In my at-home life, I try to get to the gym a few times a week. I have a routine, even. I do a little cardio, a little weight lifting, a little stretching. There’s a pattern to my workouts- Monday is short and intense, Tuesday is long and easy- and I can predict how sore and tired I’ll be on any day based on my experience with it. Since I’ve been here, though, I’ve been swimming. I’m not a very good swimmer- I don’t even put my face in the water (it makes me feel claustrophobic) and I don’t go for very long. The water looked so lovely, though, and the pool is in this amazing space with a glass ceiling and dim light and so I decided to skip the sneakers-and-sweat routine and try something different. The first morning I stepped out of the pool jelly-limbed and a little dizzy after just a half an hour. Through the day, I found myself aching in odd places and twisting to stretch out unusual kinks. I had to take a nap in the late afternoon because an overwhelming exhaustion caught up with me and I simply couldn’t fight against it. Apparently swimming uses different muscles that I typically work- and I can feel every one of them this morning.
I think that same thing is true for my professional experience here at this meeting. In the last days, I’ve been a part of the conversation as just one among a group. I haven’t facilitated any more than anyone else. I haven’t been in charge of anything. I haven’t taken a leadership role at all. I’ve been a willing participant in something bigger than myself, allowing others to do the heavy lifting of planning and guiding. I’ve trusted their processes and their experience and I’ve had a great time. But the experience has used different professional muscles. I’ve struggled with questions that weren’t really mine to answer and I’ve wondered at the wisdom of the decisions made by others. I’ve held myself back when I wanted to be directive (which isn’t easy) and I’ve tried to reign my deep need to get things done NOW.
At one point in my swim this morning, I found myself deeply tired. My arms were like sandbags, my back ached and my legs were useless. Some old muscle memory flipped me onto my back and I just floated and let the water carry me so I could rest for a minute. I think that my colleagues here- both old and new- have fulfilled the same purpose. These three days have provided an opportunity for a collective float, supported by one another, as we renew our strength and energy for the next lap.
I’m going to switch to Twitter now, as we move into the keynote speaker, Linda Darling- Hammond. I may try to consolidate my thoughts into a final post or I may not. If you’d like to follow, I’m Criticalskills1 there.