Pressing Pause

Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could press pause in life like you can on your TV?

blog pic

Not like Zack Morris when he would break the fourth wall during Saved by the Bell although that would be cool too. I’m referring more to the ability to pause life and take a break.

Life moves quicker the older I get. I remember when I was in middle school the summers seemed to last forever. Each hot month was long and packed with so many memories. Things move quicker now. Six months flash by in the blink of an eye. Now years get muddled together like mint leaves in the bottom of a cocktail glass.

I ran away to the beach last week. I didn’t really run away but more so pressed pause. I wanted and needed a week off. Upon getting back I realized it will take me two weeks to catch up but it was well worth it.

I wanted to sleep in, read for hours on end, and stare out into the water. That is exactly what I did.

The books I read last week all had a similar theme. In one way or another they were all about sacrifice. In order to get something you want you have to make sacrifices. It might be as simple as sleep, television, hanging out with friends, or whatever else you might want to do with the little spare time you have. Sometimes it is bigger.

I thought a lot about this while staring into the ocean. My sacrifices seem small. There are others who seem to sacrifice so much and I feel miniature in comparison. I have been focused on my weaknesses a lot in the past few weeks. I want to be better at dealing with conflict but something doesn’t want to change deep within me. I have thought it is a sacrifice for me to change but I don’t feel that way now. I don’t think it is a sacrifice at all. It’s simply something I don’t want to do.

There are things I know I could do better if I just did them. I should workout more regularly. I should deal with conflict head on instead of cowering away from it like I so often do. Why don’t I do these things? Nobody is preventing me from doing them except for me. It’s easy to tell yourself you will never be perfect and there is no reason to attempt perfection.

But if you hit pause on life you can see things clearer.

You realize sometimes your detriments cause others pain. It’s not all about you. Being an introvert I tend to get caught up in everything going on with me and forget about others. Had I not paused last week I don’t think I would have realized this.

So I haven’t run away from anything but rather I have attempted to shy away from it. I longed for a week to press pause. Now it is time to press play. Time to stop making everything about me and time to start getting uncomfortable. Pressing pause helped me see clearer.

You don’t need a week away to do it. Take whatever time you can get and stop. Take a deep breath and think about your sacrifices. Think about what bothers you and remind yourself it’s not all about you.

To Get Where You Want to Go

I visited Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, last month. It was my first time in the Outer Banks and I was amazed at how far away I felt when there.

2016-05-13 10.39.47

I had been holding off reading David McCullough’s, The Wright Brothers for this trip. It was surreal to read about their experiences in the Outer Banks a little over a century before I was there. Before it became a vacation destination life was hard in the area. You were a long way from civilization. The mail only came a couple of times a week and the mosquitoes bit every few seconds. The brothers were a long way from home and their support system and were struggling to fly. As I read through McCullough’s book I was amazed at every detail of the Wright Brother’s story. I most enjoyed Wilbur’s experiences in Paris. After flying for the first time in Kitty Hawk and then Ohio he worked out a deal to sell a plane to the French. I loved seeing a blue collar dude from Dayton, Ohio, head to Paris and experience the art, cuisine, and fame which came with being the first person to fly a plane. He was treated like a rock star while in France.

I have to think there were times when alone in his hotel room in the City of Lights he thought about those long days and nights at the end of the world in North Carolina. I know he and Orville had doubts about what they were doing. He had to think about quitting and going back to his day job where everything was known. It was hard to work all day and have failed flight after failed flight then lay down to sleep at night in the shack they stayed. As he laid there sweating trying to sleep in the southern heat I know he thought about quitting. Had he quit he never would have experienced flying and would have never gotten to live a luxurious life in Paris. They had to go through the beating of being there before they could get to Paris. We all have to go through something similar if we want to get where we dream of being.

We have to go through things which suck if we want to achieve anything. Not a tough time due to a death of a family member or unexpected expenses with your house or car. Those things happen no matter if you are trying to do anything worthwhile or not. If you dream of doing something incredible I guarantee you it’s going to be tougher than you can imagine.

You have to deal with rejection. You have to deal with mistakes because you don’t know what you are doing because you haven’t done it before. You have to deal with pain from a lack of sleep and taking care of yourself. There is no glamour and no rest if you want to actually do something. Statues aren’t built for people who try hard and fail. A high risk of failure and ridicule is all there is to look forward in the short-term. It is amazing to me how hard it is to actually do something of value. It’s not so much about how smart you are or how great of an idea you may have but it’s more about how hard you will work. It’s tough and nobody cares until you do something which is beneficial.

Whatever you are struggling with today and whatever you feel like isn’t worth doing remember why you started in the first place. Passion will fade but remembering what others have gone through when achieving greatness will help.

