I’ve been thinking about failure a lot today. Then I’ve been embracing it. Giving it a big hug, and really, really appreciating big, messy failure. All because of a 61-year-old lesbian in a Speedo.
This morning I woke up when my alarm blared at 4:59. I always set my alarm one minute before 5am for some reason that I probably need to look into deeper during some enforced period of self-reflection involving smaller amounts of dairy in my diet and greater amounts of staring at a blank spot on the wall to really “live in the moment.” As I do everyone morning, I stumbled down the stairs of my modest home and instinctively, as a modern digitally addicted adult does, hit the keyboard of my computer to break it’s black screen sleep.
I started scanning the news, thinking about whether or not to plunk down a couple of bucks for the daily Groupon, making sure all the e-mails I firmly wanted to ignore were systematically unhighlighted, and then I saw it. Massive failure. Diana Nyad was out of the water.
If you don’t live with a woman who masquerades that she is going on vacation really just so she can swim across a Great Lake then you might not really know Diana Nyad the way I know Diana Nyad. Diana Nyad at the age of 60 was damned if age was going to lick her and shunned the idea of taking up golf and instead decided that swimming through shark infested waters without a literal or figurative net from Cuba to Florida was the thing to do. She had distinguished herself in the past by doing things like swimming around Manhattan and stroking her arms through the sea for a full day, so a 103 mile swim wasn’t totally out of reach.
But when I heard about this feat from my wife, whose hero worship of Diana Nyad made me think she might leave me for a Speedo clad broad with impressive delts, I thought that the old lady was nuts. Wacko. Bonkers in the head.
And yet, this morning when I saw the news item pop up on my computer screen announcing the Diana Nyad had stopped her swim sometime during the night 29 hours into her trip to Florida I really almost cried. Boy, had she failed.
I considered walking back up the stairs to my bedroom to wake my wife to tell her the news. She had done the same for me when my idol Frank Sinatra had died (though she called me at 3am from Japan, somehow picking up the news before I had). I sat taking the whole moment in and realized that this was going to be one of those intensely personal moments I needed to spend alone. There was a noticeable deficit of dairy at that particular moment, and some real touchy-feeling staring at a spot on the wall going down, I can assure you.
Failure is something that has dogged me at many times in my life. I’ve tried and failed at more things than I care to admit. Many former girlfriends could attest to a series of failures. A failed business is something I have as an interesting little conversation piece on my resume. I cannot cook rice. I am a complete failure at that simple cooking skill. I am a guy who knows failure.
As I stared at that wall I began to very quickly have a love affair with failure. Diana Nyad’s monumental failure had led me to this contra-victorious moment. She had left it all on the mat, and despite the fact that she had made it less than half way towards her goal, she had spent 29 hours swimming though an ocean. During that time period I had eaten a bowl of pasta changed my Netflix plan and struggled to find a clean pair of underwear in the clothes basket. She may have failed, but I think she really won.
So for anyone who wishes to trash Diana Nyad, I am prepared to give you a knuckle sandwich. That broad has balls.