"Diana Nyad decides at age sixty-one, two years older than I am, to swim from Havana to Key West. She enters the water on a day I'm thinking about failure—lack of success, not achieving the desired ends, a decline in strength, being insufficient. It's that one, "being insufficient" that weighs on me. I've become skilled at detaching from my submissions. I write them the best I know how and send them to the appropriate venues in the appropriate manner and that's no small accomplishment. But today a rejection has snuck under my chest bone and sits heavy against my lungs while I consider the possibility that my writing is (that I am) insufficient.
I go to bed thinking that at least Diana Nyad is out there swimming an impossible expanse of water, in the dark, with sharks and stinging jellyfish, and she's doing it by lifting and dropping her arm, one stroke after another. I sit up in bed and make a list: add a paragraph to the first chapter of the new novel, finally write the essay about my last menstrual period, revise the story of my mother and the London Blitz. Write one thing after another until momentum is restored.Diana Nyad hasn't made it from Cuba to Key West. This is the news I wake up to on the radio. After years of grueling physical training, all those people believing in her, all of us watching, and thirty hours of swimming, she left the water. And, of course, she did make it. She inspired people, she pulled together a world community of supporters, and she swam for thirty damn hours. I lie in bed and listen to the rest of the morning news and know I'll keep writing and recognizing success in all its manifestations. But today all of us long distance swimmers, me and Diana Nyad, we get to honor this particular loss. I put aside my morning list and let the mattress cradle me. We get to be sad. We get to yield."