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happy sad

The Best Advice So Far - happy sad

I’m writing mid-flight, on my way back from the longest vacation of my life — five weeks in Southwest Florida. After so long away, it feels more like a move than merely returning from someplace I’d been visiting.

Late last night, I drove to the beach for one last walk.

The main street downtown was still aglow, lit up like Christmas. I’d strolled the strip often during my stay, this year and during the five years of previous visits.

I’d eaten at that Persian restaurant on the right.

I’d sat awhile on a bench in that tiny garden park on the left.

I’d played gin rummy and sipped iced chai and written blog posts in that little coffee shop.

People sat at outdoor tables, talking and laughing. Music greeted me from the open doors of a warmly lit restaurant.

Just a few days ago, it had all felt very much like my street — like a place and people who knew me well. Last night as I drove, however, it felt … different. A bit foreign. Like I was a ghost passing among the living, George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life.

A few zigs and zags and I’d arrived at my destination. I kicked my sandals off into the car. I’d walk the shore barefoot, as ever. The colorful ceramic turtle mosaics set into the cement pavilion that opened onto the pier seemed somehow to be swimming … away.

Caribbean music pulsed from the close side of the pier, a group of young Haitian boys having an impromptu dance party. They parted as I approached, smiling and turning toward me with hands overhead and hips swaying, a wordless invitation to join them if I liked. I returned the smile and dance-stepped my way over to the stairway that let down onto the beach, the small crowd closing in my wake.

Above, in the sky, silent lightning played its own complex rhythms, reflecting off the waves beneath. The water was warmer than ever, tumbling over and around my feet, then pulling the sand out from under them in retreat.

A perfect night.

I walked with the knowledge that, whether I stayed ten minutes or two hours, there would come the time when …


sentimental - moss covered trees during a sunny day rainshower

My last three posts were written from the table in a beautiful vacation home in Naples, Florida, where I spent three spectacular and soul-refreshing weeks around my birthday. Though I was there by myself, I never felt lonely. And anytime I wanted, I could wander outside “the palace” into the wide world and create alternate realities at will.

The night before my flight to Florida, I had gone out and bought one of those giant pill organizers for people who have to take meds four times per day. It had 28 little snap compartments, all of which I clicked open once I got home. I grabbed my thyroid medication and systematically plinked out two pills per compartment for 23 of the 28 compartments. Then I grabbed a handful of my daily multivitamin and added those, one by one … plunk, plunk, plunk. Next was my Super B-Complex, then the supplemental Zinc, D3, and on it went. It took a long time, but I got into the rhythm of it and didn’t mind in the least.

When I was done, I called my best friend: “Wow! I’m looking at all the pills I’ll have to take while I’m away,” I chimed. “I’m going to be gone for a nice long time!” We both snorted with sudden laughter at my unlikely “hourglass” and how fitting a marker it was of yet another birthday around the corner. I mean, when you start merrily marking the length of a vacation in pills, let’s face it – you’re old.

I remarked many times while away that a week seemed like a month, in the best of ways. But at some point during my time away, as I wandered into the kitchen to grab a tangy lime pop, I happened to peek down through the clear multi-color lids of the pill organizer and noticed that more were empty than full. It’s silly, but this was significant to me.

Then there was the day I could definitively count the number of filled compartments at a glance. Suddenly, there was a catch in my throat, and a prickly pressure built at the front of my eyes. It’s almost over.

That was the day I began writing “i am here,” which I posted last Friday. The time had come to put into practice those strategies I go to in order to stay fully present, to enjoy this moment and not let thoughts of future or past moments rob me of it. And I’m pleased to report that it did the trick. (You should give it a try, because it really does work.)

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