My job requires me to moderate the monthly Session meeting, (think, board of trustees.) I really hate committee meetings. And Presbyterians have a lot of them. When it comes to sitting at your hospital bedside or showing up for a personal emergency, I’ll chase rabbits with you for hours. When it comes to making decisions and getting things done, let’s stick to the agenda and keep things moving, please.
When strong emotions show up, there’s usually more going on than meets the eye. The same holds true here for me: No great intuitive leap to realize my dislike of moderating meetings is in direct proportion to my worries that I’m not so great at it. According to one professor of communication and mediation, Catherine Morrison, it’s a struggle to balance these conflicting responsibilities of mediating opinions, attending to group dynamics, keeping one’ own opinions in check, and moderating an agenda. Okay, but, it’s still my responsibility as the pastor of a congregation.
Some folk appreciate how I keep a meeting moving; others say I cut off discussion too fast and force decisions without enough reflection. Finding a middle ground where all feel heard and none hijack the meeting and I’ve kept my mouth reasonably shut has felt impossible, even after 13 years of moderating session meetings. I’m still not comfortable or confident; I feel more like an elephant flailing in a china shop.
And according to the book, “The Scientific American Day in the Life of the Brain,” I had been doing my brain no favors, because on session nights, I would rush home from work mid-afternoon, take care of the after-school rush, make dinner, and dash back to church 2 ½ hours later, often skipping dinner. Although I do give the appearance of being healthy, I also skip meals, grab half a dozen cookies, and keep on trucking.
Well, I used to. I don’t anymore, not once I read that a single brief act of self control uses up significant energy, and drains brain power. Lack of fuel, lack of steady glucose levels, undermines the brain’s ability to maintain self-discipline. And trust me, moderating, mediating, and attending to group dynamics while keeping one’s own agenda and mouth shut take great self-control, at least for me. Staying sharp meant making sure there was a enough fuel – good fuel – for my brain.
Half a dozen chocolate chip cookies wasn’t going to cut it as far as fuel for my brain, not if I expected my brain to work hard. In fact, it was going to make it worse. So, next time you skip a meal before an important brain task, or you grab “quick energy” of carbs or sugar, you’re depriving your brain of the fuel it needs to serve you well. Boy, did I learn my lesson! Not that I love session meetings now, but we sure do laugh a whole lot more, and I’m both gentler with my own foibles, and those foibles trip me up a lot less.