Vail Daily column: Making time for service
The piles have grown piles, the plate loaded to spilling, the workday packed to the point a black hole might become a real possibility.
It’s always busy around here, one of the great charms of a career in news media, which tends to attract crazy ADD types who thrive on dealing with way too much all the time.
Oh, we complain, of course. It wouldn’t be any fun otherwise. Only, the alternative would crush our very souls. Routine. Clock in and clock out. Same ol’ thing. That’s far worse for this tribe. We’re talking dead man (and woman) walking here.
These folks need mountains to climb. They are sled dogs bred for the Iditarod, stallions for the track, Anita Ortiz for 100-mile trail runs.
OK, maybe I exaggerate. It’s just that what our spirit needs sometimes rises above what we think we like or quite have time for.
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This time of year we’re sprinting up a hill during a marathon. The dread of it outpaces the actual running. You know you’ll feel so good after you kill that hill and pull off mission impossible. It’s just a little brutal in the moment.
This also is about when I pick up more signs of burnout. The big bosses are wringing their hands even more than usual. The front-line folks nod with tighter motion and more compressed lips. The middle managers take on a battle stare as we remind them about this deadline and that. If I had feelings, I’d feel the most for them, absorbing straight shots from all sides, free of the candy coating we understand as decorum.
In the midst of this plopped another little assignment, this one to contemplate my navel and prepare to join a group navel-gazing exercise next week. Late Monday night I did my duty and clicked through 130 or so questions of self-reporting on my prowess in emotional intelligence. I only lightly brushed over the obvious observation that this was an oxymoronic exercise almost by definition. But there’s something to learn through examination of our own conceits, too.
I’m male, so my wife and the late Nora Ephron would quip that I’m on the autism spectrum. No surprise there. But what interested me most had little to do with another survey-and-action-plan initiative for self-improvement.
There are peaks and valleys in demand for our community service time, too. And it just so happened that the past week included Saturday morning participating in the Eagle River Watershed Council’s river cleanup and then preparing to moderate an expert panel discussion about marijuana Wednesday evening. There are board meetings, radio shows and various other commitments to contribution for a better community, as well.
Those don’t go away just because we get busier at the office. They don’t become less integral, either, although juggling commitments with priorities becomes a bit more fraught.
I don’t like dropping balls, even if I do exactly that all the time. I keep thinking tomorrow I’ll have this figured out so everything gets done and well. Actually, I believe this earnestly. Just one more little tweak in my systems and I’ll have it, I will. I know it. Almost there ….
Ah, but how do I feel about all this? My score in the survey in the “social responsibility” portion suggested some, well, I don’t know, inner conflict or maybe resentment, although the latter puts it too strongly.
If you have the irrational belief that there is no such thing as coincidence, as I do, then the survey sparked some good navel gazing about community service.
I believe in the priceless value of contributing without compensation to all forms of public service, from tutoring and coaching kids to helping oversee organizations humble or grand. It’s just hard to make the time. When that time telescopes down, you learn a lot about your priorities, in some ways to your personal peril when maybe those priorities don’t necessarily match up to the person you like to believe you are.
Professionals no less busy than me who organized the panel discussion were thoroughly jazzed afterward Wednesday night. The panelists each were excellent — fair-minded, knowledgeable and interesting enough that the 60 or so folks who came to see them stayed for nearly two hours. This was the first event for the Total Health Alliance, which began meeting a year ago. And it went very well.
I paid particular note to their sense of purpose and need for their work. Certainly I felt good about contributing in my way — asking questions and having fun as I did so. Contributing in ways that might get us all thinking a bit more fits well in my personal wheelhouse, too.
The ladies’ excitement was contagious. I was focusing a bit more on this very thing, and getting all the more excited myself for that. Like I’d discovered a bright nugget about what makes life better.
Naturally, I blame that damned survey. But I’d taken a hill, and it felt well worth the effort.
Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 970-748-2920.