When did we start living at such a ridiculous pace? When did we decide that using a calculator is better than spending a few seconds doing math in our heads? That growing, picking, cutting and cooking fresh food isn't worth the time? That employees really only need 30 minutes for lunch, not an hour, and breaks only need to be 10 minutes, no longer 15?
When did we start stressing when there are cars in front of us, and speeding to overtake them, acting like we're in some kind of race? We actually risk our lives to save a few seconds.
I know the value of hard work, and when I'm working, I work fast. Getting more done in the allotted time makes me a valuable employee, as long as I'm also accurate, pleasant, etc. But when I'm not working, what's the rush? And now that I'm not employed by anyone, I'm learning to sit down more often, to stop and think, take notes, plan, organize. My value is no longer determined by my speed. I love that.
I took a huge carload of food downtown yesterday. I had gallons of potato salad and pasta salad, cases of tortillas, several turkeys (which I'll save and cook), and a bunch of towels and toiletries. Even though I'm a volunteer, even though I had all day, I found myself rushing. I had decided where I would stop to hand stuff out, and as I emerged from the tunnel, I caught myself indulging in tunnel vision.
I actually drove right past a man huddled in a doorway in the first block. What was I thinking? I drove around the block and stopped near him. There was no parking lane, just a bike lane, so I turned on my emergency flashers. I got out and pulled a few food items and a blanket out and gave them to him. He and I both marveled at the cars going by -- how angry people were getting that I was partially blocking a lane for almost a whole minute, and they had to wait a second or two to get around me. I hurried, to be polite. The man understood and was grateful for the provisions. I continued through town to the stop where I knew I could pull into a driveway.
I'm still amazed by the amount of stress we inflict upon ourselves without even being aware of it. No wonder we have sleep disorders, eating disorders, tension headaches, chronic fatigue. We do it to ourselves at least as much as it's done to us.
Katie and I went through a terrific program that taught us to practice mindfulness. Be in the moment. Be aware of our thoughts. Try to make observations without value judgments. "There is traffic. I will go a little slower." Not, "Stupid traffic, the speed limit is 40 here, why are people so slow, big dummies!" When did slow become bad?
I challenge you to be mindful the next time something goes slower than you expected -- the traffic, your internet speed, commercials, getting a chore done, waiting for a kid to come out from school, waiting in a grocery line -- and consciously remove the value judgment about speed. What if we're OK with minor delays? What if we actually find value in them? What if we take opportunities to extend a moment of grace to a stranger, instead of huffing and puffing away in line? What if we let someone else go first?
Waiting is not inherently bad. Waiting provides surprising opportunities to be more alive, more aware, more connected, more at peace.