Things Can Happen Fast – For Better or for Worse

For some reason, perhaps that I don’t share enough, Facebook has been serving up a variety of pictures from one year ago for me to share. (I haven’t shared any.) Each time I see one I think, Was that really a year ago? It seems like just the other day. Wow, a lot’s happened since then. It’s caused me to focus a little more on the passage of time and all of the recent changes I’ve been through. Most are positive.

I discussed this with two of my buddies the other day, and we all had a similar view. Each of us has faced significant and stressful issues in his personal life over the last few years – both within the family and on the job. It’s been a struggle, but each of us has made it through these hard times with a pretty positive outcome. We’ve trusted God and helped each other. (Thank you, guys.)

It’s highly encouraging to look back and see how much progress has happened in many areas of my life. I need to remember this when I face whatever crisis appears next – Things can get better. God has a plan. I’m resolving to live “in the now” more, not fearing horrible future outcomes from current crises, but rather trusting God and doing today’s tasks today. Seems to have worked in the past.

The other reason to live in the now, is that the future is uncertain. Everything may not be better next year. There might not even be a next year. None of us can even count on tomorrow. I was reminded of that a week ago as a colleague at work died suddenly of a cardiac arrest. Aged 47 and having no heart disease, he was literally completely well right up until his heart stopped for no apparent reason. It’s been shocking, sad and sobering for the many who knew him. Fortunately he placed his hope in Jesus, as does his family, and Jesus has overcome death.

The juxtaposition of these recent events, and Easter too, has made me realize how much mental energy I devote to an uncertain future (way too much) and how little I rest in God’s grace (way too little). Time to revisit my priorities. This seems like a good list: Trust God. Live life. Don’t worry. Be happy. Regard each day as a gift. Cherish my family. God, help me do that.

Pete

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I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
– Jesus (John 16:33 NLT)

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On the happy side, here’s a nice two-year development.  The Amaryllis I started from seed have done great!

May 2015

Same plant, April 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic Cars, Classic People – First Do No Harm

my favorite car at the show

Last Saturday I was excited to attend the 33rd Annual Winter Park All British Car Show. As you know, I’ve recently jumped into the old car hobby, purchasing a 1967 Triumph TR4A almost a year ago. Having little experience in auto mechanics, especially about the vehicles of 50 years ago, I’ve had a lot to learn. Fortunately, the members of the local Triumph and British car clubs have been welcoming and helpful. They encouraged me to enter the show.

I’m glad I did. The weather was fantastic, leading to a great turnout of cars and people. My car didn’t win any prizes but I made some new friends, had many nice conversations, and learned a lot more about my particular model and old cars in general. Or should I say “classic cars?” Most owners (certainly the ones showing their cars) cherish their vehicles and are very careful to treat and maintain them well. I’m trying to do the same.

twins!

Naturally, I had several conversations about best practices in maintenance and repair. Sharing a story of mine about a simple attempt to replace a light bulb – which led to a broken lens, disintegration of old rubber fittings, and a failed electrical connection – elicited knowing smiles.   The worst part was the light bulb had been working! These cars are fragile, and since then I’ve adopted a cautious attitude to any elective repairs.

Among the group, there seemed to be two schools of thought. One, like mine, was “be cautions;” just do the minimum for safety and reliability; don’t push the limit. Or in doctor language, first do no harm. The second is “make it perfect.” Any mechanical part that’s not quite right gets fixed or replaced. No job is too big. That works fine with classic cars (with enough money and expert help) and these are the ones that win the prizes.

It doesn’t work so well for “classic people.” Like cars, as we age, we often get more fragile. And things break or become blemished. But repair isn’t a simple mechanical matter. It depends on our innate biological mechanisms, mechanisms that degrade with advancing years. Sooner or later we die. It’s good to remember that.

a nice line up of MG TDs

Too often in healthcare we approach classic people as if they were easily repairable, or as if every issue should be fixed, made perfect. And it’s not just physicians; many patients think like that too. Let’s be more careful. Let’s keep the big picture in mind. Fragility and finiteness should be part of our calculation. What’s required for safety and reliability? What are the risks of any proposed “repair?” Like my light bulb story, we can always make things worse.

