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Bret S. Beall

Seasoned Living
A Quarterly Column
Jan-Apr 2006

by Bret S. Beall

Seasoned. Adj. 1: flavorful, zesty, interesting; 2: cured, tempered; 3: improved or enhanced via experience; 4: colloq: of or pertaining to the seasons.

. Noun. Maintaining life in a particular manner or style; vitality.

Life is a Lesson in Every Season

When I was informed that this issue’s theme was “Life Lessons,” I started a list of lessons I’ve learned.  Having a synthetic mind, it didn’t take long for me to realize the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned:  LIFE is a lesson!

With the holiday season behind me, and work being unusually busy as I write this column in mid January, I’m feeling more than a bit tired.  I don’t usually feel tired.  Sure, at the end of a long day, I might feel a bit wiped.  If I stayed up too late the previous night writing or researching, I might feel sluggish.  In general, though, I’m full of energy, able to take on whatever the day presents.  So, when I feel continuously tired, I have to ask, “Why?”

Could I be suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD?   It IS the season when SAD often affects people.  Still, I don’t think so.  I did some research on SAD for a client a few years ago, and recommended they purchase a full chromatic light box.  At the same time, I realized that the symptoms of SAD didn’t match my own, then or now.  In fact, I welcome the darker months, the rain, sleet and snow.  It all feels like a great comforting blanket to me, and usually energizes me.  Over twenty years ago, someone summed it up as, “You like gray days.”  Yes I do!

If I were someone else, I’d suspect I was dealing with post-holiday blues.  You know, the exhaustion and adrenalin crash after all of the excitement of Christmas, Hanukkah, the Solstice, New Year’s Eve, or another holiday.  Nope, that’s not my problem.  I altered my holiday behavior years ago for the specific purpose of avoiding exhaustion and stress.  The solution is elsewhere. 

So, here I am in a season that should be giving me a boost, and I’m feeling tired.  If it isn’t the weather or the holidays, is it something else external to me?  Perhaps it’s just our species’ natural “downtime” this time of year, due to the shorter day length (in other words, SAD is an extreme version of natural reactions to natural phenomena).  Sure, it could be, but as I said, I’ve always been energized during the cold, gray days.

Wait!  I know!  Could it be the amount of work I’m doing?  Could it be the long hours?  Working weekends?  Could it be particularly demanding and unreasonable clients?  Could it be extra long commutes due to bad winter road conditions and traffic?  Of course, it could be all of these things.  But is it?

One of the most important life lessons I’ve learned is to ask, “Is it about me, or is it about them?”  In this case, I looked at the external influences on my life, and realized they are out of control.  Then, I looked inside myself, and realized that it isn’t the external influences that are the cause of my being tired, but rather my reaction to them.  I’ve been “allowing” myself to become tired and overwhelmed.  I’ve been allowing myself to lose control.

This time of year there are so many “fun” things that I want to do that I haven’t been able to do:  baking, developing new recipes, entertaining friends, organizing my research, enjoying winter woodland walks, and many other activities that bring joy to my life.  Once again, I ask, “Why?”  Once again, I answer that I’m “allowing” myself to lose focus and divert energy to other activities that I enjoy less.  And, getting the answer, I wonder why, after all of my years of growth and maturation and healing, is this situation arising?

Because I learned long ago that “Life is a lesson,” I know that when I’m not feeling at 100% capacity, there is something for me to learn.  In this case, it’s really fairly obvious.   I need to “just say NO!”  That’s my 2006 New Year’s resolution, and I’m writing about it for my soon-to-be-posted January-February Sensational Living column at www.god-dess.com.  The upshot is that I have to just say “NO!” to abusive clients.  I have to exert the hard-won confidence in my abilities and realize that there will always be new clients who want my talents and services.  I have to reclaim my self-respect and not let others disrespect me.  I have to do all of these things immediately!

Why immediately?  Because I must live life mindfully and with intention.  This is yet another important life lesson.  I’ve already outlined many of the things that I’m missing that I usually do this time of year.  By allowing others to take my joy from me, I’m not living with intention.  My intention is to live every day fully and joyfully.  As a former academic, I try to avoid duplicating what I’ve written elsewhere, so if mindful, intentional, joyful living is a topic of interest to you, please visit my previous writings at http://www.soulfulliving.com/mindfulness_gratitude.htm for some of my observations on mindful, daily living.

