Let’s disagree without being disagreeable

I’ve long believed that conflict, done well, brings benefit to an organization. I’ve become increasingly adamant about that “done well” portion of my premise over the last 5 years or so- perhaps because in various venues I have had the opportunity to see “ideal” conflict as well as witnessing destructive conflict. A few weeks ago this cartoon came across my Instagram feed (note: Liz and Mollie are fantastic!), and that nudged me to try to put together some thoughts to share on the topic.

Many of us have been conditioned, either by our families of origin or by society, to believe that conflict is inherently bad. Instead of cultivating healthy ways of disagreeing, we avoid it at all costs. Yet respectful conflict can actually make a meaningful difference in both our personal and professional lives. I’ve seen a description of the concept of acquiring conflict debt, which is the sum of all of issues that haven’t been discussed and resolved that stand in the way of progress. In workplaces or families with high levels of conflict debt, conflict is neither valued nor normalized; managing conflictual conversations cannot even occur in these groups until leaders recognize that disagreement can be beneficial. I’m unafraid to state that some of the most difficult leaders I have worked with or for have been those who are absolutely unwilling to address hard topics, particularly when that’s going to result in a disagreement. They end up leading teams that are stuck and stagnant and have a high conflict debt load.

Numerous benefits are known for teams who can disagree. We know that they perform better in complex problem-solving exercises. We also know that discomfort is inherent in having teams that are diverse, but when this is embraced that these teams are often “creativity catalysts.” The transparency that allows groups to grow using conflict strengthens relationships, and provides a skill set that can be transferred to other relationships. Ultimately, the willingness to work with discomfort is beneficially for diversity- it becomes a virtuous spiral.

Some of my friends get to hear me talk about a Board that I serve on because I often offer it as a model for how to do conflict effectively. The primary understanding between all Board members is that we care deeply about one another, and that we have respect for the skills and experiences that the other women present bring to the table. Because of (not in spite of!) that underlying respect and because we have a clear mission that is value-driven, we frequently do not agree about processes or tasks. When I first joined the Board, I immediately realized that our board President is a catalyst in our conflict process because she creates a space where everyone has the opportunity to be heard. What I have seen happen time and again is that because we all speak freely, we almost always create something far more powerful than any of the original ideas through our disagreements. Ideas are valued for their content and potential, not for who spoke them.

I’m hopeful that you’re curious about some practices you can use to improve your conflict skills. Certainly formal training can play a role; in the absence of that, however, here are a few principles that can be helpful.

-Recognize that you’re not always going to be liked. Importantly, disagreement doesn’t equal a lack of kindness- unless you behave in a way that makes that true.

-Work from a common goal and seek common ground.

-Stay curious! Conflict is a chance to learn.

-Get unstuck- ask the other party for advice or take a break from the conversation if it’s not going well.

I’m not advising that you should disagree simply for the benefits it can bring if you agree with someone, go ahead and do so enthusiastically. My goal is to make conflict a little less scary so that we can find ways to disagree without being disagreeable.

Shabbāth

One of the things I have found fascinating during the pandemic is the more open acknowledgement of “hustle culture”; it appears that more people have started to have second thoughts about being always-on and always pushing. I’ll admit that my bias within this discussion is likely obvious with the sabbatical that I’ve been on since June of last year, which has had plenty of interesting lessons embedded within it. When I started on this, I certainly knew that I was desperately in need of down time, spiritually, intellectually and physically. What I didn’t fully anticipate is how challenging it can be to go from 100 miles a minute to…well, if I’m honest, it hasn’t been zero. Let’s say 15 miles an hour, like a moderately fast (for me) bike ride.

One of my earliest epiphanies last summer was how much uncompensated work we’re doing in academia on a routine basis. Article reviews, letters of support/ nomination, organizational work, mentoring, scholarly activities- all of these are things that are expectations in the academic world. And while I don’t question their relevance or importance to our professional community, what I realized is that we may not be rewarding them as completely as we should. I also realized that many weeks this year I’ve put in the equivalent of part-time work hours to all of those things; it also reminded me that when I’m in an academic role these are the things that move into nights and weekends and down time.

