Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Three years a Mighty Woman!

In three years of paddling a dragon boat with the Mighty
Women, I've reinvented myself--and earned all this bling!
Our blades in the water, the Mighty Women waited for the horn starting our last race of the season.

Perched on the edge of bench four in the dragon boat, I closed my eyes and took deep breaths. In 30 seconds, I would be paddling so hard I would have to remind myself to breathe.

The horn blasted! We dug in.

I was completing my third year paddling a dragon boat with the Mighty Women. And I have the biceps--and the dragon boat bling--to show for it. It's been a wild ride!

In the past three years, I've reinvented myself. Dragon boating has changed my body, my attitude and my life.

My old life had fallen apart, piece by piece. Although life doesn't offer us a chance at a complete do over, my only viable option was to make a fresh start from where I stood: divorced, suddenly unemployed, broke and trying to find firm footing on shifting sand.

Three years later, I'm standing on firmer ground. Have there been tough times? You bet! That's life.

Am I better off now, three years after the bottom dropped out of my life? Absolutely! I'm happier, healthier, more confident and definitely stronger. We don't realize how strong we are until we have to paddle through challenging rapids with lots of debris blocking our path and threatening to overturn our boat.

But now safely on the other side of a series of rapids, I've learned how strong I am:

  • I can learn to become a journalist 30 years after earning my journalism degree, even though I'm twice the age of many of my fellow reporters.
  • I can live in 550 square feet for three months without a bathroom, heat or running water.
  • If I have to, I can move three times in three months. But I wouldn't recommend it.
  • If I am frugal, I can live on 29 percent less salary than I had before.
  • If a day seems particularly challenging, I can look deeper to find joy in simple things: walking in the woods, marveling at a sunset or hearing a loved one's soothing voice.
I've learned my limits too. I am not willing to live without friendship, laughter, chocolate or adventures!

On a Post-It note attached to my laptop I've written this prescription for joy in my new life:

Believe in myself.
Listen to my inner voice.
Build the life I imagine.
Reach toward my dreams.

When I'm powering through the water in a dragon boat with my teammates, I'm doing all of those things.

During our final race, I concentrated on my rhythm, my stroke, my breathing, my rotation. It's a big no-no to look outside the boat, especially during a race. But my ears are more easily distracted. I heard boats closing in on either side of us as we neared the finish line.

We had to paddle harder, deeper, stronger than ever before.

My lungs burning, I breathed out an audible "whoosh." Then with my paddle, I reached for my dreams.

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