Keeping it Between the Buoys
We were in Islamorada, Florida, right around mile marker 81 of the Florida Keys. Early Spanish settlers gave it the name, which means “Purple Isle.” It’s a world-class sport fishing destination, a favorite of the first President Bush. It’s also the home of the Islamorada Fish Company, an outdoor establishment where you can eat fresh snapper and watch fisherman unload the day’s catch under a sunset that only God and Michelangelo could paint. Something about the place just makes the whole world feel right.
Jimmy Buffett probably best explains what the Keys do to a person:
I wanna go back to the islands/Where the shrimp boats tie up to the pilings/Give me oysters and beer/For dinner every day of the year/And I’ll be fine/Makes me feel fine*
After dinner, we walked up to the adjacent Bass Pro Shop. An old man sat at the security desk, cheerfully greeting every customer who walked into the store. We chatted with him for a few moments about fishing, which local restaurant had the best fish sandwich, and boats. My husband mentioned that someone had told him earlier in the day that the Bahamas were only 60 miles away. You could rent a boat and enjoy a nice day-long trip.
The salty old guy looked my husband up and down and said, “That’s true, son. But if you miss the Bahamas, it’s 1600 miles to Africa.”
I had no way of knowing this at the time, but that conversation took place less than a month before my husband started having an affair that marked the beginning of the end of our marriage. I later found out that during the trip, he was already contemplating a relationship with the girl.
I can’t help but wondering whether or not the old man’s comment gave him pause.
His affair altered the course of our marriage, our lives, and our kids’ lives. And for a good long time, I felt like I was lost in the Atlantic in a tiny rowboat.
Sometimes we start out with a destination in mind but get misdirected so quickly and so subtly that before we know it, we’ve set an entirely new course, one that wasn’t quite what we’d intended.
I don’t want to spend the rest of my life believing that I was a helpless bystander. Because that’s not entirely true. From the time I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer. I married and had three children – all very good things – and the writing career got shelved. As far as my dream was concerned, I had missed the Bahamas.
So in one way, the divorce put me back on course. And I don’t intend to miss my mark again.
What, then, is the best way to heed that internal compass? The answer, I think, is to ask this question every single day: What do I really, really, really want? And to move toward our heart’s deepest desire. Because not knowing what we want or getting caught up in running from what we fear will cause the compass to spin wildly. Checking the course daily and making sure it matches up with where we really intend to go insures that we won’t end up completely off course, aimless and desperate.
Or in Africa.
*from Tin Cup Chalice