Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Look out for a better outlook.

Preface: If you ended up here after searching for helpful MS Office Outlook hints, you are barking up the wrong tree. Good luck though in finding that out-of-office assistant feature in the most recent version. I once heard about a girl who spent her entire lunch hour plus some looking for it.

It seems to me that as humans, we love to identify ourselves according to our habits, preferences, styles, beliefs, etc. For example, you're either Team Edward or Team Jacob [and don't act like you're above knowing who Edward and Jacob are]. There are night owls and early risers. There are beach people and mountain people. Sure, it's a bit presumptuous of me to make such a claim since I represent only one member of the six-billion plus population, but that social psychology class that I took in undergrad totally qualifies me to do so. For the purposes of this post, it's appropriate that I identify myself as a night owl who would live in a valley surrounded by mountains on all sides [with Edward Cullen, but that's beside the point]. So knowing these fun facts about yours truly, why in the world did I subject myself to the torture of waking up day after day before sunrise while on vacation? Because I was looking for this:
When I was at the beach last September, I took this picture of the sunrise on my last morning there. Some of you may remember that I even wrote about it here. I was inspired. I was wowed. Quite frankly, the weeks leading up to my recent vacation were full of stress and long hours at the office and all of those other things that everybody else deals with on a daily basis in this little rat race that we call life. These factors helped me to develop an inflated sense of entitlement and led me to believe that I was overdue for another "wow" moment. Therefore, I set off in search of one. On Wednesday the sunrise was well, eh. Hakuna matata though because we still had a few more days at the beach. Thursday morning, I cursed my inner need to experience sunrise on the coast of the Atlantic as I stumbled out of bed, put on my best pre-dawn beach attire, found my glasses, camera, and phone and began my two minute journey from hotel room to sand.

Here is evidence that I was up and at 'em at an absurd hour because y'all, you can see the moon in this picture. [It's the tiny little silver sliver in the top center if your eyesight isn't 20/20.]
Much to my dismay, more evident to me than the presence of the moon was the presence of the clouds along the horizon.
I was quite certain that the sun was going to come up directly behind one of those big clouds. What? No, my glass is not half-empty, thankyouverymuch. It's just that I'm a realist. Oh look, there on the left...there's some pink on the top tip of that big cloud.
What's that I spy with my little eyes? More pink?
Oooh...the pink is bringing along some orange with it now. I suppose it could be worse.
But hey, look at this junk that's literally right here in front of me. I wonder if that bird has avian flu? Probably, it looks weird. Hmmm, what's the turquoise thing right there? That's shiny. Ugh, why is seaweed so weedy? If only the sand could be this cool in the middle of the day as opposed to burning the skin off the bottom of my feet hot like it was yesterday. Wait? Why am I out here during the 6 o'clock hour in the first place?
That's right. I remember now. I'm in search of a breath-taking sunrise. Speaking of which, what's that tiny orange dot that I see illuminating the clouds and is beginning to crest on the horizon?

And then over the next few moments, what I had already decided was going to be a poor performance by mother nature, evolved into the center of our universe [for those heliocentrists out there] revealing itself so clearly that the brightness burned my eyes to the point that I finally had to stop looking directly at it. This sunrise happened 4 weeks ago. Yet I have thought about it almost every single day since then. In fact, I started writing this post on August 11, and I had to take a break until tonight because often my simple little mind takes its sweet time thinking and reflecting and processing the "big" stuff. I feel like it would be a waste if I didn't record the "big" stuff [I'm a wordsmith at work, blogosphere.] here for the sake of posterity. I never know when I'm going to need the reminder. Twenty minutes spent on a beach in South Florida one Thursday morning in late July has reminded me of the following:

I do not have the ability to predict outcomes. No matter how clear and obvious it seems in the beginning, my human eyes do not have the ability to see beyond what is right in front of them.

Speaking of right in front of me, all too often I get distracted with the junk that's in my direct line of vision. When I look at the junk, my view never changes. And while that view never changes, there is a whole world changing around me. I was reminded that my focus is so important to my perspective and outlook. Sure, the junk is sometimes shiny and pretty and tangible and more appealing and more immediate than what I'm waiting on. Yet when the shiny and pretty and tangible becomes used and less appealing, all too often I act surprised and find myself wondering why I wasted so much time staring at junk. Junk could be television or drama among people in our lives or that Facebook friend's that you haven't seen since middle school vacation pictures from 2009. When it comes right down to it, I don't want to get so distracted with the junk that I miss what I'm looking for in the first place. Kind of like I almost did on that Thursday morning at the beach when I was waiting for the sun to rise.
Recently I read this C.S. Lewis quote from The Screwtape Letters. Typically I avoid Lewis because his writing makes my brain hurt. But I do love it when seemingly unrelated events [sunrise and random book reading 2 weeks later] weave themselves together so I am going to share this quote. Don't be afraid to read it twice, or four times, in order to get it. "Let his inner resolution be not to bear whatever comes to him, but to bear it "for a reasonable period" -and let the reasonable period be shorter than the trial is likely to last. It need not be much shorter...the fun is to make the man yield just when (he had but known it) relief was almost in sight." This quote is from the perspective of the antagonist, by the way. In other words, don't get so impatient and frustrated waiting for a pretty sunrise, Heather, that you give up and get distracted by the insignificant stuff right in front of you.

