Beach Attitude

The week before last, Sharon and I headed to St. Pete Beach for a few days of rest and relaxation. I wanted to go there to “decompress” a little bit and the beach is certainly good for that. We headed to the gulf side of the state which brings back childhood memories for me. In fact we stayed at the same hotel at which my family used to vacation when I was a boy.

The trip went well. We accomplished our basic agenda – enjoy the beach, see a few sights, sleep a lot, eat well and just hang out together – and we had a good time. The beach is a special place, a place where I find it easy to appreciate the beauty of nature and to slow down. So it was good, as expected.

One thing I did find surprising was my comfort level with the crowd. The hotel was full, and it seems the beach is always crowded. We had a ground level beachfront suite with a small patio. Just beyond our patio was a common grassy area with chairs and tables, and the beach bar was 30 yards off to the left.   So there were people, coming and going past our place all day long.

I really like sitting on the patio, and I wasn’t too sure about having an audience, but it was fine. The younger kids played in the grassy area. They were fun to watch.  Everyone who passed by smiled and nodded or said hello. I wasn’t the only one on the porch in pajamas.  No one was worried about how they were dressed (or undressed). No one, including me, seemed too concerned about privacy, and everyone was friendly.

Same thing down at the beach. Masses of people – of all shapes, sizes and colors – enjoying the sun and the water while in close proximity to each other.  Clothing options varied from extreme sun protection to almost nothing.   Everyone was getting along, even when the football or Frisbee went astray or a little sand got kicked up into the wind.

One afternoon I stopped at the bar for a pina colada (just one) and found the patrons also to be a happy bunch. That’s not too surprising I guess, but overall I was struck by my sense of relaxation and enjoyment despite the relatively crowded resort. Why was that?

My theory is that, at the beach, everyone had the same agenda – just relax. I didn’t hear anyone talking about Trump, Comey, North Korea, or Russia. Nobody was rehashing office politics. The only guy selling anything was the bartender. We were pretty much a collection of strangers, so perhaps no one felt a need to impress anyone else. No one has any “status.”  It seemed understood that, here at the beach anyway, you’re just another human being and “what happens at the beach stays at the beach.”   It was very nice.

How can I keep this beach attitude going now that I’m back in “real life?”

Pete

PS – The trip inspired me to change the colors on this blog.  Green was peaceful, but I think these “beachy” colors are more cheerful.  I hope you enjoy them.

PPS – Recommendations if you go:
Alden Suites Beachfront Resort
Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish
Sunken Gardens
Salvador Dali Museum

One Day You’re an Expert

I’ve been experiencing a great deal of change recently, and another big one is right around the corner. In two weeks I’ll be leaving my current employer to become an independent consultant in the healthcare industry. It’s pretty exciting. I guess it could also be scary, but I’m trusting God and I’m ready for this particular change.

Having dinner with a younger colleague last week, and discussing my plans, the more general topic of career progression came up. After I explained my career journey, he had a couple of questions. “So, how does one get to be ‘an expert,’ to arrive in a position where others seek you as a consultant? Any advice to pass along?”

I don’t know that I had too much smart to say. Most of my thoughts on the topic are pretty basic, and my answer was something like this: Do your best at your current job. Keep learning. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Research what others are doing. Go to conferences and meetings. Read. Talk with colleagues. Eventually one day, perhaps after many years, something will happen to cause you to recognize your own knowledge and ability and you’ll realize that you’re an expert. At least that’s what happened to me.

Something similar seems to have happened with my emotional wellbeing. I’ve thought about this kind of career move before, but it seemed too scary, too distant. Now it seems at hand. I’m finding myself to be calm and at peace with this major change. Also as you’d expect, I’m trusting God. It feels good, surprisingly good. It’s surprising enough for me to ask myself, “Wait a minute! Why am I not more worried about this? How and when did I become a calm, peaceful person? When did I get this faith?”

