Who would have known? It is as if the experiences of a lifetime – the ups and downs, the twists and turns, the joy and sadness, and lessons learned along the way – were pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle that finally are fitting into place. Call it the wisdom that comes with age.
I was a restless child who did not really know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was aware that I had artistic inclinations and that I loved a stage. Looking back, I am pretty amazed at all the chapters I have been able to write with that slender narrative thread: television journalist, newscaster, writer, cooking instructor, administrator and top-fundraiser at a nationally recognized university, health coach, and communications executive at an innovative health care provider. All the while, I have learned to accept that I do not necessarily fit a particular mold, and to love myself just the way I am.
In my journey of self-discovery, it has been in the trying times that I have discovered how strong I am. One day, almost 10 years ago, I was recovering from a disastrous car accident when I woke up from surgery to find that I could not move my arms. A grueling year-long therapy followed before I could move my arms again. It is at times of trial when you find out who is who: the cowards run and the true friends remain by you.
Today, I dance tango, I cook, I love, and I do arm workouts with 15-pound dumbbells – which for me is a miracle! – and I am training for a 5-mile walkathon.
Sure, my body aches. Most mornings, I am riddled with pain from head to toe, especially after two-hour tango class. But I wake up – and this is the real change – with an openness to the possibilities of a new day. It was not always this way. The younger Denisse often found herself paralyzed with fear. Fear of possibilities, fear of failing, fear of loving, fear of being heart-broken.
It is through life and the many lessons it offers that I have learned resiliency, the capacity to recover from difficulties. Meditation and silence have been welcome friends. Some call resiliency toughness; I call it learning to survive and thrive, and love. And when I talk about love, I talk about the ability to protect myself while still connecting emotionally, feeling happiness, compassion, and having a sense of purpose.
It can only get better as I welcome my 61st year with open arms, a warm heart, and excitement about the adventure ahead. Whatever life brings, I’m ready. Like good Malbec wine, we get better with age. I will drink to that! Mazel tov!