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

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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

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?