Stillness in 2021

At RHB, we find peace and regeneration through Crew Advance, our particular spin on the idea of the corporate retreat. We like to think emphasizing the word “advance” focuses us on working toward what’s next and what’s hopeful. And doing things as a crew allows us to share time together and renew the bonds of collegiality that make this such a great place to work. As part of Crew Advance, we all generate a five-minute talk called a Tam Talk (named after RHB principal and CEO Tamara Bailey) on something that interests us, which can have nothing to do with our job roles. Recently, we learned about horseshoe crab blood, knitting, the Big Mike banana and more. We were both moved and becalmed by this breath-taking 2020 Tam Talk by Alex Williams, RHB Vice President for Relationship Management. We wanted to share this with you, to give you the gift of stillness and beautiful thoughts to think that Alex gave us.

If you know anything about me, you know that I am a fanatic about Maryland. I’m crazy about the people, about the culture, about the proximity, about the beach (although to be fair our favorite beach is actually in Delaware), about the crabs, and basically about just about everything. We were so excited when we got to move back home nearly three years ago from Connecticut and it has been wonderful ever since.

But there’s something particular about Maryland that really makes me love it even more and it comes from a physical bridge that links my past and present. Maryland, like most states, has areas that are deeply divided and distinctly different. I grew up on the eastern shore in a largely rural area filled with farms, small towns and a decent drive to get to, well, anything. After college I moved to the suburbs of D.C. and Baltimore, and we’re raising our family in an area filled with people, traffic and a Wegmans (dream location, I know) directly across the street from my neighborhood.

It goes without saying that the eastern shore offers a slower pace of life and is a calm respite from the maniacal churn of traffic, people and work. To get from one side to the other you can drive up and around the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States; you can take a boat if you feel like a relaxing afternoon and you, well, have a boat, or, you drive over it across the enormous Chesapeake Bay bridge. There’s zero point in driving around, we don’t have a boat or time, and so to get to the other side, we drive over.

The bridge—that’s what you call it in Maryland—spans just under 4.5 miles and rises nearly 200 feet over one of the most magnificent bodies of water, steeped in history and beauty. About 30 million cars cross it each year. It costs 4 bucks to cross. And, there is a moment when you’re about 3/4s across where everything shifts and you enter into a state of stillness. It’s 76 degrees, the sun is setting, your windows are down and you simply feel a shift in the air. It’s a phenomenon that’s not officially documented anywhere, but anyone in Maryland will tell you it’s real. And it’s wonderful. And it’s a shift I perpetually seek. It’s a welcomed juxtaposition.

From the moment the atmosphere tilts, your mind starts to clear and everything takes a notch down. Your worries are lessened, your stresses lift slightly and you hold your partner’s hand a little bit tighter. From there you glide onto the shore and find yourself surrounded once again by those fields, open space and an ability to really see the stars. You drive for another hour as the calm continues to roll over you and find yourself walking down the boards to the water where you’re hit with the rhythmic undulation of the waves hitting the Henelopen sand. For me, the experience from bay bridge mile three on is a spiritual one.

I seek this feeling. There have been days where I have literally driven over the bridge simply for the sake of feeling it. And that brings me to the real purpose of my TamTalk today, which is finding stillness. I know that we each have one hundred different balls that we’re juggling while simultaneously riding a unicycle in a wind storm…in a pandemic.

It’s not really mindfulness and it’s not really self-care. Rather, I think it’s a combination of them both. I’m the worst at this; I readily admit that. Particularly in 2020, stillness has been harder and harder to find. And I feel the irony in that statement as we’d all be a heck of a lot better off if we had just been still—really still.

The stillness I seek isn’t the easiest to attain—I literally have to be moving to experience it. I can’t get it in my home, or in the gym, or on a walk outside. I get it at 72 miles an hour a hundred feet above the water. I’d like for 2021 to be an experiment in finding new stillness in my life. I don’t think it’ll be easy and maybe I won’t be successful, but as I think about the peace and satisfaction I feel as my wheels cross that final threshold, I’m motivated to not only find it more, but to find it in new places.

I’d encourage you to really seek yours if you haven’t found it yet.

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Alex Williams

Alex is the Vice President of Relationship Development at RHB.