Thursday, May 29, 2014

Appreciating the shallows

When you look back, much of your life has revolved around the big things like graduating from high school or college, getting married, having kids, and getting that great job.   Those big events remind me of deep waters where you cannot see to the bottom.

You face a lot of deep, dark waters during your life.  When you join a corporation, it is unlikely you have any idea how long you will be there, what you will accomplish, or how your career will end.  Certainly I had no idea my time at Apple would end so abruptly right at the very moment when my team was achieving such amazing success.

When you commit yourself to spending your life with another person, there is no way to read those waters and what will happen over the years.  You just have to prepare yourself for the ride and hope you can keep your love and friendship alive.

Children are much the same.  There is no way to predict what kind of person that wonderful toddler will be in twenty years.  You do the best to guide them, provide some advice, and try to be a good example.  I know my parents were very surprised when I graduated from college and headed off to Canada to build a cattle operation in the hardwood hills of New Brunswick.

As you get beyond some of those milestones in life, the water get a little shallower and it is a little easier to see to the bottom or you could face next. Life always holds plenty of mysteries, but you often have a little better idea of what will happen if you do a certain thing. You have done a lot of things over and over and some of your actions reliably produce a consistent result. There is some comfort in that. If I go to church every Sunday, pay attention in the pew, and try to live better, I end up feeling better about myself and those around me.

I know that if I go out and walk five or six miles during the day, I will be really tired at night and likely sleep really well.  If I also do a lot of yard trimming and gardening on the same, there is a good chance that I will be so tired that I will have trouble sleeping. I seem to feel the best when I walk three or four miles in a day.

We know if we call our older daughter at 9 PM on Sunday night, it will be a short call.  That is when she is watching one of the few television shows that she enjoys. My neighbor enjoys washing his cars early on Sunday morning. Sometimes he washes them when even he admits they are pretty clean.

We understand that when beach season arrives that shopping in the grocery stores is a lot more challenging.  We try to shop for our groceries between Monday and Thursday and typically we avoid buying groceries on  the island from early June until late August.  It is part of the rhythm of life here on the coast.

While you can never predict what the future holds, experience teaches us much over the years and as the water gets shallower or our time horizon gets closer,  you do get better at navigating the waters. Know even a handful of things that you can comfortably count on to happen removes a little stress.  If life was always as mysterious as that first day on a new job or as stressful as a move to a new city, we might be perpetually stressed out.

There is some comfort in shallow waters whether you are fishing in them or living them.  Almost eight years ago when I moved to the Crystal Coast I had no idea that I would be so at home among the oyster rocks that once appeared so threatening.  Now I would rather go out on our river to fish when the tide is falling and the water shallow.  It is easier to sit alongside an oyster rock and fish.  When the tide is in, I cannot see the oyster rocks, I have no place to rest my kayak, and I am also unlikely to catch any fish.

When I get up in the morning, I no longer have to worry about the implications of every email that I write or each decision during the day.  I am no longer in the high pressure corporate world that defined my life for twenty years.  Now I try to please my wife, keep the commitments that I have made to myself, my family, my community, my church, and also to my boss who is not rich like Tim Cook at Apple but happens to be a whole lot better leader.

We have been here on the Southern Outer Banks of North Carolina long enough to appreciate how spring can start cool but easily rush into summer and quickly deliver us to beach season.  There is comfort in worrying about when the tomatoes will get ripe instead of when global warming will reach the tipping point or whether Apple will be able to deliver promised products before the end of the year.

Perhaps the choice of living here in Carteret County is a choice of shallower water than Reston, Virginia, where I worked for so many years.  By moving here we escaped from the city and found a less complicated life where you are more likely to be something more than just another face in the crowd.

I have written in our Emerald Isle Travel Guide that Carteret County is a lot of water spread mighty thin.  Maybe life here on the Crystal Coast is easier to take just because of that.