When we have things bleeding into what should be time for friends, family, hobbies, sleep, LIFE and when we don’t bother to question it, we’re buying into culture that encourages us to be always on. People in high-achieving professions are already predisposed to perfectionism and overachieving (I’m looking deeply at those of us who have been to medical school here, though I know we don’t have the market cornered on this); that mindset of always doing more and being more allows us to succeed and it gives us blinders to the harm we’re doing ourselves and those around us. We’re told we should be grateful for the opportunities, and while that isn’t untrue, too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing. I’ll be the first person to tell you that your body has the wisdom and power to tell you when you’re past time to stop; if you haven’t taken the time to rest, you’ll get the opportunity to be rested. And yes, that’s personal experience speaking.

I’m not here to tell you that achievement is a bad thing. Far from it- it’s how we change the world to make it into a place we really want to be. What I am here to tell you is that just like overtraining is a “thing” in fitness, it’s a “thing” in our daily lives as well. Rest is not how we’re programmed in modern American society, and it doesn’t align with the scarcity mindset messages that inundate us. I’ve recovered joy by having time to rest this year, and I’ve felt joy seeing reminders out there- particularly from members of historically excluded communities- that rest is a revolutionary act. And while it’s not incredibly practical to take months to rest, if we’re intentional about it we can rest and play most every day.

It’s Sunday morning, and to close my mini-sermon on rest I want to remind you of three incredibly important things:

  1. There is plenty of everything to go around. Scarcity mentality is a lie.
  2. You are enough.
  3. You do not have to EARN rest. Go rest. Go do things that connect you to joy. Or do nothing at all, and find joy in simply being. There are no bonus points for exhaustion.

I think of rest a bit like I think of grace- it doesn’t have to be earned, but in order to receive it we have to be open to it. And we get to try, and try, and try again.

Professionalism, and the seven year ache

I spent the first few years of the 2010s doing research on disruptive surgeon behavior, trying to get a handle on what precisely it is and what its effects are. That work came to publication right around the same time as my first role as a Vice Chair of Education and Professionalism; when we were developing the models of disruptive behavior there was an undeniable impact on learning environment, so if I was going to be responsible for education I wanted to also have authority to address “bad behaviors” by those doing the educating.

I’m here to say I’ve learned a lot in these roles. I’m also here to say that while in 2014 I was proud to be in a leadership role addressing education and professionalism, I know also sometimes mumble the last part of that title (even though I had advocated for it). I naively thought that professionalism wasn’t a complicated concept- in my mind, it equated with creating spaces of psychological safety that positively impact both learning and patient care. Professionalism was being clear, communicating effectively and respectfully, working in ways that engender mutual support. Professionalism included exhibiting emotional intelligence and engaging in crucial conversations.

Being a Pollyanna can be such a delightful thing (and yes, if you are a student of the Enneagram, I’m VERY 7)…until it’s not.

Over time I’ve seen professionalism turned into a weapon in a couple of different ways, neither of which are helpful. In one version, the leader/ senior person uses “I was just taking care of the patient!” as their justification for behaving in a way that is decidedly not collegial. While that’s certainly logic that is hard to argue with, it’s a devious use of the concept of professionalism to focus solely on patient care through a lens of perfectionism. I’ve got no intention of diving into the psychopathology underlying perfectionism that shows up in this way, but I will say that it’s clearly intended to shame people into doing things. And, as we all know, shaming isn’t actually an effective teaching or collaboration technique.

I’ve also learned that professionalism can (and is) used against individuals who are members of historically excluded groups as a tool of conformity. Using voice and diction, hair styles, clothing choices (to name only a few options) as a basis for someone “not being professional” becomes incredibly subjective; in these cases, what it more often means is “this makes me uncomfortable because it’s not what I’m used to hearing/ seeing.” Professionalism has in many settings become an instrument of bias that is deployed by those who are traditional power-holders- and if I’m honest, it frustrates me that they choose to use it in this manner. I’ve never been a fan of power “over” relationship structures, particularly for something that is ideally a power “with” or power “to” concept.