If we accept that “Life is a lesson,” we can begin to accept (or at least tolerate) those things that are less than desirable.  You don’t have to believe me!  Check it out for yourself.  Take some time for yourself (only yourself) for introspection and retrospection.  Look back at the unpleasant times of your life.  Did you have the opportunity to learn anything from them?  Are you a better person because of them?  Alternatively, do you find the same pattern recurring in your life?  Do you encounter the same problems again and again and again?  Do you long to get off that treadmill and pursue new opportunities?

Let me share by examples.  I often refer to the 1990s when I was a healthcare management executive and wasn’t particularly happy.  I couldn’t understand why my Path had led to such frustration.  In hindsight, seen through the filter of “Life is a lesson,” several truths became clear.  First, I had to be in that inhumane environment to be forced to seek the healing I needed; the very talent and blessings that had allowed me to become successful had actually gotten in the way of my healing.  Once the healing was well underway, I could see that I had some amazing opportunities during that decade:  dining at some of the finest restaurants, staying at amazing resorts and hotels, learning event planning, and honing my customer service skills … I use all of these experiences, good and bad, in my consultations, writings and lectures to help others live better every day.

Once I realized that every day could bring wonderful lessons that would make me a better person, my entire outlook on life changed.  If I have a less than ideal day, I make sure I look at it from the perspective of a “lesson.”  What can I learn from this?  If I simply have a “bad” occurrence, and it doesn’t take over my day, I can view this as a “test” of my growth and improvement.  When you realize you’ve just been tested, and you’ve “passed,” that is an exhilarating feeling!  WOW!

Let’s return to my current tiredness.  I went through the thought processes that led me to the life lesson that I have been allowing myself to actually lose control over what I permitted my clients to expect from me.  That means it is time to regroup.  I can tell you that 15 years ago, I would not have had the courage to regroup!  I would have just assumed that “I have to do the work.”  Now I know I can fire my client (or clients, whatever it takes).  I can re-take control of my own life!

Ah, the joy of controlling your own life!  I can use this wintertime to create new and wonderful versions of my basic cookie recipes or my cheese straws, which are all hits wherever I serve them (instead of giving Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice gifts, I’m going to give New Year gifts!).  I will finally finalize the savory quick bread recipe that I’ve been developing for a couple of years, as well as the savory bread pudding recipe that is finalized but needs to be typed.

I can anticipate the arrival of spring by appreciating the lengthening days.  I can trim the tropical plants that continue to grow (but not very well) throughout the winter (right now, I will stop to appreciate the one jewel orchid and one anthurium that are blooming, and I can be grateful that was able to repot my Aspidistra recently in hopes of coaxing it to bloom once again).  Other plants, neglected because of my work schedule, can be “put to rest” (= compost).  In another month, I can start taking cuttings to give as gifts to friends.

I will return to entertaining friends at Casa Beall!  I love preparing multi-course menus for close friends, with tandem tastings of two to three wines.  Right now I have an attractive but relatively unorthodox table décor:  a muted olive-maroon-white runner, gorgeous organic white dishes, drying gourds and colored leaves from the autumn, silver and red glass balls from the winter holiday season, and various cuttings rooting for spring planting.  In fact, just looking at this tablescape reminds me that I offer unique, unconventional services for all seasons!  I celebrate that!

Maybe I’ll travel!  Winter travel has some great bargains, and spring is shoulder season in most places.  We sometimes get into the rut that “travel is best during the summer,” and we miss many opportunities.

Getting stuck in a rut is exactly what I allowed to happen!  I had become so focused on my clients’ projects that I temporarily lost track of my own life.  Luckily, my life lessons allowed me to catch it relatively quickly, and to implement the steps needed to reclaim my life.  I hope you’ll take some time to really look at your own life, and see what you might need to do to reclaim that life.  Take advantage of these wonderful gray days, bake some cookies, and think about the life lessons that can make your life better.  Unless you can imagine it, you can’t make it happen.  Let some of life’s lessons (seasonal or otherwise) into your daily living … today!

© Copyright 2006 Bret S. Beall.  All Rights Reserved.

