I started this blog to share some of the thoughts I have along the journey of life. I love to travel and spend time with my family and friends. A good meal, breaking bread with those I love, gives my life meaning. So does travel. I adore dreaming of sites to visit, not just to check them off on a list. Rather, I consider myself a student of life, traveling as an explorer, to open my mind to all the possibilities the world holds in store for me and for others. I love to travel to discover how different the world is in terms of climate, cultures, politics, terrain, economy, etc. but also to discover how SIMILAR the people are. Despite language barriers, much can be communicated with a smile or gestures. Language is simply a means to communicate, yet there are so very many other ways to communicate. Once when I was in French-speaking Canada, I realized that my 7th grade French class didn’t teach me the word for “straw”. However, when I thought about it, I was able to communicate to the very French-speaking waiter in a very French-speaking restaurant about my need for a “cylinder through which to drink” in my limited French vocabulary. Travel challenges the mind and soul, stretching us to problem solve and form conclusions about all that we experience. THAT is the type of travel I enjoy best. “All’s well that ends well”, as they say………….”Life is Good” as well.
“Once I decided to take control of my destiny, I harnessed the energy that I had buried deep inside me and pushed it out. Once I told the universe who was the boss, the universe took a back seat, and I created a new reality for me to live in.”
-from “Rowing Against The Wind” by Angela Madsen
“Rowing Against The Wind” is the amazing story of a former US Marine who was injured while on duty. After several difficult (“botched”) surgeries and a broken neck she sustained from another injury, she became permanently disabled as a paraplegic. She sustained many significant losses as a result, including losing her house and was homeless for a period of time. However, through cultivating a different mindset, she persevered and ultimately found success as an athlete who won a bronze medal in the ParaOlympics in London. She found her love of rowing and was one of the first woman to row across the Indian Ocean. She was the first woman with a disability to row across the Atlantic Ocean and held six Guiness World Records. She was a real mover and a shaker.
After experiencing so much anger at her situation early on in her disability, it was later after falling from a train track in her wheel chair that broke her neck that really caused her to re-think her situation. She decided to use her gifts of leadership, athleticism, organization, and dedication to continue to live her life in a new way, finding ways to enjoy her life despite her setbacks.
She died doing what she loved in 2020, halfway through her solo row from Los Angeles to Honolulu.
As the French say, “vouloir c’est pouvoir” or what the mind can conceive, the mind can achieve. To want something is to be able to do something in loose translation.
Find something that drives your life. Love living. Find your passion.
I met Diane about thirty years ago when she was middle aged and I was a young adult. She and I worked together, and she was one of the most inspirational people I had ever met at the time. My first impression of her was a well-kept, slim attractive woman who had a certain “joie de vivre” right off the bat. She wore professional clothing, and her suits were well-tailored. Her skirts were always hemmed well above the knee, as she had legs to show off and somehow knew it. She was always smiling and always looked on the bright side of things, despite her background and the events which occurred along the way. She was divorced and a single mother of an only child at the time of her divorce several years before I met her. She was married to a prominent member of the community but decided her happiness was more important than staying in a stale and loveless marriage. While I wasn’t sure of the details and circumstances of her divorce and had always believed that marriage was a forever commitment, I admired her courage and honesty to herself and others. She left the marriage and the financial stability that came along with it, living by herself at the time I met her in a house she had purchased with her salary. I got the impression that she didn’t work outside the house until her marriage ended. I admired her ability to make something out of nothing. You see, she clipped coupons and searched high and low for shopping deals each week. She told me she treated herself to a vacation each and every year out of the country since her son grew up and moved out of the house. She knew she didn’t have extra money in the budget to pay for these vacations, and that’s why she started clipping coupons. Her goal was to clip enough coupons to finance this vacation each year. I remember her lively laughter when she announced to me that the local market was actually paying for her to try a new product with the double store coupon and manufacturer’s coupon that she used in tandem to bring the price down. She actually did save enough money through sales and coupons to finance her vacation each and every year.
Diane tended to her yard and garden all by herself, as she was strong and very independent. She had a “strong faith” and knew that life was to be lived fully and completely. When she returned from her most recent vacation at the time, I asked her if she had any pictures to share. She handed me a roll of “prints”, which were from the old days of film, to sift through. I admired her photographic technique and how she captured the joyful faces of her traveling companions, too. Almost every single picture she showed me made me smile. One time I bumped into a picture of Diane that had inadvertently ended up in the pile of photos she was showing me. It was a picture of Diane with a sly, coy smile wearing nothing at all while standing behind an over-sized sombrero hat. I looked surprised by the photo, and she laughed saying she forgot to take that picture out of the set of prints that she handed me. She didn’t apologize, however, knowing there was nothing wrong with her photo that captured the moment beautifully.
I lost track of Diane through the years but think of her often. I recently looked her up on social media, and she looks great with the same effortless curly-locked hairdo she always sported. Evidently she is over eighty and now has a seasonal home in Florida with her male companion, who owns a Tesla. They drive to Florida each year in the Autumn, and she still takes care of her own yard there as well. I smile when I think of one of her social media posts that says:
“I have a watch that I bought about 20+ years ago for $1.75..yes…on sale at CVS 90% off!!!…and it tells the same time as a friend’s Rolex that cost many $$$ more…once again……….TRUE HAPPINESS IS NOT FOUND IN MATERIAL THINGS!”
She enjoys the finer things in life but doesn’t need them. She knows how to find true joy and happiness in feeding the ducks, having a good meal with a companion, and spending time with those she loves. She is at peace with herself and her world.
At last account, Diane wasn’t able to take a cruise with her companion in May during the pandemic when the rest of the United States waited indoors with caution. Instead she posted pictures in May of her previous cruise, finding pleasure in re-living the moment, as she knows how to savor her memories. Diane’s introduction on her social media pages says that she “works at living each day to the fullest” under her occupation, as she has since retired. There is a picture of herself and her companion dining with a wine glass toast that I love that captures her essence so well. Along with the photo there is a caption that says they are “brave souls”, as they were the only diners present at the restaurant that evening in Florida in May during the pandemic.
Diane routinely posts pictures of the ducks and lizards that visit her yard, as she notices and finds enjoyment in so many little things. One post on her social media says that “Every day is a new beginning. Take a deep breath, smile, and begin again.”
One thing that struck my interest in Diane’s social media page is her feelings about the pandemic:
“I read most of this, and it is quite scary to think of all those DROPLETS Etc. Etc……..at this point in order to not be exposed to anything and go on trying to live a somewhat normal life….I THINK EACH OF US HAS BECOME a HERMIT of sorts…JUST GO OFF SOMEWHERE AND LIVE ALONE IN THE WOODS???? I REALLY DON’T TAKE TOO MANY PRECAUTIONS EXCEPT WEARING THE MASK WHEN I GO TO THE MARKET…AND WASH AND SANTIZE MY HANDS AFTERWARDS but …I SAY ….LIVE AND LET LIVE…IF IT HAPPENS IT HAPPENS….WE ALL HAVE TO DIE OF SOMETHING…AND YES, I KNOW IT DOESN’T SOUND NICE…BUT I THINK WE SHOULD TRY TO BE LIVE A BIT BETTER THAN WE ARE NOW…”
Diane is a class act. A person that takes precautions but keeps on living a full life with intention, despite the world around her. She has learned to live like she is LIVING, not DYING.
Life is good; find your own “joie de vivre”. Carpe diem friends…….
Note: the name in this blog was changed to protect the identity of the subject, and the picture simply reminds me of Diane with her dark curly hair. The picture here is NOT Diane.