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Row Your Boat


March 24, 2024

In the scull on the river after winning the race, the collegiate rowers throw the coxswain, who steers the boat, overboard, because he tricked them into winning.

This he did by telling them, who are facing backwards and so cannot judge his estimate of victory's proximity, that the finish line was only ten more strokes distant. Thus, getting them to put all their remaining might into those "final" ten strokes; only to be commanded by the little tyrant, in the midst of the tenth, "Four more!"

My finish line each week has been the publication of my Friday newsletter, listing each week's nearly 50 local events and almost 20 local articles.

One thing is constructing the newsletter itself: stacking the event listings in order, spacing out the banner ads, choosing highlights from the articles to show. But then there is the preparation of the pages that announce the events and display the articles; the pages that open when you click on an article or event listing; the "more" behind the advertised "See more."

A lawyer once told me, "Growth can kill you." At the time, I assumed that the death he referred to was that of your business. Now, I understand that if you're not careful, it might literally be yourself.

Recently, I have an excellent assistant, Luisa. And I am getting better at delegating the work I don't have to do. I emulate the great masters, who let a talented assistant do most of the painting or sculpture, then come in to apply the final touches, the faces and hands, as it were.

But, as I delegate more, I take more on, enhancing and expanding Lokkal. And like the coxswain, I too project a too-favorable estimate of the finish; telling myself, as the week progresses, that this time, this week I am ahead of the game.

My "final" ten strokes, the work I do Thursday night and Friday morning, would be one level of effort, a prize already dearly won. But then there are the last-minute things, the coxswain's "Four more strokes!," demanding details: additions, subtractions, adjustments, so important to the person whose article or event announcement it is, while I am already exhausted; nothing terribly hard in itself, but everything delaying the moment of publication.

Saturday morning, instead of recovering by sleeping in, I go off to synagogue. The bicycle ride there is largely downhill. On the return trip, after prayers and the meal and the ride up the hill, I'm ready for a nap. Although I'm not sure that passing out for three hours can still be referred to as a nap.

Last Saturday, waking when the sun was already falling towards the horizon, I went out and watered my patio's garden, thirsty, yet so luxuriantly green in this high mountain desert. Then, carrying a pail up to the second floor, I water the five plants that hang down into the patio. Then, up on the smaller, higher roof, on the "third-floor" above my landlady's apartment (using the water slowly dripping from the tinaca, caught in the pail placed below the tank for that purpose) I watered the succulents and cacti living there, quite happily, below the full, brutal Mexican sun.

It might have been the expansiveness of that high view, stretching for miles in every direction, or the incredible purple plumes of the jacarandas punctuating the landscape, or the sunset proceeding in earnest as I watched, fireworks going off as I did, golden streaks ending in a bang, off in the distance, in honor of the religious procession readying to set out from Atotonilco.

It may have been that I was still dreaming after my long siesta, but there and then this old man had a glimpse of heaven, perhaps not deep, but sustained, not fleeting, but lingering, full in the face.

I feel like Escher's two hands drawing each other, that in writing I am creating my reality. Publishing these articles is my therapy, a Greek word meaning "caring." And caring for the unsustainable, Herculean effort of producing my Friday newsletter, writing about it (as I always advise my patients to do), I gain insight into the difficulty. Quoting myself, "If you want the problem to become less hostile and obnoxious to you, try being less hostile and obnoxious to you."

A plan is revealed that should enable me to publish Friday's newsletter late tonight, on Thursday. But already it's mid-morning. Let me leave off this philosophizing and put my back into the effort. There are only ten more strokes to go!


Dr. David Fialkoff presents Lokkal, our local social network, the community online and off. Please do contribute content, or your hard-earned pesos to support Lokkal, SMA's Voice; Atención robustly reborn for the digital f you can, please donate using the orange button below. Thank you.


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