It was two years ago that I came to Southern California for my “trial visit,” to check it out, find a place to live and prepare for the big adventure. I’d lived in Kansas City for over 20 years and Green Bay for almost 20 years before that. I told my New England family that I always thought I was a California girl – and it was about to become a reality!
As I think back, I really did not have any expectations about what my new life would be like, which is ironic, since I was a consummate goal setter, intention creator and all-in-kind-of-girl for community involvement.
Reflecting over the past two years, the operative word: was.
Messing With Your Mind
There’s something about the SoCal life that can mess with your mind. If you’ve been an obsessive planner, organizer or doer, it’s hard to describe.
The French might say “comme si, comme sa” – not good, not bad.
The Italians might say “que sera, sera” – whatever will be, will be.
The Sanskrit version is “neti-neti” – neither this, nor that. I like the expanded definition: “Any thought, any feeling, is discarded — patiently discarded — again and again if necessary, until the mind is clear and the soul is revealed.”
I Call It “The Surfer Mentality.”
The pace and priorities are different here.
People surf for 2 – 3 hours before going to work. From parents teaching their 16-month old to surf, to an 80-year old, they’re are out there, every day, waiting for the wave. Patiently. Riding the wave, falling off and paddling back for another opportunity. There’s an unspoken hierarchy and protocol at each beach. I heard of a business owner who positioned a video camera on the roof of the building, so they could monitor the surf and take off when the waves were right. These people are strong, fit, disciplined and in awe and at-one with the water. There is a Zen quality to it all.
Driving and the Surfer Mentality
Even at the stop lights, I notice this “Zen, surfer mentality.” The traffic is horrible, yet the light can turn green and people are relaxed and chilled out. Or they may have 1 – 2 car lengths between their car and the one in front of them as they patiently wait for the light to turn green.
Compare this to the intensity and impatience of the east coast or even Midwest. Horns honking. So close they’re almost in your trunk. Hand gestures and nasty words. I used to do all these things.
I think the surfer mentality and protocol make for civilized driving. They understand “the zipper” – or alternating cars as lanes narrow. Pedestrians have the right of way in town. Cars stop, mid-intersection, for a pedestrian.
People wave to say thanks. Chill baby. What’s the rush?
Friendships and the Surfer Mentality
Making friends here is hard.
People will ask: have you made any friends here? I say: Yes. One.
People are reluctant to make plans and prefer last minute spontaneity. (The surf might be good, and we don’t want to miss it… surfers or not, the mentality is pervasive.)
Engaged in the Moment
And yet, people here are really engaging, fun and you feel like you have a new best friend… until the conversation is over at the checkout line, or the networking meeting or church activity. They’re not polite, like Midwest people. They engage; you hear their life story or whatever they want to share. We laugh and connect, and we move on… to the next wave.
In a previous blog, I wrote about the people I’ve met. I’m finding that more people don’t want their picture taken and posted on FaceBook, even without names or contact information. But that doesn’t prevent us from engaging in conversation.
I’m learning that these brief encounters are, in fact, very meaningful and far from superficial. To think that someone would share their hopes, joy, frustrations and sorrows to a stranger is quite remarkable. It could be the joy of the man who found a 3-karat diamond ring on the beach. Or the sorrow of a 90-year-old man, with tears in his eyes, who shared that his first child was stillborn, and then had 4 daughters. I was struck by this acknowledgement of this loss and his sadness 70 years later.
Some people say, “we’ve been friends since kindergarten!” Or “we still hang out with our high school or college friends.” There’s a lot to be said for having long lasting friendships and I have a few that I cherish.
And yet, in this era of disconnection and divisiveness, I feel compelled to connect and engage with strangers in this way. I encourage you to try it and see what happens.
My sister lives in a town on the Appalachian Trail in Connecticut where hikers stop. She has started connecting with some of the hikers by filling a plastic container with non-perishable items for them to take: dehydrated soups, travel size shampoo, tooth paste etc. On lid of the box, there’s a typed note with “advice from a grandmother: Call home, check for ticks and stay hydrated.” She shares with me the people she meets and their stories. Some people leave her notes too. It’s inspiring!
Who’s Willing To Give It A Try?
Are you willing to engaged, in the moment, and talk to someone you don’t know? You don’t have to be BFFs, exchange names and phone numbers or promise to stay in touch. You might be surprised by what you learn – about them … and about yourself!
Marty Stanley, CSP, is a national speaker and author. She helps people and organizations Get Out of B.E.D. (Blame Excuses and Denial) and Alter Their Outcomes by taking ownership, accountability and responsibility for their choices and actions. Ready for change? Contact Marty today: 816-695-5453 or 858-432-6764 firstname.lastname@example.org www.alteringoutcomes.com
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