That would be my husband and me. We’re in the ocean alongside the kids on boogie boards, the teenagers hot dogging way out in the breakers, and the young parents steering toddlers around the shallows at the edge of the beach. I still love to get in the ocean. I am cautious, especially with a reconstructed back, and stay close to shore, but I am not too old to enjoy being immersed in the water and feeling the shifting sand under my feet. I like the sticky clean-ness of salt against my skin. I like waiting and watching for the next wave, even if it means an occasional head-over-heels toss into the surf. I like how the ocean decides how much of you is going to get wet when an unexpected wave washes over the part of you that’s still dry and warm.
We are reaching the age when some of us tend to stay on the beach and out of the water. I refuse to do that until I absolutely must. If my body says, “OK, let’s go,” I’m in. I’m not yet ready to succumb to fear, at least not at the beach. There’s enough to be legitimately afraid of in this world over which we have no control, but I’m not ready to give up some of the things I love because of what might happen. I refuse to live my life based on what-ifs.
I’m reminded of the meme that occasionally spins by on my Facebook feed—something about life is short, go ahead and eat the cake. I think it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the finger-wagging or the latest article about what food or activity is going to kill us next. Danger lurks in the plastic water bottle or the deli meat or the hamburger cooked rare, and that may be at least partially true, but I’m sorry, no health risk warrants a pizza crust made from cauliflower crumbs. Preying on our fears, especially as we age, has spawned an entire industry. Don’t eat this, don’t drink that, what if I fall, what if this or that happens, I better not risk it, or I better buy this product to prevent it from happening.
I am well aware that I don’t have the same physical capabilities I did twenty years ago. I think I usually make sensible choices based on that knowledge, but I’m not going to limit myself if it means missing out on the good stuff. So, yeah, I’m going to swim those laps in the pool even though every year it takes a little longer. I’m going to enjoy every bite of the occasional indulgent dessert despite my slowing metabolism and only eat pizza with a real crust, carbs be damned. I’m going to risk sending my essays off to publications that will probably shoot them right into the slush pile, because once in a while, there will be an acceptance which will feel amazing. And I’m going to keep swimming in the ocean, letting the sights, sounds, and smells of the sea remind me how wonderful it is to be alive.