Sunday, February 18, 2007

The pattern of events

I like conventions and festivals and dance camps. Preparing for them is stressful, but when I get there, I know I've brought along most of what I need and I have the ability to easily get anything else that's required. I plan a lot of activities, but realize I'll only get to do about half of them.

What I haven't adjusted to, but hope to eventually, is that two-thirds of the way through any multi-day event, be it for business or fun, I crash.

It's not as dramatic as the word "crash" sounds -- it's not even noticeable to most people around me -- but it's always disturbing.

When I arrive at an event, I start out doing a lot of exploration of the hotel, the neighborhood, and the convention itself. Once I've got enough information to operate in the new environment, I feel comfortable taking some risks. And, as a rule, I've set up some "who knows what could happen" activities -- meeting people I haven't seen in a long time, or tackling a subject area that's new to me. I try to mix those with sure-fire things like spending time with a friend, or going to eat food I particularly enjoy.

I believe what happens to me after the first day or two is that I run out of energy. All I know is that suddenly I'm not hungry (even though I should be), and I can't make decisions about anything. (Frequently that's why I can't eat.) I might experience pain, like the start of a migraine. I experience slight depression, even mild paranoia. At this point, I realize I need to get food, get to a quiet place (like my hotel), take a bath, and go to sleep. But I am so distraught about missing out on everything that's supposed to be happening in the next several hours (dancing, meetings, social events, tours) that it takes an hour or two of wandering around in an increasingly debilitated daze to accept that I must have a time out.

(At this point, my introvert friends are probably thinking "That's what big meetings and gatherings are like for me, from beginning to end!")

Saturday at dinnertime I had to bail out of the Dance Flurry, force myself to eat a real meal (at the hotel, no less), take serious medication, and crawl into bed for the night.

Of course, I woke up this morning perfectly fine, dashed out to breakfast and then went and danced for seven hours straight. All better!

I guess from here on out I'm just going to have to dedicate six hours on my event schedule as "crash and/or retreat." My hat is off to the politicians and other public figures who pursue relentless schedules of meetings and appearances 12 or more hours a day, seven days a week. No idea how they can sustain it.

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