I still believe that there is a concept out there that aligns with what I used to think professionalism was. I also still believe there can be a net benefit from systems and structures that are designed to enhance collegiality and interrupt bias. I’m just not sure what the word that describes it is anymore; perhaps it is still professionalism, and the idea needs to be reclaimed from the abuses that it has suffered.

Can we all get along?

Okay, this could certainly be a broader epistemologic question, but in this case I’m thinking more specifically about teams in health care. I love the fact that my clinical work in a highly interdependent specialty has allowed me to see some incredibly high-functioning teams AND some incredibly dysfunctional teams (I prefer being part of the former). Last summer I was asked to give a talk on breakdown within the healthcare team and chose to focus on the unique features of our teams with a strong “lean” on Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team (if you haven’t read it, READ IT!).

I could summarize some of the talk, or give you chunks of it here in the blog over time, but I think I would prefer to just share it with you in its PPT format. While you’ll miss out on my commentary about some of the items this way, it’s got plenty of resources and ideas that I hope will be valuable for you.

Wikis, education, and building better mousetraps

A few weeks ago I got a message from a resident with a scholarly interest in education who, in digging through some of my blog archives, discovered my 2014 post discussing my implementation of a wiki as part of our learning format for our surgical clerkship students. It highlighted a couple of things for me- first, that I never followed up on if it was a successful innovation, and how it might be relevant in today’s medical learning environment. The pandemic forced expansion of online learning for all groups of learners, and though I wasn’t in a teaching role this year I recognize that some of my “out there” ideas were probably ripe for resurrection. I also spent my year enrolled in a graduate program that was entirely on-line and saw both effective and ineffective virtual discussions…and have some new ideas based upon that experience.

In that initial post I acknowledged ways that I had desperately tried to foster asynchronous sharing of learning resources by our students, and that my efforts had been at best marginally successful. Because it was a required part of the grading rubric, participation in the board-style question discussions was somewhat more successful (and did achieve the intended goal of boosting scores on the NBME surgery shelf). However, my intent to use our online learning platform to facilitate social learning was never really achieved.

Recent scholarly work on wikis has complicated findings. While they have “great potential” as a learning tool, the absence of measurable outcomes following their use has remained a challenge. A concern raised by learners around wiki use for interprofessional education was simply that they felt it was valuable but required too much effort; this certainly aligns with the feedback that I received from our students in the surgical clerkship.

Two recent studies have provided more support for the idea of using wikis in medical education, and perhaps give guidance on how they can be most effectively deployed. One study employed “social pedagogy” (I love that term!) for their pharmacology course; by using Bloom’s taxonomy to guide learner activities and self-assessment, their wiki was successful in achieving learner success, as measured quantitatively, and also was able to demonstrate several qualitative benefits (and a generally positive reception by learners). Another recent study examined the effect of a wiki in conjunction with a flipped classroom, which also showed positive response from students, and demonstrated that flipped classroom pedagogy buttressed the use of the wiki.

Knowing what I know now, I absolutely would repeat an experiment with use of wiki-style learning, specifically for surgical learners. I have to admit that I would be more “intentional” about it- what is my goal that I’m trying to achieve for the learners- and I would absolutely have a plan for evaluating the intervention. Also, reinforcing the use of the wiki with existing tools or frameworks appears to be important to supporting learner success. Finally, having clear “ground rules” of community engagement and a rubric to evaluate interactions is absolutely necessary. I don’t know that we’ve got the details of how to deploy wikis in medical education completely ironed out, but I do know that it’s an idea that it’s worth our time as a continued experiment.