Lifestyle Management and Seasoned Living

Read Past "Seasoned Living" Columns:

Oct-Dec 2005 - "Honk if You Love Silence"

July-Sept 2005 - "A Recipe for Balanced Living"

April-June 2005 - "Trash and Treasure"

Jan-Mar 2005 - "Life Reflection: Looking Into Mirrors"

Bret S. Beall
Bret S. Beall, MS, PhD (Cand). As the CEO of GOD-DESS, I help people live fantastic lives with minimal time, effort or money. I have used my rigorous scientific training to synthesize psychology, sensory input, and logic, with global cuisine, décor, lifestyle concepts, indoor gardening and travel for each individual in an easy-to-understand, easy-to-create and easy-to-maintain style. For more information, please visit my website, www.god-dess.com, or call me at 773.508.9208, or email me at bret@god-dess.com.

Let’s start at the beginning, though. I was born in California’s San Francisco Bay area and lived there until I was seven. During this time, my family often took vacations to the seashore and to the redwood forests. There, I first felt the great interconnectedness of all life. At seven, I moved with my family to St. Louis, Missouri, where I continued my environmental interests (including growing houseplants). When I was twelve, we moved to the Ozarks of southern Missouri, where I lived on a farm and witnessed intimately the cycle of birth, life and death. We raised cattle, ducks, geese and rabbits, and I worked on our neighbor’s pig farm; we also grew a variety of produce and I first learned about preparing and preserving food. It was also at this time that I truly began acting on my interests in art, design and esthetics.

I did my undergraduate work in geology at the University of Missouri - Columbia, graduating with general honors and honors in geology; my coursework included a typical array of liberal arts courses (art, philosophy, history) along with the sciences (geology, physics, chemistry, biology, anthropology). By living in an off-campus efficiency, I learned the basics of simple cooking and living. After graduation, I went on to Masters and PhD work in evolutionary paleontology at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; my studies included geology, paleontology, biology, ecology and evolution, all presented within the framework of proper scientific methodology.

Ann Arbor has a terrific Farmer’s Market, which inspired me and helped me to act on my interest in ethnic cuisines and entertaining; this had to be done on a budget (given my graduate student salary) and efficiently (given my graduate student time requirements). I satisfied my artistic inclinations by doing extensive scientific illustration to accompany my original research. Teaching courses and speaking publicly at student seminars, at national and international meetings, and at various clubs and organizational meetings provided a level of excitement I had not experienced previously as I shared the information and data that I had collected. “Sharing” was the key, I realized, and this is when the seeds of GOD-DESS were planted.

I left Ann Arbor for Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History to accept a position as Curatorial Coordinator of Mazon Creek Paleontology. My long hours working on both museum responsibilities and my own research required living both time-efficiently and cost-effectively. In a very short period of time, I realized I did not want to spend the rest of my life within the academic world. I had already experienced a high level of international success, praise and recognition, for which I am grateful (including making it into the Guinness Book of World Records, and having Johnny Carson make a joke about my research on The Tonight Show). I eventually left the rarefied world of paleontology. This is when the seeds of GOD-DESS began to sprout and grow.

I spent the next decade in the field of not-for-profit healthcare association management, honing my skills in efficiency maximization, streamlining, prioritization, customer service, budgeting, organization, communication and simplification, and applying the rigors of my scientific training to the needs of my clients. My clients experienced extraordinary growth and profitability.

Although my salary was better than it was in academia, I still practiced my cost-efficient living, including preparing meals at home to eat at work. The hours were often very long, so time-effectiveness and efficiency-management continued to be important, if not vital. I traveled extensively in my various roles (including organizational representative, event organizer, executive manager, and lecturer); often, I tacked on vacation time to cost-effectively explore the various cities and regions that I was fortunate to visit, which further enhanced my travel planning skills. On my own time during this decade, GOD-DESS grew into a fledgling company, relying on the empiricism of my own experiences and my research.

After more than a decade of helping my clients experience almost 900% budgetary growth, 900% membership growth, 400% meeting attendance growth, and enhanced visibility that cannot be quantified, I knew it was time to become my own boss and devote myself 100% to GOD-DESS.

I believe we are always in the right place at the right time. Because of that belief, everything that I do, whether paleontology, or executive healthcare management, or lifestyle counseling, I do well, to the absolute best of my abilities. A lifetime of experience and research has now created GOD-DESS and everything it can do for you. I am grateful.





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