I think the answers are a lot like those involving my career. Do the best you can at following Jesus. Pray. Listen. Talk with others of like mind. Pay attention to your emotions. Have whatever faith you can muster. Read the Bible. Work through your emotions as best you can. Eventually one day, perhaps after many years, something will happen to cause you to recognize your own inner state and you’ll realize that you’re a calm and peaceful person of faith. At least that’s what happened to me.

Praise God.

Peace,

Pete

Change Happens

“Lookin back at my background tryin’ to
figure out how I ever got here.
Some things are still a mystery to me
While others are much to clear.”

Migration – Jimmy Buffet

 

Like I said a few weeks ago, things can happen fast, and change is a constant. But it sure is hard to get used to, isn’t it? I’ve spent the last week or so reflecting on all of the recent (and not so recent) changes in my life, and thinking about how I, myself, have changed. While recognizing that I am certainly the same individual human being as I was in high school, I also feel like a “different person” in many respects. It’s a strange feeling – I’m still me, but a different me.

A casual conversation on this topic with my friend Curt (who is into music), led me to pull out my Jimmy Buffett CD collection, and I’ve been listing to them in the car all week. His music really takes me back. I can remember the various stages of life I was in when each album came out, and the music brings back memories of good times as well as stressful times. I’ve been enjoying his lyrics and melodies for over 40 years.

Can we agree that Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes is clearly the best Jimmy Buffett album?  It has really withstood the test of time for me.  I still love it, every song.  Everything may be different since 1977, but that recording endures, unchanged by time. Maybe it’s that sameness that’s the reason his songs bring up such memories for me, and why music often seems to take people back to the past.

Constancy, stability, sameness. We don’t get that too much in life. Maybe in certain foods – Oreos are pretty much the same as decades ago – but otherwise change is the rule. People, places, organizations, things, jobs, relationships, and technology – everything seems in constant flux. And it’s all speeding up.  What’s a person to do?

“It’s those changes in latitudes,
changes in attitudes nothing remains quite the same.
With all of our running and all of our cunning,
if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes – Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy is right. We have to roll with the punches.  It’s good to have the ability to laugh, to be lighthearted, despite and through life’s inevitable changes, but what can allow you to do that? What’s helping me through is placing my trust and confidence in Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t change. He doesn’t forget his people or his promises, and his arm is never too short. Facing uncomfortable changes? Seek the Unchanging. I’m nobody special; God will help you too.

Take care,

Pete

___________________________________________

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31-9 NIV

Living with Entropy

derailed!

I like things to be orderly, not orderly in the sense of “neat and clean,” but rather that of “organized,” “regular,” and “predictable.”  So I try to bring order to pretty much everything – I organize my thoughts into principles and philosophies; I organize my activities into schedules, routines and habits; and I organize my things with file folders and containers.  But of course it doesn’t last.  Things pretty much stay put, but my thoughts get challenged, and it seems my schedules and routines are constantly disrupted by events large and small.  You know what I mean – the vacuum cleaner breaks, the toilet leaks, or it rains on the day of the picnic.  Oftentimes this little stuff (and it is little stuff) gets to me and I get frustrated or irritated.  I crave simplicity, regularity, and “low maintenance” living.

It’s not that I’m lazy or don’t like a lot of “action.” I do.  I just want it to be my choice of action, on my schedule, rather than have to respond as needed to some new problem or issue.  One way to achieve this order is extreme simplicity or minimalism.  Less stuff & less activities = less things to go wrong.  Yet things still happen, and how much less do I really want?  I think my life is already pretty simple compared with most peoples’, and I’m not looking to be an ascetic.  Perhaps my problem is internal.  Maybe it’s my expectations.  Am I just too rigid, too set on being in control of events?  Am I fighting the second law of thermodynamics expecting to win?  Not completely, but too much perhaps.