Pythonic habitats

Confessing my guilt up-front about two things:

  1. It’s been a while since I wrote here. My best excuse (and it’s pretty true) is that the energy I might have spend blogging during the academic year was instead expended upon brief writing assignments for my graduate coursework. If you’re interested in any of my discussion topics from Indigenous Food Systems and/or Federal Indian Law & Policy, I can accommodate you. And with that nod, an acknowledgement that I have every intention to do better about sharing my thoughts with you starting now.
  2. Today’s title was intentionally chosen because this concept has captured my attention. No, there will not be gratuitous snake photos to accompany the post. I am not a fan of snakes. I am, however, a fan of the concept of pythonic habitats because they account for a not-uncommon phenomenon I’ve witnessed in academic medicine.

The amazing Dr. Mary Brandt referenced Rev. Larry Kent Graham’s book on moral injury in a recent talk she gave as part of the American College of Surgeons Leadership Summit. I was in the midst of preparing a grand rounds on well-being in surgery, so I promptly ordered the book because I had a sense it had important lessons to share. And, indeed, the link between moral injury and absence of well-being is almost undeniable.

A foundational section of the book discusses what Graham describes as the “four intersecting conditions” that give rise to trauma, with trauma defined to include moral injury. While all of the others- explosive assault, a road wrongly taken, and grievous loss- can seem intuitive, the words “pythonic habitats” made me sit up and notice differently. These “benign, constricted, and dangerous environments” slowly and inexorably “squeeze the life out of us.” He initially discusses relatively obvious pythonic habitats, in which people constantly live on the edge of situations that are a danger to life and health- there’s no single defining event, but instead a series of threats that require ongoing vigilance. Although Graham provided a more complex example of individuals with access to the nuclear triggers or who guide drone warfare, in which they do isolating work with moral consequences then go home to have dinner with their families, when he mentioned “benign normality” of their daily lives I immediately thought about the work that we do in medicine.

Think for a moment about the things that we do as part of our work caring for other human beings; surgeons, I’m particularly looking at us. When is the last time you had an experience caring for a patient that you can discuss quietly with a colleague- out of earshot of non-medical people- but wouldn’t dream of discussing over dinner at home? The reality is that we are witness to or actors in situations all of the time in our work that isolate us and that demand that we compartmentalize our lives. And somewhere along the way we all decide that it’s just business as normal because it’s what we have to do. Here’s a hint: it’s not normal, even though it may be necessary, and that causes moral dissonance for us.

Pythonic habitats struck me because while they are unavoidable in our profession, we generally don’t acknowledge their presence. We become the proverbial frog in the cold water that gets heated up until the water is at a boil, and the only escape tools we learn are those we see in the hidden curriculum; there’s little intention in how we all deal with this unrelenting constriction. Over time, unless we do consciously address it, that constriction takes a toll on our physical and mental health. And, as Dr. Jillian Horton states in her beautiful recent book We are all perfectly fine, “Most doctors look fine, perennially, until the day they don’t. That’s because doctors are excellent at compartmentalizing. We are also compliant and conscientious and rigidly perfectionistic, characteristics that put us at risk for choking to death on our own misery.”

I’m not going to profess to having a perfect solution for dealing with these pythonic habitats, though I am committed to seeking a remedy that will help to keep us whole. My hope is that by naming it- and acknowledging that it’s not normal- that at least gives us the possibility of moving towards recalibration and healing.

Well, THAT was a year!

“I’m apprenticing myself to hope and learning as much as I can. I’m making space in my mind for the good thoughts, so they can nestle in and sing.” – Maggie Smith, Keep Moving

I suppose I’m doing a bit of bandwagon hopping, though as we’ve moved through the first half of March it’s pretty hard not to reflect on the last time that things felt “before-times” normal. The truth is that we are marking an anniversary right now that most of us didn’t think would need to be an anniversary, and the implications of that anniversary are heartbreaking, frustrating, confusing…and yet it seems irresponsible to ignore some of the good things that have come of Our Pandemic Year. If you entered March, 2020, struggling in your ability to hold “both/and” type mindsets, I suspect this year has expanded this skill set for you.

