On my recent vacation, I spent a lot of time at the beach. I love the beach ... the waves, the feel of the sand on my toes, the warm breeze off the ocean. The Beach has healing properties that no doctor or pill can duplicate. Perhaps this blog would better be called, changes in latitude, changes in attitude -- but Jimmy Buffet already trademarked that remark.
The View from the Beach is very different from my home view ... and, honestly, my home outlook. I think differently there ... I am different there. On the Beach, there is a calmer, simpler rhythm. On the Beach, there is less drama and more laughter, blending in with the sounds of gulls or the rolling surf. On the Beach, people are less uptight as high heels and laced dress shoes are replaced with flip flops and bare feet. Fewer people scrolling smart phones and more people fishing or shelling. It's acceptable to play or to sit on the ground, to catch nothing when you fish, to spend days with a book and/or beverage in hand.
On my recent vacation, one of my favorite moments was sitting on the lanai after an early morning rain in Key West. I was drinking hotel coffee -- you know the ones from those little ready-brew pods -- along with a sugar packet and powder creamer. I can truly say it might have been the best cup of coffee I ever drank, sitting there looking out at a majestic magnolia, a banyan tree and numerous palm trees outside my tiny yet not inexpensive motel room near the southernmost point of the United States.
I found myself smiling, reflecting, and celebrating the day as the sun came out from behind morning clouds -- my daughter lounging in the big queen bed inside. We were in Key West for two days and making the most of it. It was a place in Florida new to me. But there is an ease there -- to Key West -- that found its way into my soul. This rather gritty, casual paradise, with its many artsy shoppes, open air bars with piano men and acoustic guitar players crooning away all day and all night along with backyard restaurants (complete with families of chickens and palm frond floors) found its way into my soul. My blood pressure slowed and my heart rate eased.
What is that? How does some rather dirty old town street heated with 85 degree temps appeal to me so much? Is it the balcony-lined architecture? Is it the colorful flowers and palm trees? Is it the street vendors? Is it Darth Vadar playing the banjo and Spiderman playing a 3-stringed sitar? I can't say but this place has a way of changing my attitude -- of easing my mind and both relaxing and restoring my spirit. Why is it that flip flops and t-shirts and hair made wild by wind, salty air and humidity create an ease and acceptance to my pace? Why does beer (or rum runners) in paper cups taste so much the better than the fussier pints and glasses in my hometown Michigan establishments? Why am I more accepting as I recognize a more eclectic way of life, noting bars full of people imbibing even before Noon?
Why does the rhythm of life in this warm, tropical oasis change my outlook, inspire me and slow my rate of breathing? Why is it drama seems less here and smiles and laughter pop up easier? In this little 7.4 mile island crammed with tiny houses and roosters who don't know what time sunrise is but regularly let you know they are quite happy to see the sun, why does life just seem better here?
And how do I pack up that feeling, at the end of the day on the Beach? How do I keep it going? As I wander around in shorts and t-shirts -- or my bathing suit -- the sun gently tanning my SPF 50 coated skin and kissing my daughter's face until freckles dot her cheeks, I feel peaceful, Content, Happy and very at Ease. I don't want to argue or debate or challenge the unique ways people view the world and act in it. I'm cool with it. I am more accepting and less judgmental. Less apt to define life by my way of limited thinking. I sense the joy that comes from fewer demands and imposed expectations. In this place, there is a live and let live mood which allows the status quo to be whatever it is ... and that's fine by me.
Sadly, I've discovered that my View from the Beach is different from my every day outlook. Guess that's a choice, my getting wrapped up, or stressed out or seeing drama at every dark or unexpected corner. My Type A personality kicks into gear, over-analyzing or regretting, getting caught up in "stuff" and basing my decisions and choices on the societal imposed way it's supposed to be and the way I'm supposed to be in it. Less freedom. More judgement and stress. Long live the status quo.
But, as I return from the Beach this time, maybe I can make a different choice. Don't have to wear flip flops or drink my beer from plastic cups to retain my Key West attitude because attitude and how I choose to look around is a choice. Maybe it's three years of yoga that helped awake this shift, all those sessions of holding difficult poses and choosing to allow the shaky me to embrace the idea that stress and challenges are temporary and it's how I embrace and deal with this moment that's really what is important. Or maybe it's the feeling I picked up on Duvall Street. But what I've learned and know is this...
When my tan fades and the pictures on my wall become more distant memories, I have a piece of Key West I can still hold onto ... my View From The Beach ... where the livin' can be easy. If we let it. If I let it. And when the drama or stress hits, I'm gonna to remember that.
What about you? Could you use a slower pace? A simpler rhythm? Just because you aren't on the Beach or walking around Old Town Key West, doesn't mean you can't find it. Put on some flip flops if you need physical inspiration. Take a walk in the sunshine. Breathe deep ... imagine that fishy, salty air ... the caress of waves and sand on your feet ... and choose your View ...