Last week, I went to an all-day leadership seminar, part of a new program in which I am a training fellow. The program is training leaders in the field of neurodevelopmental disabilities, and I'm a Parent Support Fellow. I'm honored to be part of such a group and the work is fascinating, and Friday's seminar particularly so. We were divided into small groups of about ten to twelve people and did interesting exercises all day. One of these was a Survival Exercise, where we were told that we had all been in a plane crash and had crash landed in the Sonoran desert. Both pilots were killed but the rest of us were unharmed. It was ten in the morning and we only knew we were sixty miles off course and seventy miles from our original destination. We were given a list of objects that we had to rank, according to importance, as a group. Water, one overcoat, a jackknife, salt tablets, a loaded gun, etc.
My group was young. When I say young, I mean at least ten to twelve years younger than I am, and I'm 47. The only other mother was the woman leading the group (and she was the only one older than I) and a young mother of three sitting next to me.
As a group we did pretty well, setting our priorities without too much conflict, and I think I emerged as a sort of natural leader -- persuasive and clear-headed. I already know that about myself, that I respond well to crisis, that I am able to act preternaturally calm and organized. That is what I do. When we were finished, the leader of the group, who only observed, told us that I was the most pragmatic, and she wondered if I'd done this particular role play before.
No, I said, and then I thought, I do this every single day when I take care of my daughter.
I've been taking care of my daughter who has an uncontrolled seizure disorder for over fifteen years. What I didn't realize is that most of the choices I make, the "leading" I do is based on instinct. I just knew what items were important and which ones weren't, in the same way I know a split second before that Sophie is going to have a seizure. I know whether or not to try a new drug, and I know what person she will respond to.
I'm not sure whether that intuition is innate or whether it's survival. But it makes me feel old.