My car is 51 years old. I just turned 57. Does that make me a “classic person?” Regardless, I’m looking for doctors with philosophy number one. If you’re a classic person, I recommend you do the same.

Take care,

Pete

my car

B-17 hood ornament

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Drama or Peace?

I’m weary of drama. Nationally it seems we’re all on edge, looking for the slightest provocation at which to take offense. Personal opinions on lifestyle and culture are seen as political positions to be argued to the death (or to the Supreme Court whichever comes first), and plenty of folks are just waiting for the opportunity. They’re quick to advance the faults of their opponent’s position, or even of their opponent himself. The country is on hair trigger, and worse, this seems to be our new normal.

Drama doesn’t stop at the DC beltway. State and local politics can be as vicious as the national action. “Office politics” may affect us much more personally. Our reputations and career trajectories may be at stake in workplace intrigue. The entertainment industry thrives on drama, and not just in the product.   And then there’s rumor, innuendo, gossip and the usual relationship drama in among families, friends, and the various social groups to which we belong.

The world produces endless drama. Why so much tension? We like it! People thrive on drama; we seek it out; if things are too calm, we stir the pot!  We claim to want peace, but we lie to ourselves. Conflict gives us a chance to be right, to win, to be superior to our fellow humans. Unfortunately, winning brings no relief. We must manufacture more conflict. Even when we’ve lost the battle, we nurse a grudge in our hearts and minds and the drama continues. “Never surrender” is the way of the world.

I was like that once, but the way of the world is no longer the way for me. God has changed my heart. I want peace, real peace, the peace that comes from God. I’m asking him for it of course, and like a lot of gifts from God, sometimes peace is bestowed immediately, but mostly it’s a process. So I’m trying to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, detaching from worldly matters, avoiding needless conflict, and keeping my focus on the gospel. Sure I backslide a bit sometimes (okay, pretty often), but God’s not done with me yet. The peace is growing.

What will it be for you? Drama or peace? Choose wisely.

Peace be with you,

Pete

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Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  – Jesus  (John 14:27 NIV)

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Finding the Essence of Things

My wife and I are recently returned from a wonderful vacation in Arizona. It started as a business trip to which we tacked on a week’s rest in Phoenix and Sedona, and it turned out great. We’d never been to Sedona, a strange and spectacular place to Florida folk; it was enjoyable seeing a very different landscape and learning more about the desert. Our schedule was pretty unstructured, and I appreciated being “off the clock.”

Moving from place to place, we experienced a variety of accommodations from a high-end resort to a much more basic hotel. Our meals spanned the spectrum as well. The most elegant was a 4-course Valentine’s Day dinner at an exclusive resort. The simplest was fruit and cheese in front of the television. In between was a home-cooked dinner with family and restaurant meals of course.

Now I’m back to work and we’re both back to our usual routines, but I feel rejuvenated and I’ve been thinking about what made the trip so great. It wasn’t the fancy hotel of the fancy meals, it was much more basic than that. I think the key elements were:
– getting away from my usual responsibilities,
– maintaining a relaxed, no-pressure attitude,
– experiencing a new place, and learning about it, and
– sharing time with my wife and family.
These are the things I should think about when planning our next getaway.

Too often I think we Americans miss the essence of things. We get focused on the sizzle more than the steak. Our culture relentlessly pushes us to covet the most exclusive experiences and the finest things. Selling and upselling drives the national economy, but it comes at a cost. Too many people live beyond their means, under constant pressure to keep up with the Joneses and keep up appearances. Consuming is not the essence of life.

I’m resolved to focus more on identifying the essence in all of my activities. What are the essential elements of my work, my hobbies, my home, and my relationships? They deserve more of my attention. The superficialities deserve less. I’m looking forward to seeing where that leads.

How about you?

Take care,

Pete