Race against time

from Jeremy

Why are we in such a hurry? 

Actually, Jan and Joshua don't seem to be in much of a hurry at all, unless school drop-off is looming and teeth are not yet brushed. I on the other hand, feel myself racing against time. This sense of scarce time stems from a feeling that I have so many ideas and dreams, but know that my time in this body is limited.  Therefore, I strive to get these things done before I can no longer do them, either physically, mentally, or simply existentially.   

How can, or have, I made myself comfy with this strong sense of mortality? Simple, I use it to drive myself forward while understanding that not everyone shares it with me. I have a death countdown clock on my phone that tells me today I have 16,423 days left to live, based on actuarial tables of someone with my lifestyle. That may sound like a lot, but in reality, I've already lived almost that much. That means, I've only got left relatively what I've already spent. My life is half full, or half empty depending on how you look at it. We talked about this briefily in our very first post   

I look at it as all full already. What I mean by that is that I'm already done.  I've done a lot in my life, and I am satisfied with where I am today. If I died today I would miss a lot of great stuff, but I would be Comfy knowing that I did what I could do with the time I had. Given that satisfaction, though, I feel like I can contribute more, and there is more I want to do.  So, every day, I am blessed with another opportunity to contribute more. Every day I wake up is another gift to me, and hopefully the world to which I offer something.   

By looking at my countdown clock in this way, I am not ticking off the days till I die in some morbid death watch, but using the limited time to inspire the greatest efficiency of time and production that I can experience.    

Am I alone in this way of seeing things? I am not sure.  Yet, what I see tells me that I am at least in a minority.  

Often what I see around me is people rushing to one obligation or another; whether it be work, school, social activity, or entertainment. Everyone seems in a rush to get somewhere. We see this manifested on the road when we're cut off by others. We see this on public transit when people rush in and out of the open doors, or line up to enter the train or bus by shuffling to see who can be first on or off. We see this in the existence of rush hour for people to get to and from work.  

So much of so many lives is spent rushing. Are we rushing toward achievement? Are we rushing toward Comfy? Or, are we rushing to the next thing, whatever it may be, in order to be there? Maybe, even, some of us are rushing toward that next thing because it is not this moment, in which we may feel uncomfortable or unaccomplished. 

I imagine that there are as many reasons people rush as there are people who rush.  Yet, do any of them bring these people a sense of Comfy? Maybe. If we ask ourselves:  

1. What am I accomplishing with this?  

2. Where am I going?  

3. Do I really want to be there?  

4. Is this the best use of my time on this planet?  

5. Am I helping anyone in this process? (Along with the corollary: Am I hurting anyone in this process?)  

(We've created a handout that goes into more detail on this set of questions. Sign up on our e-mail list to gain access to it, and all other handouts we've created.) 

I have a story of a time when I was younger and had to confront this myself. At the age of 25 I was a young up-and-coming leader. I had just acquired a pretty prestigious place in an organization and was slated to rise fast into leadership positions because of it.  Yet, I hated the job. I often found myself rushing to work every morning, not because I was late, but because that is how the commute on public transit went. I knew to walk on the left on the escalators, and proceed briskly to my office building where I would take my seat and get right to work despite the fact that I did not want to be there. Every morning I did this, often practically flying through the fare card machines on the Washington Metro system.   

On one morning, as I was hurtling through the crowded metro station, I found myself standing behind a boy of about 10 years of age who was struggling to figure out how to use the fare card machine. He had a card, but could not figure out where it should go in order to let him out of the station. I was in a hurry to get to a job I hated, so I took the boys fare card and put it in the machine for him while urging him forward.  

The boy moved through the machine, but was timid, and quite overwhelmed by the multitude of people, one of whom was propelling him beyond his expected speed and comfy level given the circumstance. I rushed off, only then thinking about what I had done. I had been in such a hurry that I did not take this boys perspective and situation into consideration in my actions. I had scared him. And why? So I could achieve something that was meaningless for me, for my life, and potentially for the world. I had created a net negative in my hurry for nothing.  

The boys mom was behind me. I could overhear her tell the boy "Never let anyone push you again." I looked back, turned to the boy, and said "I am sorry. I had no right to do that to you." The mom just glared at me. The boy was too dazed and confused to really take it in.  

I quite that job shortly thereafter.  

Just this past weekend I had a very similar experience. Jan had gone to the grocery store, leaving Joshua and I in charge of doing laundry. We set the timer on the kitchen clock, and were playing in the living room between cycles. As the timer was counting down, I was on edge. How would I get Joshua to stop playing to come with me to the laundry room? When the buzzer went off Joshua wanted to continue playing. I offered to go alone, but he did not want that. Therefore, I told him he had to stop playing and come with me. He did not want that either. I started getting frustrated, I had to get the laundry out before someone else claimed the dryer. I had to be courteous to other people in the building who may want to use the washer. I had to meet an arbitrary goal, and I was pushing Joshua to meet it. I cajoled him, then I started getting angry when he wasn't coming along. Finally, we worked out that he could bring his large dump truck and load the dryer with it. That worked, he was out the door. We had a fun time loading the dryers with his scooper truck, and after we got back into the apartment I sat down with him to apologize. I realized I was pursuing a meaningless goal at his expense, forcing him forward against his will. He told me that my way of doing it had made him sad. I said I would not do that again. We enjoyed playing for the rest of the morning. 

How many times in a day do we hurry toward something that does not matter while not taking into consideration what we are doing to others in the process? How much of our lives are taken up by things that make no difference, yet we're in a hurry to get them done? How much of our future do we look toward, thinking that if I can only get to that place I'll be all set, not realizing that the only thing we have in the whole universe is the moment in which we currently exist?  

The past is gone. The future may or may not ever occur.  Yet, this moment in time, this breath we are taking, this is where we exist in this world. Why would we want to rush it? Why would we want it to be over?  It's all we have. Enjoy your moment. Use your moment to achieve something of value to you, and the world. Be Comfy with yourself in your moment, knowing that you can choose to experience this moment in any way you want.  

When you find yourself rushing your moment, or someone else sharing it with you, pause to take stock of what you're doing and why. Is it worth it? Chances are you'll find that you're rushing toward the meaningless and injuring others along the way. 

Choose to have a Comfy moment.  And, if you get another moment after this one, you can make that same choice again. Each Comfy moment, built upon another Comfy moment, doing something you value, is a Comfy life indeed.