Let’s start with the assumption that you, like I, didn’t see the duration and severity of the pandemic coming- or at least not from the seat you were in on March 12th, 2020. I was spending this week watching professional meeting dominoes tumble as the Committee on Trauma, then the American Burn Association, then the ACS Leadership & Advocacy Conference were serially cancelled. Elective OR cases quickly became a thing of the past. Medical students were pulled from clinical services. I found myself online ordering masks so I could at least have an au courant fashion accessory (have you SEEN my triple layer fabric dinosaur mask?!?). It was as if life went from 1000 miles per hour to a snail’s pace.

That pace change is arguably what I will remember the most from this year.

Now, I say that recognizing that I had decided to take a sabbatical prior to the pandemic becoming what it ultimately became. I already knew that I would benefit from some unstructured time to be creative, to learn, to reconnect with family (and framily) that had I been failing to center. It had also become clear to me that I needed to make decisions about my professional commitments for the next 10-12 years; my efforts to keep one foot in the world of medical education and the other in the world of burns and critical care was resulting in no balance among any aspects of my life (personal or professional). The one thing that I knew for myself prior to “pandemic” inserting itself into all of our vocabularies was that what I was doing and how I was living wasn’t sustainable in any way. Well, that, and I wasn’t going to keep doing it.

Today isn’t the day for me to wax poetic about the sabbatical experience so I’ll simply say that it’s been everything that I hoped for and needed. I’ll also gloat for a moment and share that the last winter when I got in this many ski days was 2001-2002 (for those keeping score, that was my professional development year during residency). More on all things sabbatical in the future.

As part of processing this pace change, I’ve also spent time considering what I want to take forward with me to the “after-times” as we see glimmers of hope on the horizon. So, what do I hope is durable?

  • Weekly, or at least very very regular, virtual happy hour with a dear friend. I think in the last year we’ve missed 4 weekends, which almost makes up for the absence of in-person time (though we have also calculated that it’s “just” a 12 hour drive from Portland to Bozeman and we are both fully vaccinated now).
  • Gathering outdoors when the weather is suitable for it anyway. Why weren’t we/I doing more of this?!?
  • While I miss the soul nourishment of seeing colleagues from other places, I have loved sleeping in my own bed and learning virtually with professional meetings. Are we really going to go back to those wild academic travel schedules we endured? I’ll be surprised…
  • Framily/ COVID bubbles are amazing, and I’ll be keeping mine if/when I re-settle away from Montana. Granted, the core of mine has been my residency “sister”, her husband…and their 5 kids; we’ve simply reunited and built on what we started 20-something years ago. Having them close by has made the Montana portion of the COVID year not just manageable, but downright fun. I do NOT have enough gratitude for these humans, even if one of the 9-year-olds is eternally convinced that he’s taller than I am (he’s not…yet).
  • Old fashioned cards and letters. I’ve sent more cards and letters this year than I can count, and I hope they’ve done as much good for the recipients as they did for me to write and send them.
  • Honoring mental health. Although the pandemic has been hard on mental health in many ways and for many people, the fact that we have space to acknowledge this seems like such a quantum leap. Y’all, it’s okay to not be okay…and it’s okay to ask for help.
  • Sabbaticals. No, really, we need to normalize this. But, again, that’s for another day.

What will you remember most from this year?

And what do you hope doesn’t go away in the after-times?

The elephant that pooped in the living room?

While I have no intention of focusing this post on the still-somewhat-mindblowing events of January 6, I also would be remiss to not at least acknowledge that something horrifying (that looked an awful lot like a failed coup attempt) happened in Washington D.C. on that date. I’ve been pretty inarticulate in my thoughts so I was incredibly grateful when HBR published this piece today on the loss of trust associated with last week’s events, as well as what is required for the United States to move forward. I also think it’s important to mention the authors’ emphasis on holding those responsible accountable for their actions, something which quite a few people seem to think gets in the way of “unity.” Perhaps “unity” needs to be viewed through a lens of “recovering core principles of democracy we can agree upon” rather than simply giving people a free pass. Have any of you who have raised children made a choice to “go along to get along” rather than holding them accountable when they’ve violated a household rule?

