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Patience and Purpose in Jury Duty

I had a feeling when I showed up on October 1st my number would get called. I had a pretty flexible week, no true hardship. I had no bias to claim, no obvious conflicts of interest. It did in fact take an interview of almost 90 potential jurors to select the 14 of us who would serve on the jury, and given the prior week’s bruises to our judicial system, I felt compelled to fulfill my responsibility as an American citizen.

I watched my psyche go from feeling like I might be selected, to wanting to be selected, to regretting being selected. From controlling and protecting my time to surrendering my time – and to an inefficient (in my opinion) calendar at that. I was forced to sit for hours with no distractions, just paying attention (wow).

Mine was seat number 5 and looking around the jury box, we were a cross section of society for sure. We listened to seven days of testimony and observed evidence on a topic that was frighteningly close to one of my biggest fears. Colonoscopy. More and more I became certain the universe ordained my selection because I was intended to learn something there. It was like a mini medical school on the topic with one of the country’s leading practitioners serving as an expert witness. I now know enough about the complications of colonoscopy to be scared to death of my next procedure. (I have been on a 3-year testing cycle since age 40 due to a family history of colon cancer.) Great.

Besides the anatomy education I received, and accepting the inability to control my schedule, the experience of serving on a jury boosted my faith in the system. My verdict was coming out pretty clearly in one direction as the evidence was unfolding…. And each evening I would wonder if my fellow jurors felt the same. However, we were not allowed to discuss anything until the very end of the trial when it was time to deliberate. Anyway, even though I was feeling certain, I wondered if the others were as convinced as I was. How often in life can 14 people absolutely agree? We were different genders, ages, races, had varying levels of education and economic backgrounds. We were from all parts of the city. I was expecting a healthy debate when it came time to render a unanimous decision.

After the closing arguments were made and the judge gave us his instructions, we returned to the jury room to discuss. After thirty minutes of expressing our impressions and discussing the relevant points, it seemed like we were all on the same page. A vote proved it to be so.

The defendant breathed a big sigh of relief as our decision was read. A trial by a jury of his peers was his right as a citizen of the United States of America. We had his professional future in our hands. Next time you get called to jury duty, don’t look for an excuse.

sea worthy

Sea Worthy

Our boat was loaded down with golf clubs, hostess gifts, costumes for a Saturday night party, bedding, clothing, and cheese and crackers. The dog was at the sitter’s and the sun was high in the sky. Our plan was to stop first at the gas dock in Avondale before starting our journey north along the Rhode Island coast, through Buzzards Bay to Marion, MA. We wanted to  arrive in time for dinner.

When John went to start the engines, however, it became clear there was a problem. Everyone knows that heart-sinking feeling: plans are laid and the forecast is perfect, but technical difficulties arise. “Ugh,” I moaned.

I took a deep breath, preparing myself for the likelihood we’d be transferring everything from the boat into our car and making the trip by land. Not as fun, not nearly as fun. Fortunately, Mike from Frank Hall’s boatyard met us at the gas dock and walked us through the cause of the problem (one of our batteries was failing) and helped us decide whether or not it was safe to make the trip.

It’s been said that the most dangerous thing to have on a boat is a schedule. One must be willing to surrender to the inevitability of things breaking down, and weather and sea conditions stirring up. Time on a boat is meant to be at a different pace than on land and serves to remind us that we are never in control even though we pretend to be.

This time, we decided to carry on, assured the running engine would do its part to replenish the charge of one of our batteries. We’d make it to Marion, Cuttyhunk, Hadley Harbor, Falmouth, and Edgartown before returning to Watch Hill four days later. And don’t you know every time those engines turned over and purred, I said a prayer of gratitude.

In addition to some anxiety over the battery, we’d also heard a lot about how tricky the channel through Woods Hole can be, with ferries and currents and lots of boat traffic. However, by the time the weekend was over we had made a huge deposit in the bank of experience and navigated it three times.

There is something very satisfying about being tested on the water and rising to the occasion, taking the opportunity to strengthen the resiliency muscle. Yes, our destinations were beautiful and so were our friends and the weather, but this particular trip felt more like an opportunity to learn and gain confidence. It was our first time through Buzzards Bay and our proximity to the Cape Cod Canal sparked my interest in cruising even further north. I love to push our boundaries…. stay tuned.

on-golfing-and-writing

On Golfing and Writing

on-golfing-and-writing

If I look back at the woman I was twenty years ago…

I never thought I’d love golf. I also never thought about the day I’d be staring into my sixth decade on the planet. When you are in your thirties, it’s hard to find joy in a slower tempo. In the same way yoga didn’t appeal to me at that age, neither did a four-hour activity mired with frustration.

It’s only been in the last ten years I’ve come to appreciate the compassion and brain health that comes from a beginner’s mentality. It is so much easier to stick with what we are good at, but there is no growth in that. No matter how much golf I play, I’m always filled with humility and the sense that I have so much to learn. As a writer, reading great books evokes the same feeling. German classes and years of bridge lessons have also put me in the shoes of a beginner, but those practices didn’t stick the way golf has.

That’s because I also love being outdoors. I’ve come to crave the green grass and fresh air, the camaraderie walking the course, my heart rate slowing with the measured, even, pace of the game. A four-hour walk with good friends and no phones: such a luxury in today’s world. Golf teaches me that success comes from taking time and studying my options. Ever try to putt quickly without reading the green? I am a type A personality who multi-tasks and juggles multiple projects at once. Golf has taught me something about concentration and clarity. It has taught me to value precision over power.

Golf benefits my squash and my writing in the same way yoga or meditation does. I like to think of a golf outing as an extended practice in even breathing and intentional thinking. It begins with gratitude for just having the time and the access to play the game. Then, every swing, every new hole is an opportunity to put the past behind and visualize greatness and use positive self-talk. It’s taken me many decades to face down the critic in my head, but rounds of golf have given me millions of opportunities to tell her to go away!

I never thought I’d love golf, I never understood what people liked about it. I can’t believe I’m at an age where I feel this way, but I really do love golf.