So I’m driving down a medium-sized street in Omaha on a recent summer morning, headed out to a couple of midtown errands. Although it’s a major thoroughfare, the street runs through a quiet neighborhood, so the speed limit is a very reasonable 30 mph.
Of course I’m not going the speed limit. I’m going about 33. This is because I recently heard that you won’t get pulled over for speeding if your top speed is only 10% over the limit. I don’t know whether this is actually true or not (any police officers reading this should feel free to weigh in), but it gives me a nice rule to follow. And, as many of you know from a previous post, I really like following rules.
Taking it slow on the road also makes certain members of my family a little twitchy, which is a nice little bonus for me.
Anyway, as I’m driving down this street, secure in the knowledge that although I’m breaking the law I’m not breaking it enough to draw attention to myself, I suddenly become aware of a middle-aged man in a smallish blue car behind me. I become of aware of him because he is driving up my butt.
Now, I really hate this type of driving behavior (so rude!), and I’m also a little worried about a school zone coming up in a few blocks. And, okay, I can be a little ornery. So I slow down to 30.
Speedy Gonzales slows down too, but only to keep his car from driving up my bumper and hitching a ride on the top of my Saturn. And it’s clear from the way he grips the steering wheel and sits up in his seat that he’s impatient and not at all happy with the calculations of his pacesetter.
Not surprisingly, eight blocks later (and right before the school zone!), he whips around me really fast and speeds off into the distance. I quickly lose sight of his little blue roadster.
Wait for it.
Yes, as I approach the red light at a large intersection ahead I notice Speedy sitting there, cooling his jets. Despite his hurry, then, he has arrived at the light just a few seconds before me. And so, in the end, Speedy and I find ourselves idling side by side, chummily waiting together for the light to change. I couldn’t help but crack the tiniest little smirk as I pulled alongside him. Like I said, I can be a little ornery.
Okay, that’s a big fat lie. The fact is, I’m still incredibly impatient. The only thing keeping me from speeding like Speedy is the thought of my already shockingly high insurance rates going up.
So don’t get me started on the line at the bank, the time stretching out before a vacation, a few of my children’s developmental stages, or certain friends’ speech patterns – I want it all to go faster, faster, can we move it along, people, for Heaven’s sake so I can get on to the next thing?
Most recently, I was trying to move along the writing of this blog post.
My efforts were not terribly successful.
Because I am publishing this post about two months past its original deadline.
Only I know this, of course, because my writing deadlines are of my own making. Because, you know, life doesn’t have enough stress already, so why not add a little more? And because staying in control of the timing of my life gives me the exquisite illusion of being in control of the rest of it. And because – and I know you’re all with me on this one – when you have a task with a deadline and then complete it, the act of checking it off your list is fabulously gratifying.
The problem was, I was bored with writing, and impatient with the writing process. I was annoyed with how hard it was to get anything good on the page, how much work I had to put into it. And I became just the teensiest bit depressed, which made it even harder to sit my butt in the chair and assume the writing position.
Yes, I fought off the gloominess for a while, in true therapist fashion, insisting with a cheerful inner CBT voice that all would be well. But that didn’t help. Because all was not, in fact, well, and insisting it was, pushing the pace along, only made me feel worse. So I finally succumbed to my lethargy and sadness and let go of the need to make my deadline. And a miracle occurred – I immediately came out of my funk and wrote 20 good pages.
No, not really. I actually wallowed in the funk for quite a few weeks before the light changed and my mood shifted. And then, when the time was right, I was finally able to put my butt back in the chair and write some crappy stuff that eventually turned into this little post on taking time.
[By the way, contrary to what you may be thinking, I actually did not set out to take my time writing a blog about taking time. It’s a great conceit, and I wish I had I had thought of it, but the reality is that the struggles of my life just aligned in such a way that I began to practice what I eventually ended up preaching. Go figure.]
So what did I learn from my “no deadline” experiment? Pretty much the same lesson Speedy got on the road that day.
I learned that sometimes it’s better not to force things. I learned that if we can slow down and travel at the speed that life gently encourages, things really do happen . . . all in good time. And I learned that all of us, regardless of the pace we take or the amount of control we think we have, all of us at some point in our hurried lives have to just sit still together and wait for the light to change.
What about you? Have you figured out a good way to slow down your inner Speedy? Please tell us about it in a comment below.