Yes I can with my Piano Man!
“I don’t think I can. I don’t know how,” Mom replies.
She adores singing, knows the words to hundreds of songs, still remembers them mostly. But she never learned to read music or play an instrument.
Now she’s 85 and in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Her language skills are beginning to evaporate – she rarely completes a sentence anymore. It seems unlikely she should be able to play the piano at this stage, even as she’s coming ’round the mountain.
Eric is undeterred.
A thought bubbles to the surface:
across my consciousness
forcing me to stir.
Journalist, author, motivational speaker and world-record-holding marathon swimmer Diana Nyad made five attempts to swim from Cuba to Florida.
She first tried at age 28 in 1975.
She made four subsequent attempts in August 1978, August 2011, September 2011, and August 2012. She finally succeeded in making the historic crossing “sans” shark cage in August 2013 at age 64.
“Find a way,” she says in the TED talk below. “You have a dream and you have obstacles in front of you, as we all do. None of us ever get through this life without heartache, without turmoil, and if you believe and you have faith and you can get knocked down and get back up again and you believe in perseverance as a great human quality, you find your way.”
I too am tenacious. Determined. Doggedly so. Perhaps stupidly so.
One thing is certain: once I’ve got my eyes on the prize I’m not likely to give up, and my stick-with-it-ness has helped me achieve cool things (like becoming a triathlete at age 50), and taken me places (from the Great Wall of China to the Arctic Circle) I never would have dreamed possible.
In my experience, the hardest decisions in life are those that force us to choose between giving up or trying harder, washing our hands or taking responsibility, doing the “right thing’ or doing the easy thing.
These are tough choices. At first glance, giving up, washing our hands and doing the easy thing may appear more attractive. Clearly these choices are less troublesome and burdensome. But they are invariably less satisfying, less honourable, and less enriching as well.
Even in adversarial situations when the prospects of failing far outweigh those of success, my pit-bullish unwillingness to surrender serves me well – albeit not always bloodlessly!
“There’s always a chance,” I remind myself.
There’s a chance – slim though it may be when you’re outnumbered, outgunned, and outsmarted – that you will emerge victorious. Sheer determination sometimes carries the day. Not often. But enough to make the struggle worthwhile.
This is truth, not some hallucination like those Nyad experiences during her long distance swims.
God knows I’ve lost many times. And I’ve been lost many times. But I’ve also won. And I’ve also been found.
I learn from my failures (much more than from my successes); I get up, dust myself off, shed some tears, heal my hurts, and keep going. I’d rather lick my wounds and be battle-scarred than kiss ass and compromise my values.
I don’t hold any world records. I’m not internationally renowned like Diana Nyad. And I don’t have a big expert team to support me. Mostly I just have myself and a merry band of international misfits, rabblerousers and amazing women to cheer me on.
But like Nyad, I’m unwilling (maybe even unable) to give up.
According to Wikipedia, Nyad describes marathon swimming (in her 1978 autobiography) as a battle for survival against a brutal foe—the sea—and the only victory possible is to “touch the other shore.”
You don’t have to be a marathon swimmer or famous or special to be courageous in life. You don’t have to be shot at to be brave.
We all fight our own daily battles (big and small) against our own brutal foes. The only victory possible is to find a way–our own way–to persevere, prevail and live another day.
Fight the good fight. Whichever way is your way.
She began having (then-experimental) surgeries to correct it at the age of two. She had many such surgeries and spent countless days, weeks, sometimes even months in hospital. The number of times she might have died are too numerous to mention.
She never complained. She amazed everyone with her will to live.
In addition to the surgeries and hospital stays, she took all kinds of prescription drugs and faced multiple challenges throughout her childhood and early adolescence: attention deficits, learning issues, and limits on what she could and could not do.
She never complained. She made the most of life.
I first posted this recipe here and then tweaked and revised it to make the almonds crunchier (which I prefer). If you like your almonds chewier, use the original version.
About 1 pound raw almonds
About one heaping tablespoon of creamed honey (or to taste)
Juice of one half of a small lemon (or to taste)
Ground “gourmet” salt to taste, or “fleur de sel” (or regular salt, or no salt at all)
Bake the almonds in a single single layer in a baking dish at 275°F until a yummy roasted almond smell fills your kitchen (about 40 minutes).
Remove almonds from oven and put in a large mixing bowl; allow to cool slightly.
Add one heaping tablespoon of creamed honey; toss with the almonds as it melts.
Let the almonds sit until they are cool and all stuck together (two – 24 hours).
Add the juice of one half lemon; toss again until the almonds are all unstuck.
Add your favorite freshly ground gourmet salt to taste (mine is pink Himalayan rock salt – to die for!) before serving.
Store in an airtight container, preferably glass.
1) For breakfast with a fresh fruit salad of diced cantaloupe, pink grapefruit and seedless green grapes. Accompany with Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice tea – the best herbal tea in the world bar none.
2) Chopped on vanilla ice cream, Or yogurt, or any kind of fruit salad.
3) With quarter sections of your favorite kind of Apple.
4) On their own!
Perhaps another day: dark chocolate covered and salted. Stay tuned…
- Homemade Almond Butter (kinseycooks.com)
- Almond Yogurt Smoothie (bestfruitsmoothies.com)
- Spiced Honey Roast Almonds (scaredycatkitchen.com)
- Susan’s Last 10 Days in May Magic Bullet Muffin & Fat Back Buster UnDiet & Weight Release Thing Bullet
- Frozen Bananas? Who Knew? (Day 10)
- White Maggot and Bumblebee Salad
And yeah, she it pretty damn good for 85, which she turned today.
She’s an amazing woman who inspires me every day with her courage, determination, and ability to prevail.
(She also drives me crazy on occasion!)
Until recently, I wished she could see me more clearly. But I’ve come to terms with her incapacity to do so, and, as a result, discovered unconditional love. What a priceless gift.
I’m grateful to her for being such an inspiring role model, I couldn’t have asked for better. Continue reading
In golf, as in most sports, it’s important to follow the rules when you compete. (Mostly.)
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), following the rules is not my strong suit (not in games, not in sports, and especially not in life generally).
That’s probably why I ended up breaking the rules and being disqualified In my maiden tourney. (So far I haven’t been disqualified from life, but who knows what lies ahead…)
Interestingly, I subsequently learned I needn’t have been disqualified from the tournament, having followed the proper corrective procedure after the initial infraction.
This rule-breaking experience reminded me of some random life lessons, which I thought worth sharing: Continue reading