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Racing Against Ourselves

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Lori L. Hardesty
November 20, 2023

Sometimes slowing down is a power move. Pace is proof of maturity.

It happened a few weeks ago, still fresh in my mind.

On this particular Tuesday morning, I was standing in the kitchen, waiting for my second cup of coffee to finish brewing. I had a million things on my mind. Wrapping up a final round of interviews to fully staff my team. Mentally logging the final preparations as a co-planner for an upcoming cross-departmental meeting for 50 people. Wondering how to creatively support a student who missed a great in-class experiential activity because she was sick. Sitting in my feelings about the upcoming garage sale that my planful mom was hosting as she transitioned into independent living. And hoping that I wasn’t going to miss another volleyball match and disappoint my youngest daughter again. 

All of these thoughts simultaneously bounced around in my mind like the frenetic numbered balls in a lottery machine. Now where’s the dog’s kong? Was my watch finished charging? Where’s the lid to my travel cup? 

And splat.  

Keep in mind that with my comfortable heels, I stand 6’ tall and am a big woman. The girls were already at school, my husband at work. There I was, on all fours in true Brené Brown fashion, face down in the dusty colosseum (my kitchen). The mountainous shoe pile near the back door provided a foreboding backdrop as I was face-to-face with my food-driven, sweet Lab Ginger. She was intrigued about my unusual, sudden movement, hopeful I would pick up the pace for the imminent peanut butter-filled offering upon my exit. My first thought was, I better not have twisted my ankle! I will play in the Junior Varsity Parent vs. Player match this Friday.  

Immediately, I began laughing at myself, as my true priorities showed themselves. Playing volleyball with my daughter and our peers, and having fun. I realized that I was fine. I stayed there for a little bit and then slowly picked myself up. I knew this was a sign that I needed to slow down. I messaged my colleagues to inform them I was running late. 

There are several women in my circle of Facebook friends who share the most timely posts that completely resonate with me. These posts come in several forms: Public Service Announcement (#TodaysPSA), Mindful Monday, Wisdom Wednesdays, etc. Pure truth of living life as a woman beyond their 40s and 50s. You know who you are (and thank you for reading). A few days after my close encounter with Ginger the Big Red Dog, one of those wise women named Carrie posted:

I gasped. I felt sprinkled with magical wisdom fairy dust.

It’s my 50th year on Earth. Some mornings when they emerge from their rooms, my high school daughters appear to have grown taller overnight. When I tell them, they quickly respond that they think I am shrinking. Either way, I feel the years of experience under my proverbial belt. Is that what makes my waistband feel so tight? 

That same week, one of my Retriever Talks Cohort #3 colleagues shared an article in our group chat, “How to think faster, talk smarter, and shine when the pressure is on,” Fast Company & Inc., (10-21-23). It reminded Michael of our work together as a cohort. Another “drop the mic” moment for me was the section on “Pace, Space, and Grace.” This Next Big Idea Club author credited Stanford lecturer and consultant Collins Dobbs with his three-step framework for handling difficult encounters. Slow. Down. Give yourself both the mental and physical room to listen deeply. The grace comes in when you allow yourself to listen to both you and others, resetting the mind with humility and kindness. 

Late that Tuesday afternoon, I made both volleyball matches (my oldest daughter plays on the Varsity team, after JV). The crowd was packed into a tiny high school gym. As I pulled my legs closer to me to squeeze into the bleachers, I saw the stain on my periwinkle pants from where I landed on my knees. I shared my morning story with parents sitting nearby and my husband, who I had not yet told. “This morning, I fell.” No, I was not embarrassed, but rather proud of showing myself grace and self-care. What if I hadn’t? Would my high stress level have allowed me to safely navigate my 50-minute commute? Would I have continued to be consumed by what was ahead, not paying attention to the present?  

This strategic wisdom applies at work. When I am faced with challenges, I find it is really important to bounce ideas off of others, get feedback on my plan and take the pulse of my own emotions and feelings on a topic. Is my view too narrow? It takes time to coordinate these interactions and my preference is face-to-face, if possible. People deserve thoughtful decision-making.

Slowing down during the holiday rush seems counterintuitive. It is so easy to get in the weeds and get caught in deep rabbit holes of consumerism when time together is really what it is all about. Re-entering spaces, places and relationships might make you feel like your 12-year-old self all over again, as if you have no control over what will happen or how you will feel about it.

This time, flex those mature muscles and consider what is important. What is good mental health for you? Share that plan with others. Take that extra time for what you need for “you.” 

Author: Lori L. Hardesty, MPA, is the Associate Director of Applied Learning & Community Engagement at The Shriver Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She enjoys strengths-based leadership, partnership-building, youth development, and coaching. Lori earned her B.A. in Psychology from Johns Hopkins University and MPA from the University of Baltimore. Email [email protected].

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