The saltwater was the perfect treatment for the blisters I got from wearing the wrong shoes for a walk on the Old Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys that I had been planning for weeks to mark my 65th birthday.
It is so like me to have one detail wrong so what I end up remembering, in this case the utterly sublime and priceless experience of walking on a strip of concrete high above where the Atlantic Ocean and the Florida Bay meet, where you can see tarpon and dolphins and watch the old fishing boats and a few gleaming yachts beneath you, instead of the glory filling the whole frame of the birthday picture, there are the blisters.
Sitting here, writing this, I watch a woman my age walking by the patio of our hotel room in Islamorada. She is wearing white pants and a striped shirt, black strappy sandals, and, without even looking, I know she has a beautiful manicure and pedicure because, unlike me, she didn’t decide that buying the lavender pants at Kohl’s Department Store cancels out the planned mani/pedi. She lives in the world absent of mutually exclusive choices. I wish I lived there.
Everything in my life is about choices. The full bag of Chex Mix or the moment of righteousness. Another drink or a cup of coffee. Now, thinking about turning 65, the choices are unclear. I don’t know my next move. It’s stumped me for weeks.
I tell my kids when they are troubled to go toward the light. To go toward what makes them feel right and worthwhile. I tell them to choose the light.
That is the choice I always try to make.
When it was clear that my 65th birthday was going to arrive despite my disbelief and resistance, I decided that I had to come back to Islamorada in the Florida Keys. I had to hang out with my husband, drive US 1, stand on the Seven Mile Bridge, drink rum, float in the ocean, listen to the crazy birds, and see the palm trees waving.
And if I did that, I figured, I would make it through okay.
I just wanted to get to the other side. I gave up trying to figure it all out – how to make peace with age, how to look forward with calm, how to envision myself a respected, yet still very hip, elder.
The grand wisdom I’d hoped would come with age hasn’t shown up and I’m not sure it ever will. All the wisdom I have seems to apply to other people’s situations, not my own.
In its stead, I’ll take my own advice. To go toward the light. To do what feels right and worthwhile.
Today. That’s all. Just today.