Whew. Now that I’ve said more than I intended about the elephant that is clearly not in the corner of the room (nor is he behaving himself!), I wanted to address a different aspect of news cycles and pandemics and winter blahs. Kristen Neff’s work on self-compassion is a bandwagon I jumped on a while ago, and I can think of NO better time than the middle of January, especially this January, to remind you to be kinder to yourself. I know that there is so very much “stuff” out there about self-care, and some of it seems very woo-woo- and, if we’re honest, victim blaming. If you just did more yoga, or meditated every day, or attended virtual church each Sunday, if you would just do those things, you would be okay.

Or would you?

If I’ve learned one lesson about self-compassion, it’s that the true objective is to treat ourselves with respect and honor. It means not “should”ing all over ourselves (I should have done yoga, I should have meditated this morning, I should not have had that second cup of coffee…you see where this goes). Self-compassion isn’t a “free pass” when you really truly mess up, as we all do because we are human. Instead of prolonged self-flagellating (something surgical residents are often particularly gifted at), it allows you to take a step back, to own your part in something bad that happen, and to move forward by starting over. Assuming that you are someone who is kind to your friends, it asks you to treat yourself like you would treat a friend in a similar situation; if you tend to yell at your friends and tell them they’re total screw-ups when they’ve made a mistake in their life, we probably need to have a different discussion anyway…

I want to give you something helpful as we think about self-compassion, and there’s a “nudge” question that can be wonderful when we’re “stuck” (with that stuck being a nasty internal monologue about ourselves, or doom scrolling, or whatever not-healthy coping mechanism we find ourselves using).

What do I need right now? Right in this moment, what will help me the most?

Sure, sometimes it’s going to be some sort of indulgence (moderation, please, with the indulgences). Sometimes it’s something as simple as “I need to get offline” or “I need to get outdoors and go for a walk.” I find that what I need right now is seldom complicated or messy…and if it is, that’s food for additional thought as well.

What do you need right now?

Go and do that. And don’t “should” all over yourself in the process, please.

2020, what lessons you taught

Hi, readers.

Remember me?

Yeah, I know, I said I was going to double down on my writing efforts with the move to Montana.

And then graduate school. And then some clinical work. So many distractions. For those who are fans of Pixar’s Up, this is when I invoke the phrase “Squirrel!”

It feels like it’s time to begin again, and I can’t think of any better way to do that than to share my biggest lessons of 2020 (which felt more like a decade than a year…is that just me?). Because, all of the social, political, and economic wildness aside, 2020 was undoubtedly a year of learning for me.

