A couple seasons back my wife Diana and I took a Fall trip to the beach. I am a late convert to beach trips as I really don’t care for sand, salt water, or excessive heat, and those are prime ingredients for any good beach. But I have discovered “my” beach, which is in October at the Gulf, and includes a good book, new music in my earphones, and wine at sunset. The aforementioned trip was the best yet – we did seven whole days in a largely adult-oriented condo and literally did nothing. Since my real estate business is about doing something, all the time, for everybody, it was unbridled luxury to sit, read, listen, watch. And enjoy.
For most working folks the typical year offers maybe a couple weeks of vacation time, plus a few holiday weekends, to escape the stifling and mundane reality of their job. It’s tough to count Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays as time off because they are filled with incredible stresses of their own, so most people only have a tiny slice of time to escape the daily grind. I like to believe that rich people don’t have that problem, that they spend their days lounging about, doing what they like, enjoying each and every day without the pressures of the daily grind.
Of course, that’s probably far from the truth about the wealthy. Which makes me think back to Jack, the first truly wealthy man I ever spent time with.
I was up North on a ministry trip scouting locations for conferences and scheduled to meet up, and stay with, the first genuine millionaire I had ever known. Jack had made his fortune in the early days of plastic grocery bags. You know the ones – we all have approximately eleven thousand of them in our house. But back then they were new enough that the grocery clerk always asked, “Paper or plastic?” and Jack had bet on plastic. He won, judging by the house I pulled up to. It was in Donegal, on the slopes of a ski resort outside Pittsburgh, all contemporary-chalet-wall-of-glass that clearly declared “I have money.” I had never been inside such a place, much less welcomed in, and was even fed a home-cooked meal by my gracious host family. It was delightful: the view, the architecture, the original art. And especially the genuine warmth of the rather wealthy family that lived there.
The next morning, I met up with Jack and we headed out in his Lexus for the grand tour of his company building and the general area. Jack wound us through the hills, dales and valleys and knew the area well, pointing out this feature and that fact. He stopped at a little store, a tiny block building in the middle of nowhere on a narrow road. Going in I discovered it was a butcher shop, the real deal, with fresh meats on display. Jack placed an order with the lady in the stained apron who called him by name. She bagged up his small purchase and we headed out. I was excited to be in the company of someone with wealth and power and, as we pulled to a stop at a scenic spot, overlooking streams being worked by fly fishermen, I thought this was my chance to mine the depths of his genius, to find out what makes a man wealthy. Jack turned off the car, rolled down his window, and offered me the little white sack from the butcher shop. I fished out a shop-made beef stick, kind of a high-end Slim Jim, and we sat there chewing in silence. Finally, Jack said, quietly but with purpose:
“It’s good for the head.”
Since the passing of my mom last year and my own brush with death I have been seeing a therapist to see what is going on inside. Finding no three-alarm fires raging in my psyche, but rather enjoying the process of talking through life with someone competent to counsel, I have kept going every couple weeks. He has steered me into meditation, reflection, deep reading and other ways to explore and expand my understanding of myself. The appointments are more like hanging out with a wise friend than some sort of medical event and he summed it up nicely with “I am happy to enjoy the journey of life with you.” And I take that at face value – it is not psychobabble or fraught with the new age but sincere. And, without irony, I say it’s good for the head.
I find many escapes from the pressures of daily life and my chosen, and very stressful, career. I spend hours listening to music in a dedicated listening room, where I sometimes smile or even LOL at the sounds coming from my carefully constructed system. I also spend hours designing and building things for that same room, gaining immense satisfaction from the process of creating something new. There’s not much better of a way to enjoy an hour than out back with my lovely wife for happy hour (It’s five o’clock somewhere!) or cooking up something special in the kitchen for us to enjoy together. Music, food, wine, good company. They’re all good for the head. It doesn’t matter whether you have wealth or not – without those reliefs, without something to smooth off the edges and bring some pleasure, life would be nearly unbearable.
There are bigger, eternal issues you must address during this, our earthly pilgrimage. But you need to take care of You along the way, make sure your soul finds pleasure and peace, nurture your Self as you grow into all you can be. You have to make sure you are doing those things that are good for the head. Maybe I lean too much on this, but the Preacher put it well when he said:
“Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 8:15
After happy hour last night we resolved to plan a beach trip, just for the two of us, with no agenda other than a time of relaxing and enjoying ourselves, complete with sand and salt water but no excessive heat. Diana headed inside and clacked away on the computer keyboard and, when I came in from spinning a few records in my room, I found we were headed to the Gulf in May for five nights of our own brand of therapy. I’ll take a few good books, find some new music, let the cabana boy keep me in the shade of the big blue beach umbrella. In the evenings I’ll cook up something that came from the sea which we will enjoy with her favorite Pinot Noirs. And we will walk the sand in the evening, sit in our chairs under the stars, and enjoy a brief but welcome respite from the real world.
And my millionaire friend will be right, once again. It will be good for the head.