Assisted Living: Succeeding With Help From Friends

I spent the most recent four weeks on what I’m calling the “Northern Hemisphere Conference Tour“: four conferences, back to back. Agile Vancouver, AYE, Øredev, and Agile Testing Days. (It seemed like a good great idea at the time :-) It was.

I had a blast, and I could not have done it without support. As I reflected back on that time, I thought I had a little help from my friends. And then I realized, it wasn’t a little, it was a lot of help.

I learned a lot along the way. Here is some of what I learned:

Not all “accessible” hotel rooms are truly accessible. At the hotel in Vancouver, I’d asked for an accessible room. Normally, that either means hand grip in the shower, or a walk-in shower. My first room had neither. My second room had a hand grip, and the shower had a mount at about my belly button level. So, in order to wash my hair, I had to hold the shower head and hold onto the hand grip. Now, I need my third hand to wash my hair. But wait, I don’t have a third hand!

I ended up with a third room with a different configuration so I could use the vanity to hold onto when I entered and exited the shower.

My keynote was in the morning. I took my medication in the morning so I had maximum balance for my keynote. When my video goes up you’ll be able to see I am balanced. Esther noticed I was on the edge of dehydration after my talk. Esther, I appreciate you for noticing and bringing me water after my talk.

I developed a bad head cold at the AYE conference. A head cold on top of vertigo is a Very Bad Idea. I sounded like I was going to die. But, I only sounded like I was going to die. I learned that:

  • I needed to reassure the participants that short of a vertigo attack, nothing would keep me from my sessions.  Even if I can only sit, I can deliver my sessions. Remember, we can always rent a microphone.
  • If I have a head cold, I should ask for help to walk to the Ladies Room. This hotel had a loose tile on the floor. I tripped on it, smashed my good knee, got a good bump on the head and looked awful. I appreciate Andrea Chiou for helping me up off the floor. I wasn’t quite “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” However, I was quite dizzy and was moving slowly.

It was a fast-moving cold. I was done being sick in three days. My voice was an octave lower for those three days. I thought I sounded sexy. Um, maybe not so much according to other people. My knee is now close to being healed (just soft tissue damage). I even worked out with Erik the super-strong trainer this morning.

On my way to Øredev, I discovered the kindness of strangers. I had a wheelchair (and tipped) a nice person to get me onto the train from Copenhagen to Malmö. The train has steps to get on and off. Uh oh. So I asked a gentleman who looked like the patriarch of the family if he and his sons would help me get my suitcase and briefcase off the train. He said, “With pleasure!” with a delightful Swedish accent.

Not only did they take my luggage off the train, they formed a protective barrier around me, so I could get off the train. Although, the Swedes are not like Bostonians, so the other folks patiently waited until I was fully off the train to board. I thanked him profusely amid a chorus of “goodbyes.”

I appreciate Michael Nygard for offering me his hand when we walked to lunch in Malmö at Oredev. Well, he might not have offered me his hand. I might have grabbed it :-)

I’m pretty sure Doc List suggested I drink water several times at Øredev.

I know Udi Dahan found me a place to sit at least once at Øredev. Oh, and I am not Udi’s mother. For goodness’ sake. Udi and are professional friends who have known each other for years. I guess it’s possible that I could be his mother, but I would have had to be very young to have had him.

Janet Gregory walked with me to the speaker dinner in Malmö. Aside from Janet’s terrific sense of humor, she struck exactly the right balance of offering support without pity. Janet never made me feel as if she pitied me; she made me feel as if she supported me. I bet she makes her clients feel that way too. We had many delightful conversations during our travels together.

In fact, I believe it was during our trip to Berlin for Agile Testing Days, she coined the term “Down a quart” referring to my need to drink water and stay hydrated. I appreciate Janet Gregory for grabbing my luggage to drag it over the cobblestones on our walk to the train station in Malmö, and for getting it on the train, and for taking it off the train in Copenhagen. I could not have done it alone. And, she stood with the luggage, allowing me to sit on the train.

At Agile Testing Days, Esther  noticed that I needed water after my keynote again. (Do you see the pattern? I do. I take my medication and then I need water.) Thank you, Esther.

By the end of Agile Testing Days, many people realized I need water and a little Diet Coke. “Johanna, do you need some water? A little Diet Coke? Right here…”

Brett Schuchert and Jim Holmes and I were all on an early flight back to London, so we took a taxi together to the airport. Because it was early, we hadn’t eaten. I hadn’t drunk enough water either. Oops. Down a quart, incoherent and not able to walk straight. Over my objections, Jim took my luggage. He didn’t even justify himself, he just took my luggage. It was a good idea. I was much better once I drank a half-liter of water.

I appreciate Brett Schuhert and Jim Holmes for grabbing my luggage at Berlin’s Tegel airport on our way home from Agile Testing Days. I was incoherent, and they didn’t even laugh.

I learned a lot during these four weeks:

  1. I need to drink even more water than I think I do.
  2. I need to ask for help. It’s a gift to others.
  3. If I remember to smile, people are willing to help even more.
  4. Strangers are quite willing to help me.
  5. I need to take the help as it is offered.
  6. There’s a thin line between being too stubborn to accept help (fake independence) and being gracious about accepting help.

For me, life is a series of experiments in assisted living. Because, I get by with lots of help from my friends.

4 thoughts on “Assisted Living: Succeeding With Help From Friends

  1. Lisa Crispin

    I know we have a wonderful community, it is nice to see more affirmation of that! Johanna, I feel bad though, I never suggested to you that you needed water! Good thing most of your friends are more observant/brighter than I am. ;->

    I’ve had similar help when I’ve gotten sick at conferences. We’re a big intentional community.

    1. johanna Post author

      Lisa, thank goodness it’s not noticeable to everyone that I need water. I am learning to monitor myself more. I get so excited when I talk, I don’t notice.

      I bet you can tell when I talk :-)

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