Fortytude

How to navigate mid-life

Anne Cleveland has "Fortytude"

54-year-old swimmer demonstrates resilience

During the past three years, I have traveled across the nation and have encountered women in their 40's and 50's and beyond, from all walks of life, who were exemplars of "Fortytude".

"Fortytude", to me, means the ability to prosper and to enjoy the best years of our lives through fostering five Core Values: Grace, Connectedness, Accomplishment, Adventure, and Spirituality.

While traveling, I felt so lucky to have met these women and had felt truly inspired by their stories. These women helped me realize that life gets richer, better and even more fun as we enter our fifth decade and beyond.

On one particular special occasion, as I was flying back from Los Angeles to NYC, to visit my parents, I was simply awe struck by the article written about a woman named, Anne Cleveland.

As a 41- year-old woman who is known for leaving no stone unturned, I will admit that I would never have the courage to do what Anne Cleveland had done back in October 2010.

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Cleveland was a 54 year-old woman at the time, whose courageous attempt to complete the Seven Ocean Channel Swim (a challenge developed by a swimmer named Steven Munatones), was interrupted by flu-like symptoms when swimming the 21-mile San Pedro Channel to Catalina Island. It's possible to imagine Ms. Cleveland's heartbreak at the moment she was pulled from the water. Of the incident, she has said that "it was always easier to keep swimming than to admit defeat and ask to be let back on the boat."

We can all sympathize with Ms. Cleveland who could only swim four brutal hours during which she experienced cramping and vomiting and had to stop prematurely. And we could also pity Ms. Cleveland for not being able to accomplish her biggest goal when she intended to, which was to swim all of the oceans' seven channels (The English Channel, The Tsugaru Channel, The Strait of Gibraltar, The Cook Strait Channel, The Molokai Channel, The Catalina Crossing Channel, and The North Channel) this year. Or, we could simply be awe inspired by this 54 year old woman who simply stated after a week of bed rest, "In two years I'll have another one of those Ocean's 7." That means at the age of 56, she will have made the seemingly impossible and crazy attempt again.

As Ms.Cleveland has been able to demonstrate through her actions and words, "Fortytude" is an ongoing journey of peaks and valleys that tests our resiliency and employs our wisdom. Regardless of the challenge, Anne Cleveland shows us that no matter what, you can and will get back in the water.

Sarah Brokaw, LSCW, PCC is a licensed therapist and author of Fortytude: Five Defining Values For Your Next Decades.

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