Turning 65

Keys Bridge

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.

11 Comments on “Turning 65

  1. My first visit to your blog and I loved this piece. As a woman of similar age, I can so relate. Happy Birthday, Jan! May your coming year be filled with Peace, Love….and of course, Light!!

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  2. I LOVED this for many reasons: 1) I have wanted to drive down the 7 mile bridge for several years now, I think mostly because it kinda scares me to go on a bridge that looks like it is easily overcome by the ocean. 2) Because I want to visit Islemorada and visit the monument placed there in memory of that devastating and long ago hurricane of 1935 3) because you don’t just remain stuck in the web of life but decide to embrace this entrance of yet a new year of life. And be cause I have felt like I can fix others much easier than I can fix me and feel like life has gotten ahead of me. Blessings! I think I will have to plan a trip after reading this.

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  3. I LOVED this for many reasons: 1) I have wanted to drive down the 7 mile bridge for several years now, I think mostly because it kinda scares me to go on a bridge that looks like it is easily overcome by the ocean. 2) Because I want to visit Islemorada and visit the monument placed there in memory of that devastating and long ago hurricane (1935?) 3) because you don’t just remain stuck in the web of life but decide to embrace this entrance of yet a new year of life. And be cause I have felt like I can fix others much easier than I can fix me and feel like life has gotten ahead of me. Blessings! I think I will have to plan a trip after reading this.

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  4. Are you any clearer on where you are going as you approach 70? I am 72 and am finding this aging process much more complex than I had anticipated. Our trip to Cuba brought up so many old and new emotional conflict centered on aging and living with chronic fatigue and of course, identity. I think we need to continue to write about the process, because the gerontologist haven’t tapped the lived experience.

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  5. Sending you love and warmth and peace. You are right where you are supposed to be. Be there and enjoy the moment. It’s all any of us has. And nothing else matters. Just let it all go and be. It’s ok.

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  6. Go towards the light. I also believe this helps to make the right choices, the Light. As a Christian, this Light is all that keeps me on the right path. I so hope you are having a ball of a time, enjoy your birthday! Ah, and the rum!

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  7. Sorry, those are words of wisdom and I bet you didn’t realize them when you were 35. Can I call you Sage Jan, the wise one, now or do I have to wait until your 75?

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