Explore Life Coaching, Patti Phillips

A New, Long Lost Friend

I just had the privilege of meeting Silken Laumann. She is promoting her new book “Unsinkable” and was in Winnipeg today on a whirlwind of several speaking engagements. I was at the last of her presentations tonight and to her admission, it was the most casual of them all. Before she picked up the mic, we chatted as we sat in side-by-side massage chairs, like a couple of old friends just hanging out.

From my perspective, it does seem as though we’ve been friends for a long time. I remember watching her win rowing medals at the Olympics in the 1990’s. Her story of perseverance after being seriously injured in a rowing accident to come back and win a bronze medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is more than inspirational.

The other reason I feel like I know her is that I’ve kind of been stalking her for the last year or so. Not in a creepy kinda way…but in a wanting to share something will her kind of way. You see, we were both born in 1964 and we will be turning 50 this year. If you don’t know, part of my acknowledgement and celebration of this milestone transition is offering a personal growth program called Born in ’64: Review and Renew at 50. One of the motivational pieces is  called “The Faces of 50”, which is a collection of inspirational stories from women who are (turning) 50 (or older) and how they have embraced their age. These women are really mentors to others who may be struggling with turning 50. I have wanted to invite Silken to be one of my mentors.

My previous efforts to contact her through email were unsuccessful. Her assistant initially indicated she was very busy and would get back to me in a couple of months. My follow-up emails elicited no response at all. So I had basically given up inviting her to be a part of the project, chalking it up to “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

So today, after watching some other great Canadian female athletes win Olympic gold medals in hockey and curling (way to go Jennifer Jones rink), I got to meet a real Canadian Olympian in person. From “it wasn’t meant to be” to “it was totally meant to be”. You see, I didn’t even know Silken was in Winnipeg until about supper time. My partner came home telling me Silken had a book signing at McNally Robinson at noon  (which I probably wouldn’t have gone to even if I had known because the hockey game was on at that time). Anyway, a quick Google and I learned she has another engagement at the Good Life Fitness close to my house starting in an hour. It was pretty easy to give up a plan to go to yoga.

As far as I could tell, I was the only person who specifically went to the presentation. She had the fitness staff listening and a few gym members who tuned in on their way in or out but I had her ear before she did her formal presentation. I got my chance to give her my invitation to the Review and Renew program. She had heard about my program but she’s just been busy and she’ll get back to me when things slow down. Friends can be honest like that.

In her talk, Silken briefly mentioned her famous physical recover from her injury. But that wasn’t the biggest healing she has done in her life. Her real story is one of surviving mental illness. Not just her own, but growing up with a mom who suffered from mental illness. I bought her book. She signed it. She said she’d connect with me.

I feel like I met a long lost friend in Silken tonight. She talked my language about being authentic and life lessons and positive thinking. Here’s the quote from the back cover of her book:

“Even though I’m terrified to be so open about my journey, I have a deep faith in people’s ability to hear with their hearts. I also believe that life is a beautiful, challenging, terrible and exhilarating experience in which we must strive to realize our greatest potential no matter how forbidding the path.”

Silken’s looking forward to turning 50 this year. As am I. She talked about learning that vulnerability takes great strength. I’m starting to learn that lesson. She thought it would be fun to find a bottle of 1964 wine to share sometime. I said I thought it would be fun, too. Except I don’t like wine. Friends can be honest like that.

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