One Perfect Day

“What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?”

Some of you may recognize this as one of “36 Questions That Lead to Love,” a popular and oft-cited article by Daniel Jones in the New York Times in 2015, based on Arthur Aron’s study published in 1997. I could never generate a plausible answer, thinking superficially. And every time I read the article, I think of Nigel Marsh’s description of his ideal day–see 4:50 of his 2011 TED Talk. Basically he spends quality time with family, works about 6 hours, hangs out with friends, exercises, and has sex four times.

Coming across the question again in You’re Not Listening by Kate Murphy yesterday, I realized how close to perfect my day off was this week. Here’s how it went, with brackets inserted that would have made it truly ideal:

Wake up after 7 hours of sleep, in a fantastic mood, giddily looking forward to the day.
Move through morning routine easily, no rush or urgency.
Talk to Mei on the way to school, discussing her musings on anything that comes to mind.
Eat a light and tasty breakfast, sweet and salty, carb and protein, and coffee–oh yes, pour over coffee, nice and slow.
Consume a book and/or articles: on audio, digital, and/or print, romance and/or other, in the kitchen and car.

Ethos class! Challenged, educated, strengthened, and energized through coaching and community. I am now quoted on their social media:

Lunch with Dear Friend #1, communing over gorgeous salad, an Arnold Palmer, and shared ideals of leadership, friendship, and inner work.
[Find squishy armchair in a bookstore coffee shop, where I journal my reflections from lunch, reveling in the time and space to meet my friend and feed my soul.]

Browse bookstore, purchase artistic yet understated journal for Dear Friend #2, because everybody deserves pretty paper to write on.
Run into Dear Friend #3 on the way to meet DF2, reconnecting after many months and checking in–yay!
Walk and talk with DF2 [on wooded trails of Summit County–or] near Lake Michigan, stopping to photograph beauty that catches our eyes.
We discuss culture and relational leadership, exchange perspectives, and brainstorm ways to help systems and their people flourish.

[Find a shady bench, near spring blooms and urban wildlife, to sit and journal again, recording ideas, plans, aspirations, BHAGs.]

Pick up Mei from school, she’s energized more than stressed.
Pull fresh ingredients from fridge, audiobook or Agape music in the ears while chopping and stir frying.
Have a light and easy dinner, somebody else cleans up.
Mill around enjoying the house and its memories [it’s clean and neat, all plants watered and thriving].
Complete a relaxed night time routine, including pleasant smelling skin treatments.
More writing [and reading] in bed, all leftover words effused [and/or absorbed] for the day.
Lights out, burrowed in the covers, some intimate connection, sated in all 5 reciprocal domains of health.
Still high the next day and beyond, absolutely buoyed.

So what makes this day so perfect? What makes me so unreasonably and residually happy from it?
The ingredients:
Good sleep
Communion with people I care about and who care about me
Good food
Alternating rhythm between activity and rest; among input, processing, and output
Nature, especially sunlight
Social, emotional, and intellectual connection, both intra- and inter-.

Would I want to live this day every day? I think not, even if it were possible… Although I could easily imagine repeating it a few times over a languid vacation.

When I cannot/will not get a whole day like this at a time, how can I incorporate something perfect into each day? This question excites me with potential. It wouldn’t take much of any/each of the ingredients above, in any combination, to make any day a little more ideal. Some advance planning, mindfulness, and real time gratitude could go a long, long way. By this time next year, regardless of what’s happening around me that I cannot control, my life in general—all days—could be a lot closer to perfect, even more excellent, than they already are.

Keep Going

Something is definitely better than nothing.
Keep with your healthy habits, even if sporadically and at low intensity.
Back at Ethos one month now
Very sore after the first week
Old occult injury aggravated
So accommodations made without judgment
Now fifth week completed
Took it easy these eight sessions
Afraid to get hurt and sidelined
Encouraged by coaches to challenge without overexerting.
Supervised, corrected. Cared for.
Increased load as tolerated within each session, along with confidence
Progress made in one month
Greater in some ways than the past three years total, in the basement at home
So keep doing your best.
Just keep going, however slow.
You will know when it’s time to kick it up.
Trust yourself.
Recruit your Tribe.
Onward in solidarity.

