Escaping The Hurry

Blurred headlights and taillights on a highway
Photo by Jonathan Petersson

Can I ask you a personal question? Promise me you’ll answer honestly.

Are you in a hurry?

By that, I mean…

Do you count the cars as you approach a stoplight and get in the shortest line?
Do you change lines in a store or a bank?
Do you multitask so much that you forget one of the tasks?

No? Oh, oh, what about… do you carry too many bags or packages to save trips?

Did I get ya? I’m four for four. If only this were a valuable competition.

When I last wrote about my issues with productivity, the problem was concerning, but I still did nothing about it. I enjoy staying busy, and I love, truly love, projects. Sometimes I start projects and don’t finish them! And yeah, I wrote about that too. Sad, I know.

You’d think with that kind of writing record — lamenting my failings online — that I wrote every day. But alas, I do not. All my projects and daily tasks get in the way of my writing, too. And then there’s Netflix.

One thing at a time? Huh?

“You can only do one thing at a time,” said a neighbor recently. I was lamenting (yes, that again) the long slog I have ahead to clean out my late husband’s garages. We discussed the option of a dumpster in the driveway, but I didn’t want to do all the cleaning in a week. Besides, it’ll take longer than that… I ended up making my own decision about the cleaning, but that remark stuck with me. It niggled my brain. 

Oh yes, I can do more than one thing, I argued inside my head.

I always, always, always have more than one thing going on in my life and a hundred more ideas swimming around in my head. It doesn’t work out to my advantage, I’ve surmised in recent months. I may get more things done than some people I know, but what does that matter?

I’m competitive by nature, and it’s rather exhausting. Moreover, it’s disheartening when the unfinished pile is about to topple over.

Wanting to get so much done leads me to move at such a hurried pace. Life goes by quickly enough without rushing to the next thing, whether it’s at home or down the street.

Hurry sickness is “a behavior pattern characterized by continual rushing and anxiousness; an overwhelming and continual sense of urgency.” As if that isn’t bad enough, it’s also defined as “a malaise in which a person feels chronically short of time, and so tends to perform every task faster and to get flustered when encountering any kind of delay.” Sword & Zimbardon in Psychology Today, 2013.

What awful side effects! Anxiety, overwhelmed malaise, getting flustered. Of course, there are more negative outcomes from hurry — irritability, restlessness, stress, to name just a few more. I admit it breeds an incredible impatience in me. That’s the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit.

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. ~Dallas Willard

Are you a spiritual person? Do you seek the good in the universe and embrace it? We all have a soul, a spirit, and it’s meant to be nurtured. Those of us who follow Jesus know that He often went to a quiet place. He surely was busy doing great things most days, but He, too, needed rest. He showed His disciples how.

Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'” (Mark 6:31, NIV)

The call to be unproductive

As a Type-A personality, I’ve always struggled with giving myself permission to do absolutely nothing. I still want my quiet time to be “useful,” whatever that means. Isn’t rest and quiet of use all on its own?

Slowing down is essential.

At least, it is for me. Now.

Several months ago, I decided to make a few changes in my life. I wanted to spend more time on my spiritual life, primarily. It seemed to me that everything else would fall into place if I started there.

  • I instituted one technology-free Sunday a month. No TV, no computer, no phone-scrolling.
  • I read my Bible and devotions, then pray before I turn on TV.
  • I’m giving myself permission to read whenever I want—even at 2 in the afternoon!
  • I still keep a list of house projects, phone calls, and other to-do’s. (Or I’d totally forget everything.) The goal is to cross off at least three items per week. Once I did only the “easy” ones, and I got stuck. So, I still have work to reach this goal!
  • Oh, I can proudly say that I’m switching lanes while driving far less than usual. Lane switchers, I’ve noticed, rarely beat the others through the next light, so what was all that hurry about, anyway?

Results

I have to report results, right? Productivity and outcomes… cha-ching! Well, I can happily say I’m experiencing a softer attitude, a quietening of my spirit. And there’s more gratitude because I can see and hear and experience more away from the buzz of my hurried life.

The first Sunday I nixed technology, I read the last half of a book that’d been lingering for months. I went to bed early and fell asleep quickly.

I’ve added a second book of the Bible to my morning reading. It’s been amazing for my growth!

Some days, my TV doesn’t come on until nearly Noon. I had no idea how addicted to filler noise I’d become. If I don’t crave complete quiet, I listen to music rather than mindless television programming.

I feel less of a slave to my to-do list. I get what I get done. That’s the best I’m willing to offer. The notebook’s closed cover no longer taunts me. It might be at the bottom of a pile right now. Ha!

In reality, time is not the enemy.
Faster is not the answer.
Undone is not the problem.
And slow is actually part of the solution.
~Dr. Alica Britt Chole, The Sacred Slow

On a macro level, I recently experienced a larger a-ha moment. Embarking on a bathroom renovation required me to do some shopping for tile, cabinets, and the like. The contractor was ready to go, and I had to get it done in days. All that driving here and there kept me from doing the writing I wanted (nay, needed) to do. I threw up my hands and said, that can wait.

I guess my neighbor was right.

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