Still We Learn

Michelangelo drawing

Just before dawn yesterday, an email arrived from a friend of mine. It had snowed overnight, the air was cold, and I was weary from the week. His email provided an intermission from a frenzy of early morning work, and I sat back with a fresh cup of coffee to spend a moment with him.

– – – – –

Twelve weeks ago I began an intensive program at the YMCA to prepare for a simulated sprint triathlon: a swim in the Y pool (1/2 mile), spin bike ride of 15 miles, and a 5K run, to be done consecutively. I’ve practically lived at the Y the past 2 1/2 months; I’ve drunk more energy shakes and taken so many fish oil tabs I am keeping GNC in business; I’ve cut down on my alcohol and pizza intake incredibly, much to the consternation of my friends, who do not think I am quite as fun as I used to be.

Every Saturday morning at 7:15am I am in that gym spinning 15 miles and trying not to vomit, and running a 5K immediately thereafter. In the COLD. I’ve swum the 1/2 mile a number of times; I have terrible time compared with the others, but I sputter away, coughing up water all day after the swim and wringing out my clothes. Swimming for me a challenge like no other. I get in that cold pool, pull down my awesomely cool Speedo race goggles, glance across that 25 yard expanse to the other side, snowing outside, and wonder, How the hell am I going to get over there without drowning? AND BACK, 36 times? Then I take a deep breath, push off and keep going until I am done, face down and trying to remember all the parts associated with a proper stroke/breath exercise. I get tired and want to stop, because sometimes the water in my lungs is not peasant! But I pull myself a half mile in about 30 minutes.

Twelve weeks ago I could not even dog paddle, and now I am a swimmer. How did that happen? It’s because I can be whatever I want to be, and no one can tell me otherwise. I define myself.

I’ve never been an athlete. But now I am a triathlete. It has been an incredible journey and I wanted to share it with you. I’ve met many sweet people some of whom spotted me and became my friends and influenced me in other ways that have nothing to do with sports. The trick is, you have to be receptive to new people in your life, because they can teach you things about yourself that you need to know to move forward. And you never stop learning. At the age of 86 Michelangelo said “ancora imparo,” still I am learning. And so are we all, if we want to.

– – – – –

He gave me permission to include this here. I hoped he would. Twenty-four hours later, his words are still zapping through my synapses. I hope you are equally inspired today!

I can be whatever I want to be.

I define myself.

Be receptive to new people in your life.

You never stop learning.

6 thoughts on “Still We Learn

  1. oh. my. word.

    that really was inspirational – as well as a wake-up call – altho i am not moved to become a triathlete, i am still learning and will attempt to do other things to define myself – thanks to you and your friend – great way to start friday! TJ

  2. The Four Principles — are BEAUTIFUL.

    Swimming, though?
    Did you ever hear Mel Brooks as the Thousand-Year-Old Man?
    Carl Reiner is interviewing him, asks, Oh, were you good at swimming?
    No, says Mel Brooks. Drowning. I was good at drowning.
    I identify myself more as a drowner.

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