Thank you, Sisters Jennifer and Marian, and Brother Kinnier, for keeping me company on my slow persistence.

Thank you, Melissa, for pouring such a strong foundation with me 9 years ago.

The Best Thing That Could Happen


What do you think is the best thing that could happen out of the COVID-19 pandemic?

I think it’s Connection.

How ironic, as the current best solution to mitigating illness and death is physical (not really social) separation.

Connection won’t come easily, though.  Today I felt all kinds of yuck:  Conflicted.  Unsettled.  Angry, Cynical, Fearful, Guilty, Annoyed, Confined, Enraged.  Not exactly connecting emotions.  The people going about their usual routines, disregarding distancing guidelines, and claiming it as their right to ‘live free’ agitate me the most.  When they get sick, and after they have infected numerous others, some gravely, my colleagues and I will care for them the same as for those who followed the guidelines and acted unselfishly for the greater good.  We will put ourselves in harm’s way, and more of us will pay with our lives for their false freedom.  Because when your ‘right’ to ‘live free’ puts others’ lives at risk, that is not freedom.  That is negligence.

That said, I’ve not lost all hope.  Through Facebook, Zoom, email and snail mail, I am now better connected with some folks than before, and I’m grateful.  They have helped me consider and envision the best possible New Normal on the other side of COVID-19.  I share my wish list below, as well as links to my favorite articles from the past week.

Also, join me this Wednesday, April 8, at 6pm Chicago time for an Instagram live chat.  Owners Tim and Victoria at Ethos Training Systems will host a fireside-style session on COVID-19.  You can join by finding me, chenger91, or Ethos, at the time above.  Please know that I do this public event as a friend of Ethos, and not as a representative of my employer or any medical professional society.  I claim no expertise in infectious disease or epidemiology; I’m just one doctor doing my best to share relevant information and practical advice.


To Create Our Best Post-COVID Future, Let Us:

Continue to connect earnestly with people near and far.

Advance toward universal healthcare in some form, and shore up our social safety nets.

Reclaim our collective mindset—temper extreme individualism with more altruism and empathy.

Slow down—maintain more flexible work schedules, better childcare options.  Generate less pollution, decrease unnecessary production and consumption.

Live more mindfully and in the present:  Enjoy the good more and dwell less on the bad.  Increase both awareness and appreciation of all that is well in life.

Hold rigorous science and medicine far above opinion and ideology.

Practice Learning, Flexibility, Agility, and Resilience, in all domains, large and small, individually and as a collective.

Recognize our shared humanity, maintain that recognition, and act consistently from that recognition—bake it into our cultural norms henceforth.


Pieces that helped me the past week:

An excellent review of the evolution of and rationale for universal masking:

A summary of current knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, written accessibly and with practical recommendations, by my teacher and colleague, Dr. Alex Lickerman:

Dr. Lickerman doing a similar review as a guest on a podcast, also excellent:

From Maria Shriver’s Sunday PaperBut today is Palm Sunday, and Easter Sunday is a week away. This week is the beginning of Holy Week, a time of spiritual renewal and rebirth. So, I’m taking that as a sign that we aren’t meant to go back to what was. We are meant to go forward both individually and collectively. Each of us will come out of this time a different person, a changed human being. How could we not?
What a double tragedy it would be if we went back to the way we were. To a time when we didn’t care for our planet. To a time when we were so mean to one another. To a time when we were so divided in every way. To a time when we didn’t know our neighbors. To a time when so many only cared about themselves and saw others as the “other.”

A diagram shared on social media of our human responses to the crisis (I don’t know who created it—if you do, please give credit in the comments and tell them thank you).  I think it’s normal that we should find ourselves doing things in each of the nested circles every day.  We can exercise compassion for ourselves and others at the same time:

covid nested circles

Finally, a poem, also from Maria Shriver’s Sunday Paper, shared by her niece, who died with her 8 year-old son the very same day:

covid after poem maria shriver niece maeve

Things will likely feel worse for at least a few weeks before they feel better, my friends.  Hold tight to those you love and who love you.  Count your blessings.  Take perspective.  Consider deeply our inextricable and undeniable interconnectedness.  Be kind.