Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for April, 2024

15 Years of Navel-Gazing

Wow, that went fast! Through the wonders of the “Memories” tab on Facebook I was informed that my little slice of the internet just turned 15. For 15 years I’ve been sitting in front of a computer and sharing, well, stuff. So I’ve taken this as an opportunity to look back a bit. What prompted me to launch my own blog? What kind of stuff has made it onto these pages? Was any of it any good? How could any of it been better? Since this is just one guy’s view of his own belly button as it were, does being better even matter? And why, for Heaven’s sake, has anyone else been reading my drivel?

So I decided to take a little look back at the why and the what of what my “Random Thoughts” has turned out to be.

Without really knowing it I’ve probably always been sorta destined to write. Somehow or something, but writing. As I’ve said to anyone who ever asked, I am the son and grandson of teachers. Sticklers for the language, for grammar, in both the written and spoken word. Dinners at home were verbal free-for-alls. My Mom was famous as a younger woman for taking whatever position was on the opposite side of any issue just to spice up a conversation. Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit and a notable pot-stirrer was said to “like it a little rough” in the arena of ideas; growing up with two super intelligent parents and 3 equally bright (and argumentative) siblings probably did me well in comments section of the original CrossFit website.

Which, of course, brings up “Sunday musings…”, the original vehicle I used to exercise my writing “muscles”. After about a year or so as a moderately active member of the CrossFit “cyber-gym” I found the intellectual aspect of the community and the program as interesting and inspirational as the physical. I was introduced to what it meant to be a libertarian there, for example. My new business didn’t consume as much of my weekly hours as my prior one did. Sunday mornings were largely mine, the hours free of any real responsibility. I cut my teeth as a writer, found and refined my voice there writing my “musings…”

Why a blog? When I saw the FB “Memories” prompt I went back and read Post #1 and I posed that very question in the first paragraph. Do you ever find that your “internal hard drive”, your stream of consciousness running in the background, that it gets so full of ideas that you run out of space for new ones? I did. I do. An idea finds its way in and grows, sometimes crowding out other stuff I should be considering, or just expanding enough that another new, worthy something-or-other opens the door to your brain and simply can’t squeeze its way it. Just like a hard drive nearly full, or your ROM not up to the task of running your day-to-day tasks while at the same time processing the “big thoughts”. Writing it down, turning the words this way and that, allowed me to clear out the space needed to grow.

To be honest, every person who ever sat down to write secretly hopes that someone will read their stuff. Read it and like it, if we’re being fully honest with ourselves. This has been the case forever. Inkwell and quill or a computer capable of sending a man to the moon that fits in your back pocket, writers write in the hope that something they’ve written will matter. I was, I guess I am, no different. But from that very first post “Welcome to a Restless Mind” all the way up to this morning’s “Navel Gazing”, the main reason to write has been one part data dump and one part the simple joy I’ve found in the act of writing itself.

What have I been writing about? It turns out that my prediction on that very first post was fairly accurate. Healthcare, especially eye care, the topic of post #2 “Why Ophthalmology”. How our American healthcare system has slowly eroded over my career (“EMR and Underpants”), and how I have tried to fight that on a micro-level in my own practice (“A Tribe of Adults”). CrossFit, of course, but sports writ both large and small (“The Death of the Three-Sport Athlete I and II”). Athletes. The business of the sports world (“It’s Not About the Money”). Friendship has been a well to which I’ve returned time and time again. What is a friend? What it takes to make a friend and nurture a friendship. Being a good friend is important; I’ve done some of the work to be a better friend here. Lately, with the demise and subsequent “rebirth” of my hips there’s been a steady diet of thoughts on longevity, extending my “healthspan”, and a recent multi-part look at maintaining brain health as we get older.

Any writer has only to look to his family if he needs an idea or a little bit of inspiration when he sits down to write, and I am no different. Have you read the so-called “great writers”? In many cases the only topic they really address is family. Usually the darker aspects of their families, right? Their sun always seems to be in the shade of the dirty laundry they lay out. Not me. If writing about that kind of stuff in your family is what it takes to be a “great writer” then I’m never gonna measure up. I’ve tried really hard not to “go there”, and for the most part I’ve done OK. “Random Thoughts” has brought my beloved maternal grandparents back to life for me (“A Love Letter to My Gama”). It was a place for me to work through that pain of my Dad’s long goodbye (“A Father’s Day Visit From My Dad”), the loss of my in-laws, and sadly, the orphanhood lurking in my too near future. And Cape Week! 32 year of my family, you know, familying.

Was any of it any good? I dunno. Does it matter? Over the last couple of weeks I’ve gone back and read some of my posts and many of them (most?) have been rather pedestrian. Trite, even. I seem to try a bit too hard to be clever, to impress as a wordsmith. Still, every now and again a tiny bit of lightning strikes and a piece is pretty good. “The Genius Gene” and how I don’t got it. A couple on the difference between “Enemy and Other”, an older one about memories without the aid of a selfie or Instagram, of how I remember a dinner with my friend “The Dude” simply by the emotions I felt. “Shades of Gray”, still the best essay I’ve ever written, about the night when I knew that the very biggest thing was going to be OK.

Clearing my “internal hard drive”, writing down the things I’ve been thinking about, has helped me to be a better version of whoever I am, whoever I hoped to be. Will I keep writing? Sure. Why not? There’s always a little bit of better out there, just around the next bend, waiting to be found. My number one goal as an adult has been to be the best husband I could possibly be, a worthwhile thing I can strive to become every day. Writing has helped me there, too, and I am so very grateful to Beth for not only carving out space for me to write, but encouraging me to continue.