When I Miss Writing

Everyone needs to see this.

lake tahoe

This was my initial reaction to seeing Lake Tahoe for the first time.

On Tuesday of last week I drove the half hour from my hotel to see it. Many adjectives could be used to describe it but none would do it justice. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I wanted to stare at it for hours because it didn’t look real. After I got back to the hotel and was looking at the pictures I took I thought about the day and about the way it made me feel. For various reasons Tuesday was a tough day for me. As I stood on a giant rock at the edge of Lake Tahoe and looked at the snow capped mountains I wondered just what in the world I’m so worried about. I couldn’t put my finger on it. My boss and I had dinner at an excellent restaurant that evening and the food was tremendous. I find as much beauty in a well prepared meal as I do in viewing nature. If you disagree I think you are eating the wrong kind of food. When you have a bone in pork chop with a fried onion underneath topped with pickled mustard seeds you know what I mean.

Last week I didn’t write. I missed it. In the last two years or so it has become part of who I am. I feel lost when I don’t write. Not because I miss the feeling of banging on the keys and trying to come up with something others will enjoy reading but because it is how I process my thoughts. When I am feeling anxious or stressed and I write it helps me calm down.

I don’t think I have ever seen anything in nature which impacted me the way it did. I wanted to lean into it. We all want to feel something in life. The touch of a loved one, the movement deep within our soul which causes us to remember we are alive. Good writing does that to me. I recently read an article by Shauna Niequist where she describes getting a tattoo, “I remember the buzz of the needle from my first and second tattoos—that metallic rattle, high-pitched. It makes the muscles in my neck twitch, remembering the nagging pain that goes along with that buzzing sound.” It’s a perfect description for getting ink permanently imprinted on your skin. I have never been to a tattoo parlor (Is that what they are called? I feel like a 70 year old man referring to it that way.) but after reading it I understand exactly what it is like to be there. That is great writing. I don’t think I ever write anything which comes close to it. I also enjoy writing which makes you feel like you aren’t alone. I try to express it here.

I forget to look at the big picture but writing reminds me to look around. It’s easy for me to let time pass by without doing things I want to do. In the name of relaxing and cutting corners on real priorities I tend to choose loneliness instead of relationships. I choose comfort instead of adventure. I eliminate risk from my vocabulary and actions. When I do feel the twinge of discomfort I shut down. While staring at the lake I had several thoughts running through my head. What should I eat (always a thought no matter the time of day), I hope my battery doesn’t die on my phone, I don’t remember how to get back to the hotel from here…

None of these mean anything to me now. I miss writing when I don’t do it. It helps me figure out things and share them with others. It makes me want to do more. Staring at the beauty of Lake Tahoe I had several thoughts running through my head but one big thing which hit me was I miss writing when I don’t do it.

Travel Anywhere and Everywhere

As we boarded our United Airlines flight on an Embraer 135 from DC back to Nashville I was reading through Shauna Niequist’s book, Bittersweet.

actual size

The Embraer 135 is a small jet and we were crammed in our seats like a group of college kids going on spring break in a Honda Civic. It was uncomfortable to do anything but sit with your arms crossed and look straight ahead. However, my mood changed when I began reading the chapter titled, Sea Dreaming. In this chapter she writes about traveling. Obviously it hit home with me. I was trying to compartmentalize unforgettable experiences along with the amazing time of relaxation we had in Jamaica. As I was doing that while sitting in my seat appearing to wear a straight jacket, only able to move my arms like a Tyrannosaurus rex, I read this:

That’s why travel is so important, among other reasons: to get far enough away from our everyday lives to see those lives with new clarity. When you’re literally on the other side of the world, when you’re under the silent sea, watching a bright, silent world of fish and coral, when you’re staring up at a sky so bright and dense with stars it makes you gasp, it’s in those moments that you begin to see the fullness of your life, the possibility that still prevails, that always prevails.”

As I read it the words lifted off the page and I felt like she was speaking directly to me. I read the chapter over and over again and underlined a different sentence each time I read.

She continued to say,

You certainly don’t have to be on the other side of the world, but you do have to get out of those same four walls you’re always staring at. Drive to the city, or to the country, or to a lake whose shores are totally unfamiliar to you. Listen for the new rhythms and sounds, and watch your life refract and shift against a new backdrop. You’ll see things you didn’t know were there, and recognize selves long hidden.”

I have thought about this again and again since I have been back. I believe she is 100% correct. There is something about being in unfamiliar areas and situations which causes a shift. It causes you to calibrate your life and focus in on what matters.

I want to add many more stamps to my passport. I want to be well traveled. I want the experiences but I also want to remind myself who I am. I want to go somewhere exotic and eat something weird. I want to surprise myself. You don’t have to travel to the far parts of the world to do that. You can. But you can also go somewhere new three miles down the road. The more you experience the more you understand. There are so many parts of God’s creation I haven’t seen.

