Broken Pieces

For the past 20 months, I have had a desk in a co-working facility in Burlington, Vermont called HULA.  It’s an amazing place.  Visitors marvel that THIS could be located in northern Vermont.  It’s an old oven factory located on Lake Champlain that has been completely modernized and added to.  It’s spacious, very bright due to huge windows everywhere, and boasts net-zero energy usage due to solar panels covering the entire roof.  Like most projects of this scale, it took entrepreneurs with vision and a high-risk tolerance to make it happen.  By all measures, it’s a great success.  There are over 400 “members.”  About half are connected to the 50+ businesses based here with enclosed office spaces.  Another 200 or so are “air disk” members, typical of co-working places everywhere – they have 24/7 access and sit wherever they find open spaces and desks, never a problem to find.   About 50 of us have “designated desks,” which provides us with our own sit-to-stand desk situated next to a window, with a filing cabinet, a small bookcase, and dividers between desks.  There are 16 conference rooms and about 20 phone booths available to all members for meetings or extended call or Zoom.

The reason this is relevant to my Run Strategies blog is I recently decided to bring all my exercise science, clinical research, and running-related texts and books here.  It’s a lot of stuff!  This stems from a decision to really focus on aging and running performance and pretty much let the finance work I’ve done for many years go on hiatus, other than some volunteer work with nonprofits.  I have numerous oversize notebooks from classes (I’m still old-school), texts, and a fair number of trade books.  There is not enough space to display them for ready access.  Fortunately, along the wall to the left of my desk is a three-foot space perfect for another bookcase.  And I had such a piece at home, a 5-feet high x 14″ wide x 12″ deep white bookcase that fits with the HULA decor.  So, on Christmas Day I finished moving things around at home, tied the bookcase to my roof rack and started driving the 3/4 miles to HULA.  The problem with a short drive is it’s easy to think “tied down” doesn’t need to be too extensive.  Well, it was windy and just before arriving at HULA I heard a thump and then saw through the back window the bookcase smashed on the ground in four or five large pieces.  I was so…… FURIOUS with myself for not having added another rope to hold it down – would have taken all of one minute.  I picked up the pieces, put (threw!) them into the car and trunk, went to HULA and dropped off the pieces.  

After giving it a day to settle, I went in to see whether I could fix it.  I took a drill, tools, screws, and an attitude I would do my best to repair it.  I pulled the pieces out and laid them on the floor.  It was a mess.  The attachments in the particle board joints had all been pulled out.  There were chunks of particle board broken off, including the ends of two of the feet. Nevertheless, I started in, very much feeling, I suppose, what a surgeon must feel when going into a broken body – “how can I get this back to as close to normal as possible.”

It took about an hour to line things up, drill holes for new screws, put them in, and then lift it up.  It wouldn’t stand up straight due to the shortened legs, so I put some books under them.  It was a sorry sight.  I needed to drill some more holes and reposition several slats to provide more stability.  Then I put in the shelves, put it up against the wall and stood back.  It was serviceable but the missing chunks and nicks just didn’t fit our otherwise clean and orderly office “neighborhood.”  I filled it with books, and it held OK.  But I ordered a replacement from Wayfair.  For the next short while, it will work, but that will be the end of it.

We all have friends, or maybe even ourselves, who have had a serious accident, crash, or fall that left our bodies, or some key part of our body, in pieces.  We present that to a surgeon who does his/her very best to make it right.  The body is amazing in that it helps that process, mending broken bones and other tissues remarkably well.  But often, things just aren’t the same.  Like my bookcase, which stands with some assistance, we may find the need to compensate for injuries that have left permanent damage. I wonder how often surgeons have to step back from their work, like I did my bookcase, and think “I did my best but it is not back to normal and will probably never be.”  There is no doubt a sadness in that moment.  I know I felt that – almost inclined to apologize to this inanimate bookcase, that will likely go into the scrap heap when the new case arrives.

We have many opportunities to take stock of how we run our lives, sometimes at a torrid pace that can leave us susceptible to harm.  As the New Year turns, it’s a good time to take stock of what we are doing, what’s important, and commit ourselves to being masters in the moment, sufficiently thinking before acting, and taking care of what we have.             

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