Pausing

For the first time since I started this blog in August 2008 I skipped one of my monthly masthead updates (the March 2011 masthead). I won’t describe what this does to my obsessive-compulsive nature; I had to volitionally exhale, meditate on the true things that matter in life, and let. it. go. I traded in that masthead — and many, many other things — for doctoral candidacy. Not a bad trade off. The process of creating a dissertation prospectus, presenting the proposal to my committee, and getting approval for the project was the hardest step thus far in my PhD experience, and I will even go so far to say that it was one of the more challenging feats in my life. By the grace of God, I have finished that leg of the race.

Because most things in life can be analogized to triathlons, I think about the finish trusses that some races have for each triathlon leg.

At this point in the race, there is no medal for your neck and no formal finisher’s ceremony. But there is celebration. Family and friends congregate at these finishes. Triathletes smile as they pass through (you don’t always see the smile through pain-filled grimaces or tears, but it’s there). Whatever fear that was associated with that leg has been overcome and, whether the greatest challenge lies ahead or not, there is an unmistakable opportunity to celebrate.

Similar instances occur in life, so take them. Take those opportunities to celebrate the smaller victories along the journey, especially if the greatest challenge lies ahead. Even if it is an ever so brief moment allotted to pause, put hands on knees, take a few recovery breaths, and say “Wow, I did it!” before turning full stride again, soaking in the victory helps to fuel us for the legs that lie ahead.

My PhD program is a pentathlon. The dissertation proposal was the 4th leg. There was no blue inflatable finish truss for this stage (though one would be a welcome addition to the department), but seeing my committee’s signatures on the doctoral candidate form was a rite of passage in itself. So I celebrated, albeit briefly, and am already full stride in the final leg of the program.

The April masthead — what I really wanted to write about in the first place — is an example of nature doing its own celebrating as it survived the winter leg and welcomes spring. The trees with these blooms line the streets of our neighborhood and they humbly proclaim, “Wow, we did it!” Because this kind of celebration is so inspirational and contagious, every time I step outside of my house I briefly pause to join them in the celebration. Yes, we did do it. We survived a rough season, a challenging leg of the race.

Inhale.

Exhale.

Aaahh.

Okay, now back to work.

Still Learning

The masthead for October 2010, “A Work-filled Fall,” perhaps could be better titled — “So What If It’s Late November and I’m Just Now Posting an October Masthead.” The photo was taken at the Philadelphia Convention Center with a cell phone that I’m eager to replace. Under one of the escalators/staircases was this huge wall of chinaware magically secured in place. I nearly blew right by the artistic expression as one who is distracted by her thoughts might do, but after I frustratingly tried to dodge a small crowd of people taking photos of it, I got out of my head long enough to see what they were actually taking a picture of.

Until someone pointed out to me on Facebook that none of the bowls and cups have handles, I thought this was a massive collection of coffee mugs. I’m going to go ahead with that initial impression and dedicate this masthead to the night in mid-October when I went to McDonald’s at 9pm and ordered a large mocha latte. I very rarely order a coffee-based drink, let alone an espresso-based drink. It’s more to do with taste preference than to do with caffeine. Actually, I’ve always purported that caffeine doesn’t affect me like it does others. That is, until I ingested 20 ounces of liquid adrenaline on an empty stomach that night at McD’s.

I entered the restaurant already exhausted but in need of a quiet work place because earlier that day my advisor had set a lofty deadline for the next morning. I worked there until 1am, then headed home for another 4 hours of dissertation bliss. Mid-all nighter, the shakes started. And the muscle tensing. And the heart pounding. I thought I was having a heart attack; of course I wasn’t in the mood to die, but it did cross my mind that I would at least have a good excuse not to meet my deadline.

Well, I didn’t die, I did meet my deadline, and I did realize that I am not impervious to a caffeine high. Just when I think I’ve figured myself out, there I go and surprise myself all over again. And I’m not just talking about the caffeine here.