Honestly, I’m a lot more relaxed than I used to be, but probably could benefit from learning to “go with the flow” a bit more.  My new old car is helping me to think and work through this issue.  New car problems are always developing.  Some I can fix and some require a pro, either way almost all of them come as unplanned, unexpected and unwanted intrusions into my schedule.  So far, I’ve been pretty good at seeing it as part of the adventure.  Can I carry that attitude into the rest of my life?  How about when reacting to life’s larger and more significant disruptive events?  I’m working on it.

Pete

Being “a little out there”

out there adj.
1. crazy; mentally deranged; scatter-brained, loony.
2. so extremely individualistic so as to appear mentally unstable.
3. Not conforming to mores, accepted norms, or standards.
(from the Urban Dictionary)

I enjoy thinking about things, and I get a lot of ideas. Not all of them are necessarily good ideas, but being a verbal processor, I like to talk about them with other people. That gets me in trouble sometimes, and I can be seen as an unrealistic person or one lacking sound judgment. I doubt that I’ll be changing my personality that much at this late date in life, but perhaps I should choose my conversation partners more carefully.

Recently I’ve had two new exciting (but unrelated) ideas, one is to develop a new blog site for stories from physicians. I’m going to pursue that one and I’ll write about it more as my plans progress. The other is that I might like to own my own business, specifically an RV park. Naturally (for me) the first thing I did was to talk about it and ask my friends and family what they knew about the topic. Mostly nothing it turns out, except for one woman at work.

I talked with her briefly about it one day and she shared a few ideas and mentioned that she was interested in “tiny houses” about which I’m sure you’ve heard seen on TV. Later she sent me some tiny house links including one RV park that’s intending to become a tiny house community. Very cool.

A week later, after a conference call, she and I had a few free minutes and I brought up the subject again. We began to have quite a lively conversation about minimalist lifestyles, tiny houses, RV parks, owning our own business and the like. At one point, perhaps sensing she might be over sharing, she mentioned that some of her friends and family think she is “a little out there” and that her ideas are a little crazy. Maybe, maybe not, and I assured her that I knew where she was coming from.

The thing is, it’s okay to be a little out there.   Who decides what’s crazy? It’s important for me to follow Jesus and conform my actions to God’s principles, but that still leaves a lot of latitude for individual thoughts and dreams. So, I’m giving myself permission to think differently and not to be too concerned about what other people think. How about you?

Why is Loud “Background Music” Everywhere?

music, noun – vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion

noise, noun –
a sound, especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance.

Seriously, what ever happened to quiet and calming spaces? I find myself being assaulted by blaring music in almost every public place. Restaurants, retail stores, parking lots, even at the gas pump, or in church before the service. At sporting events, I take earplugs – not for the actual sounds of the game, voice of the announcer or cheers of the fans – but rather for the loud music played during any small breaks in the action. Why is this happening? Who thinks this is a good idea? What is their rationale?

My belief is that most “background music” is simply noise; noise that isn’t healthy. This high volume surround sound prevents conversation and relaxation, keeping us all shouting and agitated. You shouldn’t be hoarse after dining out with friends. Being continually amped up simply isn’t good for us. It’s another form of stress.

It occurred to me that this is all very recent in human history. Sound recording only began in the late 1800’s and widespread amplification is a child of the 60’s or 70’s. Before that, one either played acoustic music oneself, or one attended a live performance specifically in order to enjoy the music. Other than that, there was no music. It was a special treat, for people’s enjoyment. Can we get back to that?

This seems to me to be typical of human progress. Our breakthrough technologies begin as blessings yet somehow morph into curses (or at least mixed blessings). And we know that with “progress” there is no going back.

For myself, I’m playing defense. As mentioned, I take earplugs to sporting events. If I walk into a store with very loud music, I walk right out again. In restaurants with music volume sufficient to inhibit conversation, I’ll typically ask my server if it can be turned down a bit. I’ll bet I do this at least seven or eight times a year. Perhaps surprisingly, I have never had any say no, and often the volume goes down considerably. (Maybe they don’t like it either.)

What do you think?

Pete