Just as I cannot predict outcomes, I am incapable of timing events to the nanosecond. Sure, I used my handy smart phone to get a general idea of when the sun was supposed to rise that day, but what exactly does that mean? Is it daybreak? Is it when the sun first peeks over the horizon? Is it when it's fully visible over the horizon? The picture is different at each of those stages. Oh how I would love to be able to predict timing of events. I am a planner to the Nth degree. Yet, if I knew the precise moment and could plan my life accordingly, then I would have literally rolled out of bed 4 minutes before hand just in time to throw on my glasses, shoes, and get to the beach. I would have missed those pink tipped clouds. I would have missed the sliver of moon still visible in the sky. The blinding sun would not have been as glorious because I would have not known those dark clouds that came right before it. The end of a book doesn't really make that much sense unless we've read the chapters leading up to the final sentence.

Try as I might, I cannot control the final outcome of events. Yes, I realized that I mentioned outcomes initially. Yet, obviously it deserves another mention because I am challenged (ahem) when it comes to relinquishing control. I went to the beach looking for and expecting a sunrise like I witnessed last September. On Wednesday, it was boring, but I knew that the sun was going to rise the next day [good Lord willing, that is]. So I went back with the hope and expectation that it was going to be a good show. And it was. Not like I would have predicted, not even like I imagined in my "ideal" sunrise, yet it was glorious. It was new. It was unique to that day. I am glad that my imagination is no better than my eyesight because it sure does make the final outcomes much sweeter.

The view changes quickly. I have been reminded of this more than my little imagination could have ever imagined over the last week. Once the tip of the sun rose above where the sky meets the ocean, it seemed like only seconds until it was fully revealed. If I had taken my eyes off of it for even a second, I would have missed a significant part. I have learned that I must be ready for the view to change because once it starts, it's not going to stop. Then again, perhaps it does. Not so much stop, but just sets like the sun. Fortunately, where I'm at now with this particular situation, it's about 11:00 in the morning which is a pretty good place to be. Life and experience have taught me that if the sun sets or the ship sails or whatever trite analogy you want to insert here happens, then another opportunity or option will come. Not comparable to the one we have held onto from our memory. Different. Better. Brighter. Yet the source is always the same.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"Why did you look so sad?"

This morning I had the opportunity to speak with a class of 6th graders because I participate in a local area adopt-a-class program. I know what some of you are thinking: "Ugh, middle school." To be honest, I was kind of thinking that myself as I prepared my presentation. Who here remembers middle school? Perhaps the better question is, who here remembers middle school fondly?

I must admit that these kiddos were the highlight of my day. Perhaps it's because we are only in the second week of school and the 6th grade group is still doe-eyed and excited about all things related to middle school. Or perhaps it's because I didn't give them enough
credit. To my surprise they were full of questions which is a nice change of pace from the high school seniors who know all there is to know about everything that typically fill my normal work day. A few questions included:

  • "How old do you have to be to go to college?"

  • "How old were you when you went to college?"

  • "Are you married?"

  • "How old is the oldest person to go to college?"

  • "Who are New Kids on the Block?" [Just go with it.]
But my favorite was when a little boy asked "Why did you look so sad?"

His question was in regards to this:
As my introduction, I included slides that explained that it was 1990 when I was their age, George H.W. Bush was president, etc. And then I included 3 pictures of myself from my 6th grade year. This move would have been complete social suicide 20 years ago. Fortunately my peers are no longer 11, and I wore my hair straight today as a means of boosting my confidence when I showed the pictures.
Why did I look so sad? Let me count the reasons:

  • I was wearing glasses that both Sally Jesse Raphael and Steve Urkel would have beaten me up in a dark alley to take for their own.

  • My hair was 4 times bigger than my actual head.

  • I was wearing a blazer. With shoulder pads. At the age of 11.

  • And pantyhose. Why in the world was I wearing pantyhose at the age of 11 underneath pants?
The only things that I had going for me were the impeccably tight-rolled pants [Why not jeans? I'll cover that in therapy next week.] and my sweet Moon watch. Technically that's not the technical name, but those of you born in the late 70's and very early 80's know exactly what kind of watch I'm talking about. Or at least you should if you were half as cool as I was in middle school.

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Summer Vacation. Brought to you by the letter "S".

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words which you all should be thankful for in this particular situation. Instead of an 8,000 word post, I present to you all here in the blogosphere 8 pictures that best sum up my vacation last week. Quite frankly, I couldn't muster up the energy to type 8,000 words right now if my life depended upon it. [Good thing I didn't leave my flair for the dramatic at the beach, huh?] This week of going to work for 5 whole days in a row for 8 hours at a time has worn me out. I think the only remedy is a vacation.

Side note: Blogger has frustrated me beyond measure because I did not upload these pictures in this order. And I can't get them to move. I don't so much think it's the pictures' refusal to move as opposed to the operator's inability to make it happen.

Without further ado...

I'm sure my mid-afternoon lethargy in this office this week has no connection to our morning and afternoon vacation ritual.
Tuesday was the only morning I was not up in time for the sunrise. Primarily because I had been up since 3:00 am on Monday morning in time for the 7:15 flight.
South Florida sand is different than North Florida sand. There's really not much that gets by me.
"Sexy" Senior Citizens in Speedos.
I'm pretty sure he was an extra in the movie "Where the Boys Are" that was set in Ft. Lauderdale. In 1960. I'm also pretty a sure that a more appropriate "S" descriptor is "scary".
Surf and Sun.
As a matter of fact, I did go through an entire bottle of SPF 45 and SPF 70 sunscreen in a 5 day period.
Sweet Snacks.
My daily Starbucks habit was aided and abetted by my daily ice cream shop habit.
Shark Attacks.
My grandma told me before we left to look out for sharks because they were coming out of the deeper waters and closer to shore. Turns out, she was right.
Standing in Line.
You know how Moses led the people through the wilderness for 40 years and he never actually made it to the promised land? I can totally relate.
In conclusion, a good time was had by all.