Finding Time to Recharge and Reconnect

The ending of one year and the start of another lends itself well to reflection and reconnection.  Like so many of you, the TEDMED team values this time of year because it allows us to reconnect with friends and family while also taking time to be thoughtful about the year to come. As this year draws to a close, we look forward to unplugging and spending quality time with family and friends, writing down reflections of the past year and intentions for the new one, spending time outside in nature, and finally reading that book we picked up at this year’s onsite bookstore.

As we prepare to take some time off, we were curious to know how some members of the TEDMED community rest and recharge their minds and bodies as they enter into the New Year.  In response to specific questions, Jim Gordon, Lucy Kalanithi, Mark Zhang, Sarah Outen, and Sharon Terry shared with us the ways in which they recharge this time of the year.  We hope you find their responses as inspiring as we do and hope they are helpful as you think about how you will spend this time of year.

The first question we posed was: How do you use this time leading up to and entering the New Year to unwind or reflect?”

In their responses, these community members explain that they use this time as an opportunity not only to reflect and recharge, but also to “rebalance,” as Sarah Outen edsc_9130xplained. In the wake of what Sarah describes as a “full on year with its own storms and mountains” she plans to increase her time meditating and exercising as she “reflects on the past year and looks ahead to the shape of the next year.”  As we each reflect on the various storms and mountains unique to the past year of our own lives, we might benefit from what Jim Gordon describes as “going inward.”  Jim shares that “this will be, as the season urges, a time for me to go inward, to appreciate my connection with nature, and also to become aware of and let go of attitudes, worries, concerns, and recriminations that no longer serve me, if they ever did.”  

Part of this process of going inward involves meditation and reflection, something that Sharon Terry plans to spend extra time jh1_7100doing in the coming weeks.  She shared with us that her method for reflection “is a combination of writing, reading, and engaging in wonderfully deep conversation with family and a few close friends.” Similarly, Lucy Kalanithi unwinds and reflects by focusing on “mindfulness meditation, reading books and getting enough sleep!!” Lucy adds that exercise, family, and friends help to keep her going throughout the year.  Sleep seems to be an important component of this time of the year for all.  As Mark Zhang put it, “The holiday season is my time to enjoy time with my son, good food, and even better naps.”

We also asked: “In what ways will you be connecting with loved ones and yourself over the next few weeks?”

Connection with family and friends was top of everyone’s list for the coming weeks.  Lucy looks forward to celebrating Christmas with family in Southern California, which she explains that, after growing up in cold-weather climates, “still feels weird, and it still feels like a huge treat.”  Jim uses the time to call his brothers, children, god-children and, “any man or woman who has a speciimg_5275al but not recently visited” place in his heart, adding that he feels “a palpable joy in each of the connections and in the web that links all of us.” Reconnecting with family and friends is important to Sarah who, having recently completed her nearly 6-year London2London journey around the world, says that “after so many years away I am really glad to have time ahead with my family and friends.” Mark also plans on spending quality time with family, specifically by “reading more Richard Scarry books with my son!”

The usual time spent with family over the coming weeks will include some new themes for Sharon. She and her husband plan to have a “deep dive conversation” with their 2 children and their spouses, specifically discussing their plans for 2017, asking “how will they make space for the things that nurture them and their dreams,” and what Sharon and her husband can do to help. Sharon and her family will also be engaging in a conversation about end-of-life and death, something that was explored throughout TEDMED this year.  She will be having what she describes as “a death dinner!” during which she and her husband will share what they want the end of their lives to look and feel like, and ask that their family and close friends commit to making that happen. At TEDMED, we love this idea of a “death dinner,” which reminds us of Michael Hebb’s 2013 talk, “What happens when death is for dinner?” Sharon said that this dinner may seem sort of odd, but she loves the idea of communicating their decision with family and friends, adding that “they are up for it! They are used to how weird we are!”  

Finally, we wanted to know, “What are you looking forward to most in 2017?”

So much of what each community member is looking forward to in 2017 connects back to family, but also to their work, which is a source of great purpose, passion, and fulfillment to each.  The organization Sharon founded, Genetic Alliance, is marking its 30th anniversary, and she and her team are excited for what the future holds.  She told us that they have spent nearly 6 months “in profound contemplation” of what they want to be in the world, animg_3513d they discovered that their “heart and soul is in enabling a path for people to be authentically involved in all aspects of health – at home, in health care services and in biomedical research.” Mark shares that he and his colleagues at Cake are “excited to be in the inaugural cohort of companies participating in PULSE@MassChallenge in 2017” and that they will be rolling out new features to Cake.  We look forward to following the increasing impact that both Genetic Alliance and Cake are sure to have for those who are in search of better health.  

Lucy shared that in 2017 she will continue speaking about her late husband’s memoir, When Breath Becomes Air, while also prioritizing advocacy “for patients, caregivers, and for all those who need compassion from us and from our new President.” This intention to work for greater compassion and understanding in the wake of 2016’s tumultuous election is shared by others.  Jim explained that for him the election was a wake up call and a “summons to reach out to and find common ground with people who appear to look at the world very differently” from him.  Sharon commented that “as we enter 2017, America is not a predictable place, nor is the globe.” One of her intentions for 2017 is to explore the questions: “How can we love each other amid the massive strife on the planet for plants, animals and people? How can we love each other in our differences?” adding that she looks forward to the “joy and the pain in the undertaking” of finding the answers.

img_4632In 2017, these community members also intend to deepen their connections with family and continue what Sharon refers to as “inner work.”  For Lucy, 2017 will be filled with the joy brought by her growing toddler, Cady, who is “talking up a storm.” Jim is looking forward to watching his 14 year old son “drive to the basket” and also to “exploring the world with the little children” in his life.  For Sarah, the transition back into life at home following her London2London journey has been challenging at times, so in 2017 she is aiming for balance, “hoping to find increasing peace,” and looking forward to spending more time with loved ones. Sharon will continue to be deeply committed to her inner life work and growth as a path to serving the world. She shared with us that she will be entering a long-term study program called Gestalt Practice, “the aim of which is unfoldment, wholeness, and growth” that will, she explains, help her to follow and trust her own process, adding that, “it will help me get out of the way of meaningful growth.”

We hope these thoughts and reflections from some members of the TEDMED community have inspired you as you enter into this holiday season, bid adieu to one year, and welcome in a new year.  
From all of us at TEDMED, we hope you have a very happy and healthy holiday season. We look forward to collaborating with you in the year ahead!