A Descent into Silence

Today marks the first day of October. Superficially, nothing’s significant about today. Climatologically, October ranks sixth in terms of overall warmth in West Michigan, barely edging its closest rival, April. The decline of high temperatures, which peak mid-July, accelerates. Already, signs of the color turn dot the trees. A few days ago, a cool spell—daily highs dipped into the mid-to-upper 50s—reminded us that we’re gearing up for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the new year.

October in the Grand Rapids area starts nice, in typically in the upper 60s, and ends cool, typically in the 50s. Lows can reach into the 30s (and are projected to this week, in fact, according to the National Weather Service).

I love this time of year.

The hustle of the summer calms. The motif of harvest and the transition from life-to-death reminds us of the circle of life. Shorts and flip-flops give way to jeans and boots. Sweaters come out, windows close a bit, and days begin to shorten noticeably as we slide into the homestetch before the solstice. The urge to grab a book (I just bought the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago) grows larger while my recliner and a warm fire and a purring cat conspire to abduct me on the first genuinely cold night of the season. Things get quieter. Silence, a peaceful quietude, descends almost like a lamb.

All this downshifting coincides nicely, I think, with an Advent-like spirit of renewal. Of all the liturgical seasons, Advent’s my favorite, in part becuase I’m always the most inspired to re-think and renew in that narrow window between my birthday and the final denuding of the trees.

In the last two weeks, I’m down seven pounds. Most of my inboxes are cleared out and my task-list recurated on a strategic scale. A new, slower rhythm already governs my weekly schedule. My stress levels—normally imperceptible to me—feel lower. Between an increase in hiking and hitting my exercise bike, and a day spent kayaking, and evenings focused on writing, I’m unwinding a bit, and planning for a calmer but more meaningful 2020 by thinking about foundational stuff and dialing back the aggressiveness of my goals list.

It’s a good day. A quiet day.

Five Fridays

This coming Friday, I will have finished my first week on the job at Priority Health, where I now work as a medical informatics consultant. The role presents an interesting career change and my first major shift in 13 years with the health system. I look forward to seeing the industry from the insurance carrier side, instead of the delivery system side. I’ve already had to buy a book on SQL programming, at the suggestion of my new boss. Interestingly, Bob will be both the first male supervisor I’ve had at the company (apart from a few transition weeks last summer), as well as the sixth formal upline I’ve had this fiscal year — started with Mary, then Tracey, then Big Jason, then Hollie, then Meghan and now Bob.

This past Friday, I packed my desk at Spectrum Health. Most of the Business Analytics team was off for meetings or work-from-home, so the wrap-up was quiet. I spent the morning updating my transition plan on the Confluence wiki and gathering my stuff into boxes. I got a hug from Vicki, then went to the Seward Street offices to give Meghan my hospital badge, laptop and parking pass. I left the kibble bowl (the candy dish) for everyone. It was, symbolically, empty. I left a note on my white board: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.” It’s a good group; I’ll miss them — Jen, Vicki, Alaric, Meghan, Gary, Lisa, Steve, Ronda, Gina, Allison, Bonnie.

The Friday before, I spent most of the day journaling, while encamped near Rock Harbor at Isle Royale National Park. Lots of insights gleaned that day.

The Friday before that, I struggled to get all my contract work done before I headed off on vacation. It was a day mostly spent as a freelance consultant, and the pressures that sometimes flow from it.

The Friday before that, I started telling my colleagues at the hospital that I had accepted an offer, the day before, from the insurance company. Thus marked my status as a short-timer. Folks started to come out of the woodwork, privately, to express their thoughts.

Five Fridays, each of which marked something significant.