The first sign that my emotions weren’t regulating well today was when I started to cry while listening to a Jimmy Buffett song. Seriously, who does that? It wasn’t one of the “songs you know by heart,” which can’t help but put someone in a good mood. Take for example the song Volcano, whenever I hear it I get so happy that I have the urge to drop my pants and dance around in my underwear (thank you, Kappa Sigma Fraternity, Epsilon-Zeta Chapter). The song I heard that started the waterfall from my eyes down to my cheek was Slack Tide and is featured on his most recent album, Life on the Flip Side. Jimmy is well over 70 now and, for me anyway, these lyrics speak to a wiser Buffett realizing that he’s deep into the back nine of that afternoon round of golf he sings about in We Are the People Our Parents Warned Us About.

I’ve got a fish on the line

But there won’t be a feast

We’ve got too much in common

And he shall be released

I’ve seen day turn to night

And watched the changin’ of seasons

Things don’t just happen

They happen for a reason

I remember whenever I was upset about something, my mother would tell me, “Michael, everything happens for a reason.” Arguably, that rarely worked to address whatever anxiety I was feeling at the time, but it is a beautiful sentiment, and one that requires hindsight to fully believe. In my career there were jobs I didn’t get (and a few that I’ve lost) and I’d get very upset about those outcomes. However, looking back, while those doors closed (or were slammed shut), windows opened (and some pretty big windows I might add). The same is true for breakups, the loss of friendships, and the occasional bad hangover.

Maybe we’ll meet in Exuma

Or down in the Keys

If I catch the right current

Or capture a breeze

Out here, conflicts and chaos completely subside

Sailin’ back to where I came from

Back to slack tide

Where is the place where conflicts and chaos completely subside? I want to know where this happy place is! I need a ticket there stat! Hold on, wait a minute, maybe it isn’t a physical place—maybe it’s a quiet place inside our soul that we can retreat to so that we can recharge. Maybe that One Particular Harbor is not in Tahiti, maybe it’s inside each and every one of us but we have to tap into our inner explorer in order to find it. Uh oh, this is getting way too deep for a Jimmy Buffett Song. I should lighten up! Maybe the next verse will be less heavy.

Well, I think it’s time to put some snorkels on

Turn your feet into flippers

Have some primal fun

Dance with a stranger in a Mardi Gras parade

Find an empty hammock, take a nap in the shade

Yes! Something light, yet important. If someone were to write an online dating profile for me (which would be odd since I’m not eligible for the dating scene), it just might read “Slightly older than middle aged man with a limited sense of adventure.” Come on, who wouldn’t want to swipe right on that? Or is it left? I have no idea as I’ve never been on Tinder (or Grindr). These lyrics, though, remind me that it’s important to have fun in life as LIFE ISN’T MEANT TO BE ENDURED. I personally love the term primal fun as it sounds better than just regular “Hey, it’s a Saturday, let’s have some fun, kind of fun.” Napping in the shade post primal fun sounds like a good idea. Thank you, Jimmy, for bringing a little levity in this verse, let’s see if it continues.

You can’t hold back the moon

Can’t stop the ebb and flow

The water still comes, and the water still goes

It turns mountains to sand

Gave ole Noah his big ride

Then he dropped off his passengers

Down, at slack tide

Rumor had it Dylan originally wrote, “The tides they are a changing,” after spending some time on Miami Beach in the 60’s, but his producer recommend that tides be changed to times, and thus a hit was born. That’s a total lie. I digress. Life keeps moving in one direction only—forward. The present becomes the past very quickly and time marches on (for whom the bell tolls). We can’t escape it. We can’t change the past (at best we can reframe it). Perhaps, though, the best way we can show someone we’ve hurt by our past actions is by taking charge and showing up differently in the present (which will quickly become the past) as well as the future (which will eventually become the past, but more slowly than the present). Wow, my mind is getting blown here, all by a 9 chord Jimmy Buffett song (maybe that’s why this one is so different…most of his our 3-4 chords at most!).

I can’t control anybody

Other than myself

Leave those half empty thoughts

High up on the shelf

If you cut me some slack

I’ll return the favor

Open that bottle of fine rum

That together, we will savor

The notion of not being able to control anyone other than oneself is an insight that takes a while (maybe a lifetime?) to set it. We all try to do it sometimes though, don’t we? Sometimes we try to change other people’s points of view to be more like our own while other times we may try to get someone to change their behavior so that it suits us better. How well does that work out for us? I certainly get resentful when I sense that someone else is trying to control me, so why should I try to control someone else?. 

On a related note, we are not responsible for the feelings of others. I used to take it personally when someone I am close to was not happy and would try to change my behavior in an attempt to “turn them around.” Trying to do so is like swimming against the tide—you put in a lot of effort for very little (if any) gain. The moment, though, that I embraced the fact that I am not responsible for someone else’s happiness was when I started to feel more free in a relationship. That’s not to say that my attitudes or behavior can’t have an impact on someone’s emotions (I am more than capable of pissing someone off or, conversely, making them laugh), but in the bigger picture I am not responsible for another’s inner happiness. Realizing this and acting accordingly is more like swimming at slack tide—when the current is very slow, almost not even noticeable. You get farther and are much less tired.

Well, we could use some quiet

We could use a little calm

Find the good in everybody

Share that “one love” balm

Watch the predators and prey

Swim along side by side

Beneath the blue sky and mangroves

Down, at slack tide

I admit to having a very hard time living in the moment; oftentimes when I’m doing something, my mind tends to race to the next thing on my list. Relatedly, when my kids were younger, I couldn’t wait for them to get to the next stage of development as I thought things would get easier when they could walk, talk, put themselves to bed, etc. Arguably, we were overwhelmed raising triplets but I just remember always being in a rush for them to grow up. Looking back, I miss those days when the evening routine called for dinner, baths, books, and bed. But, as Jimmy writes in the verse above, I was looking for quiet and calm, and typically found it when everyone was asleep and there was nothing left to do for the day.

I wish the whole wide world could swim along at slack tide

Swim along, swim along, swim along, swim along at slack tide

Swim along, swim along, swim along, swim along

 I ask all the authors who appear on Uncorking a Story to share with me the advice they would give their younger self (I refer to this as my DeLorean question as a reference to Back to the Future). The most common answer I receive is that they’d tell their younger self to relax, and that it will all work out. They’d reassure themselves that things are going to be okay and not to worry so much. I find it fascinating that they wouldn’t tell them what to avoid or how to fast-track their career but I get it—aside from potentially impacting the future in a negative way (like Marty McFly almost did if George didn’t kiss Lorraine at the “Fish Enchantment Under the Sea” dance, there are some lessons we all need to learn the hard way. We can’t avoid pain and unpleasantness because all of those experiences (plus the positive ones) make us who we are (and likely make us better writers).

Here’s the thing, though, if we can embrace our past and see it for the lessons it has taught us, while remembering that life will always move forward and realizing that we are only in control of ourselves and not responsible for the happiness of others, we just might be able to swim more easily as we won’t be fighting a current. Maybe that’s life at slack tide. Sign me up!