and learning from other women who have changed the courses of their lives either due to circumstance or simply because they were unhappy. I cannot be the first person on this earth who has been faced with the prospect of having to rebuild their life when they were in their 40’s. Instead of living in fear, I might as well get educated about how to do it. My body is not ready yet but my mind can certainly get to work while I lie here. Half the battle of starting over is being mentally and emotionally prepared for it when the time comes. The other half is actually taking action. I might as well work on the mental and emotional part while I have the time.
I never wanted to get sick like this but it may have turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me. Years from now, when I am ridiculously happy in some profession that I never expected that I would be doing, I may look back and thank Chronic Lyme Disease for uprooting my life because if it hadn’t… I would definitely have stayed stuck in that rut of a lifestyle I was living in. It seems hard to believe that any good can come out of this suffering but I am sure that it will. I have to believe that there is a purpose for all of this. There must be. I just don’t know what it is yet.