It’s been 15 years. I have enjoyed every part of them spent here, working through the random thoughts that bang around inside my brain. Honestly, it’s been a lovely surprise to find so many of you here, with me, still. Even though I am admittedly writing for an audience of one, I do so love it when you reach out and tell me that something I’ve written has been in some way meaningful to you or yours. What a privilege to have been a tiny part of your life. Thank you. I’ll be here, on and off, for as long as I can. My invitation in “Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind”, Post #1 stands:

Don’t be a stranger.

Sunday musings…4/7/2024

1 One way. As in street. I am back in Boston, the “big city” of my youth. Construction, weather, and the signature headache of traversing Beantown, the one-way street. Perhaps the only thing GPS hasn’t really, truly mastered.

Still the same brutal pain in the ass in 2024 that it was in 1974.

2 Leveler. Flight #1 cancelled, thankfully at 0400. Flight #2 postponed 2 1/2 hrs. Eventual arrival in Boston proper 0200 the next day.

Really, even a true snowbelt city is subject to the leveling effect of the wind.

3 Kalends, Ides, and Nones. “Beware the Ides of March.” Perhaps the most famous calendar reference in history. From the Latin calendar, the “Ides” fell on the 15th day of March, May, July, and October, and on the 13th of the other months. Did you know that? That the “Ides” wasn’t always the 15th of the month? No? Me either.

Turns out the Romans were into naming days. The first day of each month was known as the “Kalend”. Get it? Calendar. Ya, didn’t know that either. How about the “Nones”? The 7th day of March, May, July and October and the 5th of the other months. Any idea why?


4 Rearview mirror. This weekend I’ve been attending a conference being held in the “big city” of my childhood, Boston. Childhood home to my Dad. The first city out of which I ever flew. It’s been at least 10 years since this meeting called Boston home. After United took over Continental we began to fly in and out of Boston for our visits to Rhode Island. Now that my Dad is gone and my Mom has moved to Ohio, Boston has been turned into little more than a business trip and a rail stop.

What of our other cities and towns? Southbridge and Lincoln for me. Philly and the Lancaster area for Beth. Our ancestral “villages” if you will. The trip to Boston this weekend feels different now that my Mom is in Ohio. Each time I’ve been here for business over the course of my life I’ve either squeezed in a trip home or been squeezed by guilt because I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. My next opportunity may come in 2028 if it comes at all. After a final visit to to scatter their parents’ ashes, Churchtown may have seen the last of the Hurst girls. No opportunity appears on the horizon.

Honestly, this is weird. At no time in my life did it ever occur to me that the towns that domiciled my family, the towns that housed the halls of my education, that they would all cease to be destinations. Only memories, visited in daydreams.

Images that appear forever in the rearview mirror.

5 Ready? I guess this one could have been another “calendar” note. The years have passed and my days of visiting “home” have passed with them. Calendars are a measure of time, not unlike clocks or hourglasses, just a bit slower. This weekend I had the opportunity to share some advice with professional colleagues who are either surgeons like me, or folks who work for companies that make some of the tools and medicines we use. Much of the advice hinged on time and timing, the intersection of readiness and opportunity.

When is it your time? It always arrives. Your time, that is. Your “time” might be a problem, or an opportunity that arises. Your time either arrives when you are not ready, or you move as if it’s time but it really isn’t. Or it might be your time, maybe, but whether or not it is you just aren’t ready. And of course, sometimes the time is just right.

That even confuses ME, to be honest, even though I just wrote it!

Here’s what I mean by that convoluted koan: as I shared several times with my colleagues this weekend there is an intersection between readiness and opportunity, a coming together of the right thing at the right time such that something really good happens. For instance, you may have a singularly brilliant idea, something so far ahead of everything else in its space that it will be revolutionary. But the timing is off; you aren’t on the LEADING edge, you are so far out in front that you are on the BLEEDING edge. YOU might be ready, but it’s not yet time. Think the Apple Newton, the founding of a fully consumer-facing eyecare business just before the Great Recession or, you know, Crossfit ca. 1999.

On the other hand there may appear an opportunity which by all accounts is pretty much EXACTLY what you need right at that exact time. But you aren’t ready. A perfect job opens 2000 miles away, but the love of your life has 2 years to go for a degree. A trusted friend on the cusp of a success for the ages urges you to quit your “dead-end” job, the one that is paying you so much that you really can’t walk away from it just then to take what might be a dream job working with a friend. The culmination of your life’s mission is there for the taking, but reaching for it means leaving behind everything that you’d built AROUND that mission. Or it might be something as simple as not being ready for a “standard issue” life step like college right after high school or a job right after college.

Here I think, is the teachable moment, the guts of my advice: sometimes the hardest thing to do is to identify that one half of the equation has not reached a point of readiness, whether it’s the “you” part or the “opportunity” part. Several of my friends are sitting on one side or the other of this very thing. Failure to identify this almost guarantees that execution will fail, be only partially successful, or even very unsatisfactory. Once this mis-match has been identified, however, rational choices can be made. Strategy can be mapped out and tactics chosen.

Sometimes the best of these is to simply soldier on despite the fact that one part or the other isn’t ready (think Crossfit workout). Other times it’s best to drop back and re-group, prepare to re-engage at some time in the future if and when readiness and opportunity intersect (think Apple and the Newton, the re-boot of that consumer-focused eyecare company post-Recession). Either way, whether it’s you not ready for the world or the world not ready for you, the first step is to not ignore the fact that SOMEBODY isn’t ready.

And that once they are something really good happens.

I’ll see you next week…

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