I do a weekly podcast for supervisors working in Higher Education, My Circus, My Monkeys. I typically record the week’s podcast on Monday or Tuesday, then edit it Tuesday afternoon so it can “drop” as the kids say on Wednesday. Well, I’ve had a rough few weeks - in large part because my 12 year old pooch, Sweet Dee – yes, named after It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Sweet Dee – had been having issues with her leg. It started out with a limp in her left hind leg, but started to spread to both back legs. The vet referred us to a specialist, but just like doctors, vets are swamped as well so there was a 6 – 8 week wait to even see a neurologist. By the end of the same week, she couldn’t move her front legs either so we went to the emergency room. My Strategic knew that while this quick escalation was upsetting, It was for the best because she could get seen and treated right away, instead of slowly getting worse while we waited for the specialist appointment.
It was still a bit of a rollercoaster that morning because the neurologist wasn’t working that day so the emergency vet was trying to come up with the best solution possible – but wasn’t being especially optimistic. She needed an MRI to figure out what the issue was and the options weren’t great. A herniated disc in her neck was the best prognosis, but it could also be cancer or some other mysterious spinal disease. Luckily, the neurologist allowed them to do an MRI without being present and IF it turned out to be the disc option, she’d lined up a surgeon to operate that afternoon.
I went home somewhat relieved that she was at least where people could help her, but still had to wait to see if she was A) healthy enough to even get an MRI via an x-ray and blood work and B) what was causing the problem. I tried to keep myself busy while I waited and focus on being grateful that she could at least get treatment ASAP #Positivity. I remember driving to COSTCO to get her some more sardines for her food – trying to be optimistic that she was coming home - when I got the call from the vet with the results of the MRI. It was a herniated disc and they were getting ready for surgery. I was so relieved I pulled the car over and sobbed. Overall, I’d felt like I’d handled the day well. I was concerned but focused as I got her to the emergency room and waited to hear updates from the vet. Strategically it was actually great that she got worse so quickly because it made her eligible to see the specialists now instead of slowly declining and maybe losing crucial nerve connectivity to her limbs.
The next day or so I was just grateful. I spent the weekend cleaning the house and all of her things so she’d have a nice clean place to come home and recover. All the worrying I’d been doing the weeks before seemed to vanish. I was just so happy this was treatable. The updates I was getting was that the surgery had gone quickly and successfully and the nerves in all of her legs were healthy and reconnecting. They said her left back leg was still having trouble with movement, but they weren’t worried because it’s not uncommon to have a slow recovery with this type of surgery.
But slowly the high of her quick treatment started to fade. I started thinking about the bills and the emotional hangover kicked in. I got updates everyday which seemed to indicate she was on the way back to her old self. Then after a week in the hospital they told me her progress had plateaued. They were putting her on steroids and doing some PT to try to get things moving again. She couldn’t stand or walk by herself – which was shocking because of the previous updates. I realized they must just have meant medically everything should be functioning but it just wasn’t yet. They did tell me she could go home the next day as long as she wasn’t worse, which was good news. But when I hung up the phone, I just kept thinking about my poor baby stuck in a kennel unable to move herself.
Once she got home, she quickly rebounded. It was tough the first two or three days because she needed complete support to go potty or move much, but then everything came back on line. She’s doing PT to help her recover more quickly and everything seems to have turned a corner. I’m so happy to have her home and that she really is getting back to her old self. It’s good news, right? So why didn’t we have a podcast last week?
I’m so glad you asked. Before I knew she’d need surgery, I’d ordered a new mattress. Mine was old and way to smooshy – bad for my back and Sweet Dee to walk on. I’d temporarily borrowed my sister’s guest room mattress, but she needed it back. It was going to be delivered last Tuesday – the day I usually record and edit the podcast. We’ll my Strategic had carefully planned out everything. We cleaned. We moved things out of the way for the delivery person to get the mattress into my bedroom without issues. I cleared a place to put my sister’s mattress. Tuesday morning, I took everything off my bed and washed it. Got my tip ready for the movers. The delivery service said they’d be there between 7AM – 11AM, which was perfect because the only thing I had scheduled that day was our weekly group call for the Supervisor Strengths Institute at 1PM. I told myself, even if they’re a little late we have a two-hour buffer. Good work, Strategic!
