A new adventure hero has surfaced, and believe you me, Wonder Woman got nothin’ on her.
I dare you to visit her Facebook page and come away unchanged.
Even her backstory might inspire you to resurrect some aliveness of your own:
Days after her husband of almost 70 years died, 90-year old Norma Bauerschmidt discovered she had uterine cancer. Doctors prescribed the usual treatment– surgery, chemotherapy and radiation–but her son and daughter-in-law, Tim and Ramie, gave her another option: join them in their motor home, traveling the country to spend the remainder of her days exploring places she’d never been, letting go of her former life, and saying “yes” to living the rest of her life past the outer limits of her comfort zone.
Miss Norma thought about the two options, and made her choice.
“I’m ninety years old,” she said. “I’m hitting the road.”
And that’s exactly what they did, for over a year, traveling to every state but Alaska. And when they started a Facebook page that documented their escapades, people from all over the world wanted a piece of the action. They asked her to dinner, made her the guest of honor at countless celebrations, plopped her onto a convertible and let her ride in a parade, and gave her tours of cities and ships. She consumed more birthday cake and beer in one year than she had in the previous 90.
Miss Norma had become a worldwide celebrity, and the formerly quiet, shy lady who had lived thus far uneventfully and safely let herself cut loose and ride the wave of adventure.
It wasn’t always easy. There were constant caregiving concerns about her health and safety.
For instance, when they tried to make arrangements for Norma’s longtime dream of going on a hot air balloon ride, they worried about getting her into the balloon safely and keeping her from falling during the ride. Tim asked himself if he was crazy to even consider trying. Then he recalled Dr. Atul Gawande’s words in his book, Being Mortal: That our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and the aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer…that
The chance to shape one’s story is essential to sustaining meaning in life.
The balloon ride was spectacular.
And it was one catalyst for a transformation of sorts: With every new experience, Norma became braver and more open to adventure.
That alone would have made the whole trip worthwhile. But–and this is so important–Norma was not the only one who changed during the trip.
Tim wrote that, all of us were becoming more radiant, more fully alive…We sought opportunities to put ourselves out there, hoping to encounter something new, fun or touching.
Then something even more remarkable happened. People (in person and online), he says, began pouring out their deepest fears, losses and desires to us. We had suddenly and dramatically found ourselves in the middle of an international conversation about the meaning of life, illness, aging and love…
These people started gathering their families and taking trips that they’d been putting off; they told those who mattered to them “I love you” for the first time; residents in nursing homes began to choose life in their final days.
This is the best part of all, and so typical of brave living: The adventure of Norma, Ramie and Tim became way bigger than the three of them.
A little over a year after she “hit the road,” Miss Norma passed peacefully, just as she wanted.
But her bold undertaking, even after she moved on, continues to inspire thousands of people to finally get up and do what brings them life.
She certainly attracted what she focused on, says Tim: joy begets joy, love begets love, and peace begets peace. In every smile, every goofy face, every stop on the map, we learned so much from her… Ultimately, she taught me to say “Yes!”
Boo yah, Miss Norma. I want to be like you.
What about you?
What makes you come alive? What would make you come alive?
The outdoors? Music? Physical challenge? Dancing? Sports? Sharing a meal? Big dumb fun?
What has made you come alive in the past?
Make a continuing list of these things (continuing, because ideas often pop into your head at odd times).
Then brainstorm: What kind of adventure could you embark on that would incorporate whatever brings your aliveness to the surface?
If you’re just joining us, check out the very first post (Your Epic Adventure Starts Here), where you’ll learn about starting a yearlong (52 questions) quest to practice living a life of adventure. As a bonus, you will also find the backstory for that ridiculous herd of buffalo on the header photo of this website…