I want to travel anywhere and everywhere.

Where Are You Spending Your Time?

One morning on our trip to Jamaica last week we went and swam in the ocean before doing anything else.

image1

It was right before seven when we jumped in the cold but comforting ocean. There was nobody else in the water for as far as we could see. We both swam with the joy of two nine-year old’s who recently got out of school for the summer. We swam with the freedom a week with no responsibility offers. The water that early in the morning looked like a sheet of glass with only a few wrinkles. As I looked out to the horizon I understood why we once thought the world was flat. The seemingly endless water was perfectly level until it gently met the sky. Everything in the moment was perfect. After getting out, we made a quick trip to breakfast and after chowing down on eggs and fried bammy I was back at the beach. I started reading, but as I did my mind drifted from the pages in my hand and I thought about the people who stayed by the pool all day at our resort.

The pool is cool. There is a swim up bar and a lot of people and activities. However, the natural body of water which was so clear and perfect was right next to them and many of them didn’t even think about getting into it or even looking at it. They were content with a pool which many people have in their backyard. It reminded me of someone who loves television and pays for high definition but only watches TV in standard definition.

As my thoughts continued to jump off these observations I was reminded of this C.S. Lewis quote I read once which suddenly had new meaning:

It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

As the days went on and I would walk by people who sat at the pool all day I would want to grab them and ask them if they knew what they were missing. There was an abundance of beauty and perfection right near them but they were content watching a fake waterfall flow into a tiny man made hole. There wasn’t a long distance between the pool and the ocean but there was a significant chasm between the two.

I wonder how often God has looked at the possessions and unfulfilled desires I constantly drift to and longed for me to look at what is right in front of me. What is offered is so much better then what I tend to pursue. It’s offered to all of us. It’s free and it is right next to us.

Don’t be content to play with a mud pie in a slum when the pure blue Caribbean Sea is calling your name.

3 Things I Learned Being Away From Home for Two Weeks

For the past two weeks I have been in Tacoma, Washington, training for a new job at my company’s headquarters. Tacoma is about a 30 minute drive down I-5 from Seattle. It is an awesome town to visit.

me in front of the original Starbucks

me in front of the original Starbucks

Morgan flew out the one full weekend I was in town and we had an unbelievable time checking out downtown Seattle, exploring Tacoma, and eating incredible seafood.

Being gone for two weeks is quite an experience. As each day passed I felt a greater distance from home. It seemed the void between Nashville and the Pacific Northwest was widening. Here are the top three things I learned while I was gone:

1. I missed my wife.

Although we spent the whole weekend together the first weekend I was there I missed her so much. I love mornings with her as well as sitting down to eat dinner each night and venting talking about our day. We feel like during the week we don’t spend a lot of time together because we both work long hours but after missing the short time we do get to spend together during the week I will have a different perspective.

2. I didn’t miss my stuff.

I took my laptop, iPad, and two books. Besides my clothes that was literally all I had with me. I didn’t miss any other material object at home. There were definitely some tangible objects I missed (like my bed) but it wasn’t very bad. It is amazing all of the material objects I have at home and how I missed virtually none of them. What I really missed were the intangibles. I missed the smell of home. I missed the comfort of home.

3. Kind words go a long way.

I can’t speak highly enough about the people I encountered over the last two weeks. People were so nice to me. Even though I was surrounded by people all day for the most part I didn’t know any of them so it gets lonely. When someone goes out of their way to ask you how you are doing it means a lot. From barista’s at coffee shops asking me how I was enjoying things and offering tips on things to check out to people I worked with taking me out to incredible local restaurants it was a trip to remember.

Why Have You Not Taken a Trip?

Last year about this time Morgan and I were out to dinner and we were talking about places we wanted to travel later in the year.

We wanted to go to Atlanta for a weekend trip to see a Braves game and to check out some other places down there such as the World of Coca-Cola. We also wanted to go to the beach for a week at the end of the summer. We ended up not making either of those trips.

We wanted to make them happen but we didn’t and I’m not sure why. We were talking this past weekend about trips we wanted to make this year and she pointed out that we had the same conversation last year and didn’t do anything so why would we suddenly go somewhere this year?

I don’t have an answer and I wish I did. I feel like I’m not alone in feeling this way. I know there are others who make plans to travel and never do it

photo

This picture was taken in Tacoma, Washington last October. I visited Washington for work and was able to see some of Seattle while I was there along with Tacoma. While I was taking this picture I realized I need to see things like this more often. I’m going to follow through and make plans to see more places and to do more things this year. I got off to a good start with going to Jamaica earlier in the year and I will keep it going.

Is there a place you have not visited that you have always wanted to go?