#BeingDory (Just Keep Swimming)

Time and time again I seem to learn the most powerful life lessons from an animated movie. Whether it be Shrek who taught us to wave our freak-flag proudly or Inside Out who taught us to embrace sadness; the messages they convey are simple in their presentation but profound in their meaning. The messages can be easy to miss concealed in animation, humor, and simple dialogue. However, if you look hard enough these stories can have a real lesson and impact on the viewer ( I am one such viewer).

Thirteen years ago I saw Finding Nemo for the first time. At the time, I had a one year old and a newborn and I was excited to watch a real movie with my children. If truth be told they were too young to follow the plot but it legitimized my desire to watch a Disney movie. In any event, Nemo’s short Fin, Dory’s forgetfulness, and Marlin’s paranoia all showed me that despite ones limitations you can still persevere and live life to its fullest. These inspiring characters did not wallow in pity over their shortcomings – they embraced them. In fact, Dory used humor to not only lift up the spirits of her fellow fish but also to help her to never give up in her quest to remember what she couldn’t remember. I loved her spirit, her tenacity, and her strong desire to Just Keep Swimming. I remember thinking they were all great qualities to have but honestly I did not appreciate then that these are the very same qualities that I would desperately need in order to survive the life that was waiting for me in just a few short years from then.

As most of you know, in September of 2005, my daughter was diagnosed with a rare genetic syndrome called SMS. It was a devastating event in our life and one that has changed my world completely. When events like this take place it is hard to figure out how to put the pieces back together. It’s a process that doesn’t happen all at once and can actually take years to rebuild. It is not a light bulb or defining moment in which you say, “I need to do xyz and we will be fine.” It is the coalescence of multiple small moments that slowly allows you to navigate your way through this new life. You try on new attitudes, new friends, and even new environments to see what will work best for you. Whether I knew it or not, I think I found myself channeling the tenacity of Dory. Little by little I took on the attitude that if I just kept moving I would survive, if I just kept laughing I wouldn’t cry, and if I just reached out to help others I wouldn’t feel so alone. I think this is exactly the attitude Dory had in Finding Nemo. She found the humor in her shortcomings and despite her own misfortunes she always stopped to help a friend and she Just Kept Swimming.

It is funny how life plays out sometimes. The biggest tragedies can lead to some incredible self-discoveries and a simple children’s movie can offer a lesson in survival skills. In June of 2016, the sequel to Finding Nemo will premiere called Finding Dory. I was thrilled to hear that my favorite role model will finally have a chance to be the star of the show.

On June 18, 2016 at the Prospector Theater in Ridgefield CT, I will be hosting a fundraiser for the SMS Research Foundation www.smsresearchfoundation.org. I co-founded the SMSRF in 2010 to fund and facilitate important SMS research. When I learned of Pixar’s new movie as well as the incredible mission of the Prospector Theater; I knew that I had all the ingredients for a very powerful event. The Prospector Theater was built in order to provide meaningful employment to adults with special needs. It gives a chance for these adults to feel good about what they do and to feel productive in their endeavors. The individuals who are employed here show up everyday with a smile, a sense of humor, and a purpose. They are an incredible group of adults who also channel the tenacity of Dory every single day. Regardless of whatever disabilities they have or whatever obstacles they face, they simply Just Keep Swimming.

We all have a lot to learn from Dory. My hope is that on Saturday June 18, 2016 at The Prospector Theater we will discover our inner Dory and celebrate the strength and tenacity that inspire all of us to Just Keep Swimming through our own personal obstacles – whatever they may be.