As we near the one-year anniversary of the initiation of the first Covid-19 lockdown, I realize that the pandemic has taught me patience. Not always, not perfectly. I am fallible when I’m stressed or otherwise irritated. However, I am consciously relinquishing the sense of urgency which has dominated my thoughts, words and actions throughout my life.
As with any robust and persistent personality characteristic, there is a light and dark side in my urgency. It can sit on either side of a balance sheet: asset or liability.
I make quick decisions. I can get things, plans and people moving. I can get many things done in a short period of time. I am a speedy processor with a rapid-fire comeback. And I am impatient with myself and others. I rarely discern between spontaneous decisions and those which require deeper thought and broader consideration. I may opt for single-mindedness to suit my agenda. My witty responses are at times insensitive and inappropriate.
The yin and yang of my being. Opposite and yet complementary forces. I have been missing the linkage of patience and insight so that I may balance these energetic fields. I aspire to a state of equilibrium.
As far back as my memory will take me, I have been in a hurry. Arriving at our family cottage on a Friday night, I would burst out of the back seat of the car and run to the dock. Usually kicking off my shoes on the way down the rocky and rooted path, just to feel the pine needles beneath my feet. The inevitable stubbing of toes, bleeding or not, didn’t slow me down. I would stand still, facing the far end of the bay that was lined with dark red wood-frame cottages, and craft a shrill whistle to let my friends know we had arrived. They had to know so they would WAIT for me. I lived in constant turmoil that I would miss something, be left behind, or left out.
According to family folklore, I ran like a rabbit and swam like a fish before they ever witnessed me walking. To this day, being late creates an anxious heartbeat and irrational anger within me. I tend to treat every time commitment as though I was delivering a heart for transplant. I’m often asked, “Where’s the fire?” as I’m walking nowhere in particular.
As I now indulge in a pause, I know that my trademark speed of being and doing served me well at many points in my life. And it came at a cost to me and those I love. And now, in my mid-60s, 11 months into a pandemic that has paralyzed the world and cemented me to my family and home, I’m taking time to contemplate.
My hastiness and impatience robbed me of leisurely storytimes and imaginary play with my children. It robbed me of learning to sit quietly and think, or read or write. It robbed me of long conversations. It enabled me to manage many things simultaneously. Now I know that multi-tasking is a means of doing many things without attention or thoroughness. It served me well in leading people in times of stress and crisis. It was a disservice when applied to managing children, friends and family. It provided me with a current of anxious energy that could only be turned off by occupying my body with alcohol, exercise or feats of irrational accomplishment. It made me witty on the outside, and sad and lonely on the inside.
I am thankful to now have a choice. I can be discerning with my energy and attention. I know what requires urgency (not much these days). And that thoughtfulness, plus presence of mind and body, are the gifts of considerate slowing down. The world has a dearth of things I’m worried about missing. Of time I feel I don’t have. I remind myself to take the time to fully engage with an activity, a person, or myself. It’s surprisingly peaceful. I am learning to be still.
At least, that is my experience.