Well as you can imagine, the delivery folks were not timely. I noticed myself getting worried even before their delivery window was up. At 9:30AM, I was like, “damn it! The one thing I had to do today and I’m going to be interrupted.” Positivity kicked in and told me it was going to be okay and to just focus on the outcome I wanted. After all, there was three hours left. I was working on various things for Strengths University, including checking email. Buzzsprout sends a weekly email with updates on how many downloads we had that week, and it hit me harder than it usually does. I enjoy doing the podcast and am so grateful for my listeners, but the reason I do it is to help folks become better supervisors and hopefully direct some to our programs and services - #Strategic. I was disappointed that I hadn’t seen the growth of listeners that I’d hoped. Then I noticed it was 11AM – the end of the delivery window. Positivity tried again, but was less successful in cheering me up and assuaging my worry. Strategic was getting antsy because things weren’t going like they were supposed to.
Prepped for our meeting and around 12PM, I got a call that they were going to be there in 20 minutes. Huzzah! Just in time. They showed up, got my sister’s mattress into its place and put the new in my bedroom. Great success! After the delivery person left, I went into look at it. That’s when I smelled it. That new mattress, chemical-ridden scent from the memory foam. It was strong and awful. I immediately realized that Strategic forgot to factor this into the plans. Input immediately went into action and Googled, “how to get the smell out of your new mattress” and “is it safe to sleep on your new mattress?” It didn’t get great news. Experts suggest letting it air out for at least 24 hours so the majority of the foam chemicals have time to escape. I started airing the room and mattress out in the bedroom in the hopes that since it was a hybrid mattress maybe it would go more quickly, but in the back of my mind I knew I’d made a mistake. Strategic should have put the mattress in the back room to air out first. All of my planning and prepping didn’t end the way I’d wanted.
I rallied for our group call. It went well, but after it ended I suddenly hit a wall. I was exhausted mentally and emotionally. One of the strengths I depend on most to make my actions and energy count had failed. I went back into the office to get to the podcast. As I sat staring at my computer, I started to outline my original idea - to talk about what had happened with Sweet Dee and how your Strengths show up during an emergency. But as I tried to break down the series of events, I knew it was too soon. I tried to think of something else, but Ideation had nothing. I could smell the mattress in the other room. Even though Positivity told me there was a chance the mattress would air out by bedtime, Strategic and Input knew it wouldn’t. Adaptability thought about sleeping options that night, but it all seemed exhausting. Then there was the email from earlier in the day about my weekly podcast downloads. Is there even a point in doing these? Who’s going to notice if there isn’t one. My Strategic felt like it had let me down over and over again and had nothing left to give. The emotional rollercoaster of the last few weeks hit me and the mattress had pushed me right over the edge. Strategic was sad. It couldn’t even think about doing a podcast. My other talents knew it needed a break – that I needed a break, so no one tried to rally it. We didn’t have a podcast last week, because Strategic was sad.
All of this is to say that our talents have things they need. They have to be fed and energized to stay healthy. They are impacted by the things that happen around us. Constant stress can drain them and keep them from working at their best. They get frustrated, exhausted, and run down, just like us – because they ARE us. When we’re stressed and exhausted, our talents are more likely to show up as weaknesses, which often creates more work for ourselves. Sometimes the best thing we can do is let them rest – let ourselves rest. Sometimes that will mean the podcast doesn’t get done, or you won’t make the meeting, or you don’t get the project done. But that’s okay. Working isn’t always when we do our best work. As I was relaxing that evening, Ideation and Strategic collaborated and decided “hey here’s our topic for next week’s podcast.” It wasn’t pushing through that got me there. I was giving myself – and my talents the rest they needed in that moment.
PS – For those of you with Context, or are just wondering about the mattress, around 6PM I went in for a sniff test. It failed. I realized there was no way Sweet Dee and I could sleep in there with that smell – and the information Input had collected about the experts recommending you not sleep on it until the chemicals had aired out. So I moved the new mattress to the sun room, aired out the bedroom, and put my sister’s mattress back in for a few days. I’m happy to report that it has now been de-stinkified enough to sleep on and it’s quite comfy.
You can listen to My Circus, My Monkeys on our website https://www.strengthsuniversity.org/mycircus or through most of the major podcast hubs - Apple, Spotify, Google, Amazon, TuneIn + Alexa, or Stitcher