  1. Grace, grace, and more grace may be the most important quality we can offer. My comment above about “begin again”? That’s grace, and in this case I’m offering it to myself. I find that many of us are terrific about offering those around us grace, reminding our friends that they can always begin again; yet we aren’t so generous with ourselves (see Kristen Neff’s work on self-compassion). What if we spent more time offering that bit of compassion to everyone, and especially to ourselves? What might that look like?
  2. Old friends, they shine like diamonds. Surprising no one who is a long-time reader, I found some wisdom in music this year. Chris Stapleton’s “Starting Over” was the album of the last part of 2020 for me, and it includes the song “Old Friends”. My clinical work has been in the ICU at the hospital where two of my residency classmates are general surgeons, and since it’s about 2 hours away I move in with my “residency bestie” Katie and her family when I go over (for COVID purposes, we just treat me like I’m a full-time live-in family member). I’ve been reminded why residency was hard AND do-able with these humans, and I also realize that I’ve been closely surrounded by really amazing, generous, and kind people for a long time. As Jeff explained to his 10-year-old son, “We’ve been through THINGS together, and we’re still close because of it.” Amen.
  3. Sometimes you just have to leap into the unknown. When I came to Montana this summer, the thing I knew with certainty was that I had a one-year lease on a place in Bozeman. The other thing I knew was that I planned to take my first summer off since 1989 (yes, you read that correctly…the year I graduated from college was my last “summer vacation” thanks to a torn MCL). I trusted that with some time to rest and be outdoors in wild spaces that I would figure things out, and this has generally proven to be true. Graduate work in Native American studies has proven grounding, and I’m loving spending time in the virtual classroom as a learner. Doing ICU shifts has kept me tied to clinical life and has provided another avenue for learning (thanks, COVID…I’ve been learning SO much about you!). I’ve spent time in the sun riding and running and hiking- and now skiing. I’ve written (and scrapped) the lion’s share of a book proposal. Most importantly, I’ve developed a lot of clarity around what I want my last 10-ish years in medicine to look like.
  4. Boundaries and (adequate) resources matter. Over time, I plan to build these themes out more as key elements of effective leadership and tools for mitigating burnout. Part of 2020, for me, was learning about setting boundaries and how to handle it when they’re not being respected. I also realized, thanks to a comment by a respected mentor at the close of the year, the impact of resources of all types on success and well-being. And, of course, I see a straight line between setting boundaries and having adequate resources to do what is being asked of you; as I’ve written before, burnout is not a failure of resilience and victim-blaming is ridiculous in settings where people are consistently being asked to do more with less. These concepts around boundaries and resources are an unfolding idea for me right now, and I’m all but certain it will show up in a more complete form in the not-distant future.
  5. Celebrate ALL the wins. This is a lesson that I’ve apparently been slow to internalize, but that doesn’t make it any less important. How often do any of us pause to intentionally consider something we’ve done that is important/ meaningful/ just plain awesome? What if we started treating celebration as a practice, even when it feels silly to do so? One of my friends is doing a daily practice of #eveningwins, which I love as a part of daily ritual, and another has been encouraging those around her to pause on Saturday, look at the previous week, and celebrate at least one thing from the week. I closed 2020 celebrating that I know what I need, know what I want, and have the courage to pursue just those things. Last night’s installment in #eveningwins was getting a slightly-overdue book chapter submitted (THAT is a tangible victory!). Here’s to more intentional celebration for us all, both in 2021 and going forward.

Good stuff

Again I find myself at a loss for significant substance- we all only have so much bandwidth, right?- so for the second time this month I’m sharing what I’ll just call The Good Stuff. Because, pandemic and politics be damned, there’s plenty out things out there that deserve to be heard above all of that noise.

  • I’m admittedly of an age and from a place where the music of Tom Petty is a musical map of…well, almost everything. Last week, Wildflowers was re-released, more as it was initially intended since it was supposed to be a double album. While that alone was a source of joy for me, the hidden gem was a Rick Rubin interview with Petty’s daughter Adria, who was largely responsible for shepherding the re-release. I admit that I did listen to it on one of my favorite drives on the planet (down and then back up the Gallatin River on Highway 191) but it really was about the content, not the location.
  • Take a break. Go outside. Take a walk (or a run, if that’s your thing). And for heaven’s sake, go to bed. You’ll be better for all of those things.
  • I am admittedly a passionate advocate for public lands. They are one of many reasons I love the West as much as I do. This Patagonia-sponsored movie has beautiful cinematography, and while parts of what has been happening with our public lands are undoubtedly frustrating (shrunken Bears Ears, anyone?), I took the overall message as one of hope that many of us are passionate about these lands and being stewards of them.
  • May I share with you my all-time favorite pumpkin bread recipe? I mean, what on this Earth isn’t made better by brown butter and bourbon?
  • And now a challenge, or homework, asking you to send a random note or email or small gift to someone who is important in your life. It’ll make you feel good to do it, and I’m willing to bet it will make their day. I’ll admit that I got an unexpected package today from a dear friend and it was perfect…how would I NOT love something that is sparkly (the text is, though my photo captures that poorly) and has the word “radical” on it?!?