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OPINION: Bench strength and emotional bandwidth

In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, I want to say, thank you to all of the amazing women who are doing some extra heavy lifting these days.

In recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8, I want to say, thank you to all of the amazing women who are doing some extra heavy lifting these days.

To the strong and caring women and to the support beams helping to prop us up, I'd like to say – good job and maybe it's time for everyone to ‘take a breather.’

I want to acknowledge the emotional bandwidth of women is probably a little narrow right now. As caregivers, mothers, friends, as well as passionate advocates and allies, each of us has a pretty full plate these days.

It is right the world acknowledges and gives gratitude to so many strong and tender and fragile women who are shouldering some super-sized burdens on a special day. But women face demands every day and many are being asked to do more, be more and show up more. Although some are bigger than usual, circumstances exacerbated by COVID-19, each of us - man, woman, child - needs to think about our bench strength. Individually and collectively.

In sports, the term bench strength refers to the quality and number of players available for substitution. In business, bench strength refers to the competency and number of employees who are available to take on more work or fill vacancies.

In community terms? Bench strength means we have extra people with additional emotional bandwidth as we address the wide gaps that cut-backs, health risks, anxiety and fear create.

The statistics tell us women have suffered the most job losses during the pandemic and are being pressed to find extra time and resources - mental, financial and emotional - to care for and support others. During these days of disruption, women are often our best qualified frontline agents for service delivery. Women are called to buffer and support and reach out to those who are floundering. Women are social agents of change at the most personal level of community.

When it comes to caring, tending and befriending, we are likely talking about woman’s work. Paid and unpaid, and we need to work on our collective bench strength. How?

By sitting on a bench and breathing. No phone. No ear buds. No books or distractions. Just sit, look and breathe.

One Sunday afternoon at about 5, I was supposed to be home getting ready for a family dinner. Instead, I had slipped out and was sitting alone, on a bench by the Bow River. As I sat, I had a bit of a guilty feeling, but I sighed deeply, softened my diaphragm and delighted in the view of the frozen river.

The light was growing weaker, but as I relaxed and settled into nature's sounds, my attention noticed the granules of snow swirling across the stark white dance floor of river ice. The wind was lifting the snow with a magic that shimmered like a Northern Lights display. The vision was subtle, white and I would have completely missed the moment if I had not allowed myself to sit quietly, taking a breather.

On another morning at about 8, I was again sitting on a bench. I was chatting with a small group of women, sipping tea from my thermos. The cluster of benches gave us adequate space and ample room for gentle conversation, connection and reflection.

The Banff sun was still low behind Mount Rundle, but it was shining pinks and purples on the snowy slopes of Cascade Mountain and Mount Norquay.

I looked up and thought, “Yes! This is just the kind of bench strength women need right now.” Someone said, “We should do this more often,”

Yes, please. And thank you.

With the full power of positive thinking, grit, open-mindedness and gratitude, the book will be launched in May 2021. With questions or to learn more about Grassroots Gratitude, contact