I’m not a swimmer or a runner, but isn’t there something in these athletes’ training about breathing, pacing, and strategies for long distance endurance? The last 22 days have felt like a physical, mental, and emotional marathon of sorts. I’ll spare you the list of meetings, engagements, and tasks—you may have already read about them! Looking back, I realize I have had to live every day in acute mindfulness, attending to whatever was right in front of me in the moment, including the unexpected. Prioritizing was key, completing one task/event/conversation before moving onto the next. I had to put my head down for some parts, come up for breath and a brief aerial view, then dive deep again. Today I crossed a finish line, and I feel proud.
I started my journey with Better Angels in May of this year, at a skills workshop. Since then I have attended two additional workshops, one that was featured on the Van Jones Show. I committed to moderator training, and today I led my first skills workshop. I had the honor of working with the three Wonder Women who ran the workshop back in May. They prepared me so generously, so kindly, and I am forever grateful.
There was a hiccup, though. When we initially arranged with the Wilmette Public Library for the event, we mistakenly told them the event would last two hours. The workshop is designed to last 2.5 hours. We could not change the website or registration, so we meticulously shaved 24 minutes from the schedule. We warned participants of our impending heavy handedness on time, and dove in. Mande and I set timers on our phones for each segment. Mary Lynn gave me hand signals from the back of the room (though I did not always look or see). I had the handy timeline that Sharon typed out for us all. We ran ahead at times and behind at others, and ended right at 4:06pm, as planned. We kept pace. Engagement and discussion was lively, and attendees gave overwhelmingly positive feedback. Many people stayed afterward to talk more, explore ways to get involved, and exchange information. We were invited to present at other organizations. Overall we felt it was a wild success.
Everything was a group effort these last three weeks. Each meeting, workshop, video call, or presentation, whether for the American College of Physicians, my clinical practice sites, or Better Angels, required a team of people, each with delegated and specified roles and task lists. We all had to agree on timelines and deadlines. Text, email, Zoom; more email and text—it felt like running through a Venn diagram of relay races, passing batons in and out of each circle as I crossed from one to another. I had to pace myself, and also match the pace of others as I came alongside.
Having a calendar with everything written in one place definitely helped. I keep a checklist of every task, no matter how small, and carry it with me everywhere. Excellent hydration is key for optimal mental and physical performance—I’m always reminded when I forget. Timely, frequent, and clear communication—need I say more? All of these practices help me plan and maintain a steady pace, checking off the list, completing each day, each trip, each week, slowly, surely, and competently.
Now I can slow down, breathe deep, and tread more lightly for a little while. Every athlete, even an amateur, requires rest and recovery between races. Once again I dedicate this month of daily blogging—a quintessential practice in steady pacing—to all those who go before me, showing me how it’s done. Thank you.