July 11, 2022

What I’ve learned so far this year – Summer 2022

Sharon's Viewpoint

As I sit here at the end of June 2022, I feel a sense of hubris even presuming to think that I have learned much, or that you might be interested in what I think I have learned. But I have committed to taking stock of my learnings at least every six months, and to sharing those thoughts with you (see previous versions: winter 2021, summer 2021, winter 2020, summer 2020, winter 2019, summer 2019).

This month’s edition is a little more personal than some others, so just know that going in.

The truth is, I am humbled and deeply troubled at the degree to which violence, hate, misogyny and theocracy seem to be taking over our society. Any learning I have done in the last few months has mostly been internal. I have focused on learning how to manage my own emotions and stay productive in an increasingly toxic world. I have struggled to find a constructive response to the things I see and with remembering that there are a lot of generative forces still working for good out there. I know I am not alone in feeling this way, and that sense of community is meaningful.

bumblebees in the gardenMy own generativity has shown up in my garden, and this photo of two bumblebees who have made a home in that garden gives me hope. I also have been walking, spending time with my wife and my dog Sophie, getting out of the house a bit more, traveling and doing more things with friends than in the past two years. All of that has been healthy.

One of my favorite quotes is from Ram Dass, in his book Be Here Now. In that book, he says,

“I can do nothing for you but work on myself . . . You can do nothing for me but work on yourself.”

So it is in that spirit that I will attempt to integrate the best of what I’ve been working with, and I’ll invite you to share your own learnings in the comments below.

January

  • Pivoting again from planned in-person meetings to virtual is challenging for everyone involved.
  • I have a deep well of connection with friends and family.
  • Taking extended time off each winter is becoming a habit – and it’s healthy for me.
  • There were 34 mass shootings during this month in the United States. (Source material for this and all related statistics in this post can be found at the Gun Violence Archive.)

February

  • Setting aside dedicated time to write is helping me move forward on the book I am crafting.
  • Celebrating Valentine’s Day with my wife has become gentler and warmer as the years go by – we rarely do big presents, and we don’t need chocolate. A quiet evening with a nice dinner at home is just the ticket.
  • I gave my first “Grand Rounds” in over two years – virtually. It’s such a hallowed tradition in medicine, and it seemed odd, but oddly effective, using this format. We have changed so much over the past two years.
  • There were 36 mass shootings during this month in the United States.

March

  • I gave my first in-person lecture, wearing a mask for two hours, at the beginning of this month. It was exhausting because of the mask but invigorating because of the human connection. Net positive, but again, I am so aware of how much has changed.
  • As I venture out into the world again, I am realizing that I feel like I have forgotten how to “human.” Basic things like making conversation and making eye contact have been different.
  • I began to get a basket of vegetabley goodies from my local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm this month. My first pickup was a set of tomato and other seedlings for this year’s garden. What a treat!
  • There were 42 mass shootings during this month in the United States.

April

  • I shared a picture of my 10-year-old self in a blog post this month. I had a ponytail and was in the fourth grade. My mom was a good sport in helping me find the photo. Shout-out to Krista Moore for challenging me to write that post.
  • I spent time preparing for taking a long walk on my upcoming birthday.
  • I contracted COVID-19 after attending my first in-person conference. I was fully vaccinated, masked religiously, and fortunately was not very ill. And to my knowledge I did not infect anyone else around me. The fact that I did not become seriously ill is both a gift and a privilege.
  • This month, I had the chance to meet and talk with some wonderful folks finishing up their OB/GYN residency at a nearby university. They are teaching me about the things that are important to young physicians as they begin their careers. I am most grateful.
  • I got to have dinner with a truly wise woman this month — Lilly Marks. She is a mentor and teacher of mine from my ELAM experience, and I am a true Lilly fan. She taught me three things, and reminded me of them in person at dinner:
  • She who writes the first draft gets to write the final report.

  • Always be the most prepared person at the meeting.

  • There can be no mission if there is no margin.

  • There were 57 mass shootings during this month in the United States.

May

  • I celebrated a milestone birthday this month and took a five-mile walk alone on a quiet beach to mark the day. I had a lot of time to think, and to try to lay down the anger and fear that surfaces as I watch the news. I spent the whole walk asking myself what I wanted to do as I enter the “third third of my life,” and I achieved some clarity about what’s next for me. I promise to share more soon. You will definitely be invited along.
  • The mass shootings in Uvalde and in Buffalo mark just 2 of 63 mass shootings in the United States this month. While I am struggling to manage my own emotions around all of this, I truly don’t know how we effectively change our trajectory. My public health heart is breaking once again . . .

June

  • The world around me continues to be a source of heartbreak and worry. White supremacists planned an attack on a Pride festival in Idaho. Luckily, the attack was disrupted, but it was a close call. What about the next time? And what is my best, most constructive response?
  • We have just witnessed an activist court strip away one set of rights for women, and at least one justice suggested that many more are to follow. I am not pro-abortion, but I am pro-choice. I have no right to impose my belief system on others. Again, I am struggling to find my non-violent response, though I don’t think the anger will go away anytime soon. I am searching for how I can participate constructively in our society.
  • We do not have a final tally for the mass shootings in June yet. But it is NOT ZERO.

This is not an uplifting post, but it has not been an uplifting time. However, this list does reflect the challenges I am grappling with and the work I am doing on myself in response. That self-examination and impulse toward growth is foundational for the work I do for myself, and it is foundational to the approach I share with clients as a coach.

And through it all, one thing is becoming clearer to me. There was a point in my medical career where I made the transition from being a one-to-one physician caring for individual patients to a public health physician devoted to caring for and nurturing community. My walk on the beach helped me see that I miss that community-level work, and it is now time to bring it forward into my coaching work.

Over the next few months, we will be piloting efforts at bringing together a community platform with customized offerings for folks like those young physicians I mentioned, the coaches I have been mentoring and growing with, and a few other groups of like-minded people. As I put my time and energy toward building and serving community, I suspect I will find my constructive response to all the challenges we are all struggling to resolve. And I will continue to coach individuals as well.

These are my challenges and learnings from these difficult times. I welcome your thoughts on your own experience and how you are finding constructive ways to be in the world, regardless of whether we agree on the points above.

And I am wishing you each a more peaceful second half of the year — one in which you find your own learnings and growth, no matter what we face individually or together.

Unlock your potential and align with what matters most to you. 

It’s that simple.

START BUILDING YOUR INTENTIONAL LIFE TODAY