Try not to Try too Hard

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Big Sam’s

If James Taylor is right and the “Secret of life is enjoying the passing of time,” then I nailed it this morning. I woke early and walked along the beach well before sunrise, when the tone of the sky moves through myriad shades of blue before some strip of amber appears. Then the sun. 

I walked a while watching pelicans glide inches above the still surface and osprey move from water to rooftops with small fish in their claws. Only a few dolphins surfaced on their way south following some school of fish. The hotels along this coast are crowded again, but not so much at this hour of dawn when early risers like me head out to run or walk along the boardwalk. A garbage truck moved up the sand emptying cans, and two men walked along side.

I walked up Fifth Street to the inlet behind the fishing and tour boats to eat at a small favorite place of mine, Big Sam’s. It is frequented by the crews just back or not yet out to sea, and some locals who know, and also, every once in a while, by some tourists made aware by an attentive desk clerk. This morning I had scrambled eggs with peppers and tomatoes with a soft-shell crab on the side. By the time I started my coffee I’d already been up three hours. That’s a good morning. That’s how I like time to pass—no collusion with anyone.

The staff had the presence of mind to put sports on the televisions and music on the speakers, so I sat without speculations and commentaries. Where’s my cardiologist with his blood-pressure pump at moments like this?

Not everyone is aware of the stresses of others, what preoccupies them, no matter how absent of worry they might appear from afar. Depression is easily disguised, anxiety is a silent companion. So when people seem at peace, seem untethered by the concerns of a plugged-in world, they may actually be in despair. Or, more likely, feel some indefinable uneasiness in their stomach, something like the beginning of a stomach bug, only it’s not, and they can’t explain what it is and they can’t make it go away. The world, as has been pointed out so many times, is often too much with us.

When I sit and stare through the windows at Big Sam’s to the boats and docks and jet ski’s and morning flock, I have taught myself a brief but most effective game: What can I focus on right now to make my world spin smoothly? There are times when I need to be planning or thinking of other issues—when I walk I am often writing or editing in my mind, and when I’m settling in for the night watching a show or reading, I try and catch up on my accounting and make a list for the next day. I’m getting better at scheduling my brain’s activities so that I don’t need to worry about anything when I’m not on the clock. I love lists. It makes it easier for me to know that when I’m not doing something I don’t need to be doing something or worried even if I should be doing anything. A quick glance at my day’s list tells me if I’m neglecting something important. It relaxes me to have a list and follow it.

There’s more though. I’ve spent too much time around people and in situations which caused me to believe something was way more important than it needed to be. The news does this. Not that issues flooding the broadcasts, newsfeeds, and personal conversations aren’t important, but it is all too easy to blow their importance to our lives and our anxiety and our worry out of proportion. There is only so much I need to know, so much I can possibly do. Staying up to date on the daily shortcomings of government and the inconceivable loss of life and culture and possibility in the world is very different than the saturation which occurs. I am teaching myself balance. I was never very good at balance. And now, if I’m going to err at all, I’ve decided it is in my best interest to err in the direction of Big Sam’s.

My mother worries too much. My father, if he worried at all, certainly didn’t show it. My son has not yet learned to worry about anything. We all know that worry can be healthy—a way of precaution, a device to keep ourselves aware of our surroundings. We also know it can be debilitating. It can even cause some unfortunate souls to hibernate, to withdraw, but they’re in grave danger of “reaching the point of death only to find out” they “never really lived at all.”

And so it comes back to the simple decree, “The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time.” This morning when the sun was clearly about to rise, I noticed something interesting: the moments seemed to pass in slow motion. I mean they actually felt like the huge second hand on the wall was taking its time in some dramatic fashion. I waited as the light blue moved to pale yellow and the sun was, according to my free app, supposed to break the horizon, and it…just….was…not…happening…so slow. So so slow.

And then it did, and it felt very much like I earned it. I was focused only on the sun rising—nothing else, and that sunrise slowed down enough for me to completely absorb its perpetual drift.

Then I had a softshell crab and eggs because such patience should be rewarded.

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