Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Just Breathe


The morning started out gloomy.

The sky was overcast and I awoke to sounds of coughing. The twins were still sick from the flu, but our girl’s coughing was getting worse. Our pediatrician had seen her on Monday and recommended we give her antibiotics only if her fever kept up, and her running nose got worse.

Mom was worried. Our girl’s temperature hadn’t peaked too many times, but it was consistently higher than normal. Mom asked me to pick up the antibiotics. I trusted her. She’s not only a concerned mom, but a Clinical Pharmacist at the local hospital. She works at the Pediatrics unit often and knows when to make decisions that could improve health or save lives for the little ones.

We called the pharmacy. No answer.

We figured with everyone stocking up on medicine, given the COVID-19 spread, the pharmacy must be busy. It made more sense just to go, place the order and wait to pick it up.

That was it. That’s what I had to do.

The drive to the pharmacy was uneventful, except the large number of cars in the parking lot. It WAS busy.

Yeah, everyone’s getting ready for entrenchment.

Then it occurred to me, “Oh yeah, I’m supposed to look more closely, listen, hear conversations, or start one. Gotta get some material for the class.”

Hmmm. How do I do that when everyone’s so focused on stocking up for their social distancing? How can I be the jovial dude?

“It ain’t gonna happen” is all I could think.

I figured I have to wait for the prescription anyway. So, why not just hang and listen. Easy enough. I can do that. It’ll be meditative, entertaining, maybe even instructive.

So, I walked in, past all the folks paying up front, and wow. There was a long line.

As I walk past each aisle to get to the back and place the order, I keep hearing a similar question, though may be in a different form, “Excuse me! Do you have any hand sanitizer…Lysol wipes…face masks left? There’s nothing on the shelf.”

But it’s not just the questions. It’s the tone, the rustle of the feet, the strenuous, controlled, palpable fear in their voices. It’s the placid smiles, and pursed lips. It’s the hyper-focused attention to what’s on each aisle. It’s the laughter of the 20-something who’s stocking the shelves, saying to someone, I don’t know who, “it’s been like this all week. People are NUTS!”

I can see how the herd mentality, the intensity, can be viral. I don’t just hear the voices. I hear my own heartbeat. The rhythm tells me what’s really going on.

Pa-plup…Pa-plub.


Slow at first, then picking up pace as I hear the silver haired lady, rubber gloves in hand, holding a phone to her ear, pushing the cart filled with house cleaners, “It’ll probably pass, but we don’t know when…aha…aha…no, we don’t know.”

Pa-plup, Pa-plub, Pa-plup, Pa-plup, Pa-plup.

I take a few deep breaths, thinking, “Let’s focus on the breath…just the breath. How it feels on the mustache, just going in…and out…in…and out…in…”

I take my steps intentionally, slowly, approach the counter and place the order.

“It’ll be 20 minutes,” the pharmacist tells me.

“You guys are busy, huh?” was my way of letting out some of that nervous energy.

“Yeah. No joke!” And I don’t think she was amused. She’s probably heard that same line all week.

I step back and look at the white tiles. I give my focus back to my breathing and think, “It’s fine. The herd’s rustling. I don’t have to.”

It doesn’t take long since mom apparently got through to the pharmacist while I was driving. I pickup the order and take a couple of pumps from the hand sanitizer. Yeah. I gotta do that.

As I walk out, I feel like a fog lifts with the breeze blowing outside. There are still a lot of folks parking and coming in, but the sounds, the whispers, the rustling stops.

The clouds had broken a bit too and I felt the warm sun beating away the chill of the breeze.

It’ll be fine. We’ll make it through, if we just breathe…in…and out…in…and out…in…



Monday, March 9, 2020

Elevate the Organism

Today I started the Story Skills Workshop, one of the many workshops that Seth Godin and his team have put together to help us each become more than a single person, to make a difference.

I posted my introduction in the workshop and realized I've not shared here what I wrote there.

Here it is:

I came here because I want to become a better human at best, a better business person at least.

I started a freelancer and referral business three years ago around automating contracts and eSigning.

I have a software development and engineering background, can work through technical problems well, but I have trouble telling the story of my customers in a compelling way.

I want to tell their stories so that I can help more people get past their challenges at work and have a more fulfilling life. I want to make the world a better place, one person and company at a time.

I also write a personal and professional blog about uncomplicating business and life. I want to write more often better posts that people can put to use and relate to.

I’ve tried my hands at refining my message and creating these stories, especially after reading Donald Miller’s “Building a Story Brand.” My customer stories and blogs seem contrived, forced, without life.

I want to change that. I want the stories to matter, with anecdotes and ideas people actually use and amplify in their own way, and, on the more selfish front, I want to know that I made a difference, however small it may have been, in elevating the human organism to be more than it is today.