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Stuck in the Middle with You

Imagine this: it's a beautiful August morning. The grandparents have kindly offered to watch the kids, and you and your partner excitedly grab your life jackets and set out onto the serene lake for morning kayak.

About five minutes into your adventure, you notice that the stern of your partner's kayak is dipping lower than usual with each paddle stroke. You point it out, and you both attribute it to the power of their paddling.

Now, you're roughly two miles into your journey, and you decide to head back because the sun is beaming down, and you're beginning to feel the discomfort of blistering hands.

However, as you look back, you notice your partner has stopped paddling and is hastily putting on their life jacket. Concerned, you paddle back to them and inquire, "What's happening?" They respond, "Water is getting into the kayak, and we need to figure out how to get back to safety."

After a failed attempt to drain the water from the kayak, you decide to tow both the kayak and your partner, who occasionally needs a break from swimming, and there is still a mile to go before you reach your cottage.

How would you react, and what would you do in this unexpected situation?

Well, this happened to my husband and me during a vacation in Maine. The blog picture was taken through a waterproof bag, as we knew it would become a memory to look back on and laugh at.

I felt fortunate to have recently listened to a podcast about what you can expect when you find yourself with what feels like an insurmountable challenge ahead of you; it prepared me for what lay ahead:

First, there would be excitement.

Next, in the middle phase, it would be challenging. The initial excitement will fade, fatigue will set in, and the pursuit of perfection must take a back seat. The often unseen and underappreciated work needs to be done to accomplish the goal.

Lastly, a renewed surge of energy would come when the finish line was finally within sight.

As advertised, the "middle" was the toughest part. With excitement dwindling and muscle fatigue setting in, it became evident that achieving our goal of safely returning to our cottage would require physical and mental determination. To make what felt like an insurmountable goal manageable, I turned on some music and took it one song at a time. After much effort and a rollercoaster of self-doubt and determination, we safely reached the shore.

Following our adventure, I reflected on other instances in life where I had found myself in the "middle" and whether I had successfully reached the "finish line" and could recall various personal and professional situations. That left me pondering how patients must feel when presented with a 12-week care plan, what team members must think when they hear ambitious annual goals, and how frequently we set ourselves up for a challenge when undertaking large goals that we don’t break down into more digestible parts.

My kayaking experience served as a reminder of the reality of the "middle" phase in significant undertakings. It emphasized the importance of setting smaller, achievable goals, being content with less-than-perfect progress, and embracing the joy of having a companion along for the journey.

Suppose you find yourself in the midst of your own personal or professional "middle," diligently working towards your desired finish line, know that I see you. In that case, I feel your struggle, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to persevere.

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