Julie Thorson

In September of 2020, I submitted this blog in my Living Leadership column. 

If you would have told me then that in 10 months I would feel like I do today, I would have said there is no possible way! How can it possibly get worse than “running on fumes”? And I consider myself an optimist. 

I try to find the bright side. I look to motivate and inspire, especially our team members, but on this day as I looked for inspiration for this blog, I found myself googling, “How long until elastic wears out?” Yup, I let myself go to a not-so-great place. 

If you are still reading this blog and haven’t scrolled on to the next thing, you may get a sense of what I am talking about. No?

Elastic may be man or woman’s best friend. It’s that necessary thing we often take for granted. I have a new affinity for elastic waistbands, in fact. They have become a staple in my pandemic work attire. Did you know they make decent elastic waistband dress pants? Seriously, they pull right up with little effort! They are out there and they are fabulous. I call my favorite pair of grey, pull on slacks Sal. He’s gotten me through some rough days. 

Let’s you and me reflect on our leadership journeys … where I am today in the course of the pandemic. The image I can’t shake is a worn-out piece of elastic. Low, I know, but stay with me.  We’ve been stretched and we always bounce back. We’ve been twisted and worked over in a way that expands to the near breaking point, and yet we bounced back. 

In long-term care, resiliency is a given, for those of us who are still around. Many people, whether in direct care in long-term care or in leadership, found themselves at the breaking point, and their elasticity simply ran out … it wasn’t enough. It took a lot, but it happened without a lot of fanfare.

So back to my Google search. How do you repair elastic after it wears out? I’ll bet that’s where many of us are finding ourselves, as the pandemic isn’t over and most of the world has gone back to zippers and buttons. We are still interpreting and debating social distancing, masking, being vaccinated or not, visitation, quarantine, and of course regulations. We are still here in our elastic being pulled every day. 

I don’t sew, in fact I might even, dare I say, hate … no, I won’t say hate; let’s just say I don’t know how, so I become flustered and frustrated and just want to move on. So I quickly lost interest in how to fix stretched out, worn out elastic. 

Then something pretty cool happened in the moment. I started to laugh at the silliness of my analogy and the absurdity of my Google search! I would never actually try to fix elastic. I would toss it away and buy new, even if they were my most favorite pair of comfy pants with an embarrassing elastic waistband. 

My point is (regardless of how wacky it may be) it’s time for us in long-term care to start fresh. The craziness of this all (guidelines, regulations, inconsistencies, staffing challenges, fill in the blank) has worn us all down, and we need to get back to that snap we all had in order to serve those we love with the dedication and resiliency they expect from us. 

Hope you had a good laugh. After all, that is the key to keeping on. Laughter, a smile when you feel like crying, and a moment to reflect — that is a great way to reset and snap that elastic back yet again. There is still give left to give. Sal hasn’t let me down yet. I just let him know, “We still have work to do, buddy, don’t fail me now. “

There are just 10 words total in this month’s famous quote. They are all in this blog in the same order as they are in the quote. Give yourself time to read again, hopefully have a laugh and find the hidden quote. When you figure it out, let me know, and maybe we can even share a laugh together. 

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Julie Thorson was the 2018 recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. Thorson is currently a coach for the Leading Age’s Larry Minnix Leadership Academy.  Her “Living Leadership” blog was named the 2016 “Best New Department” Bronze Award winner by the American Society of Health Publication Editors. The president and CEO of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and completed Leading Age’s Leadership Educator Program last summer.