We live in a busy world. At middle-aged get-togethers, it sometimes seems like we are all competing to see who is the most rushed, wearing our over-scheduled lives like badges of honour.
“I’m at the hockey rink with my youngest at 6am,” one parent will declare. “That’s nothing,” another will counter. “I’m there at 530… and I take two extra kids from the neighbourhood so I am actually in the minivan at 415.” And the winner is… carpool chick by a mile… extra points for being environmentally friendly and she also scores in the Supermom category by out-performing those two other mothers on her street!
When did running around like a chicken with your head cut off become chic?
Over the past few years, I have made a concerted effort to slow down. Not to work less, or to accomplish less, but just to ease up on the gas pedal a bit. It had gotten to the point where I was forgetting where I had placed the kids. Literally! I once sat outside the piano teacher’s house for ten minutes, texting and responding to work emails, before I remembered that the child I was waiting for had been dropped off at the voice teacher’s house! It was madness.
So I slowed it down. I didn’t cancel the voice lessons or the piano lessons, I just stopped trying to ‘catch up’ on shit in the 30 minutes it took for them to tra-la-la or tickle the ivories. Now I read a magazine while I am waiting. It’s like going to the spa. By the time they come back out to the car, I am positively refreshed (and totally caught up on the latest Kardashian news).
We stick frozen macaroni dinners in the microwave so we can eat in 5 minutes (which is weird because it only takes 7 minutes to boil noodles… just sayin’). We DVR television shows so that we can whiz through an episode of The Big Bang Theory in less than 20 minutes (even though the commercial time is when we used to make snacks and grab comfy pillows from upstairs and do all that little stuff that made watching TV fun… again… just sayin’). And we interrupt each other (or at least I do!) because we are frantic to “get to the point” of every conversation super fast, so that we can move on to the next conversation or jump in the family minivan and squeeze in a trip to Costco for more frozen macaroni dinners.
But what if we didn’t?
I have come to realize that the real “waste” of time happens when we plow through our days like bulls in the proverbial china shop, mindlessly crushing all the fun as we ram this way and that, in pursuit of the unattainable moment when we will be “ahead of the game”. Maybe it’s okay to let the game be ahead of us (at least sometimes).
In the interests of saving both time and sanity, I highly recommend a few simple things:
- Give up the dream of “beating” traffic. Relax. You do not control the time-space continuum. If you are late, then you are late. Think of this as “free time”. Turn on the radio and sing out loud… really loud!
- Axe at least one recreational activity. Do you know what is more fun than skipping dinner to get to a yoga/art/cooking class on the other side of town? Lots of shit… like just cooking something at home and sitting on the sofa with a book, or a glass of wine… or a book and a glass of wine! And if you feel so inclined, it might be fun to drag out a mat and do a few downward dogs in the living room (preferably before the wine), or sketch a bowl of fruit (probably turns out better after the wine).
- Get up half an hour before everyone else. You know what?!? There is a whole friggin’ bunch of quality time just sitting empty in the early morning and if you just drag your ass out of bed, you can enjoy it…. all by yourself! With fresh coffee (not just the grissly bottom-of-the-pot goop that you usually get after the family has attacked the kitchen).
- Stop going to Costco. Immediately. You do not need to spend 30 minutes searching for a parking space, an hour cramming a cart full of super-sized containers of condiments, 30 more minutes in a line-up filled with the most unhappy shoppers on earth, and another two hours at home re-organizing your cupboards to accommodate giant cereal boxes (which inevitably get opened and not closed properly and go stale). I don’t care how much money you saved on batteries… it isn’t worth it!
- Talk slower. My middle-child, who is a super-over-achiever, can reach a pace where I can only pick up on place names and the occasional swear world. It’s disconcerting. And it has become clear to me that the faster we talk, the more we interrupt, and the more we interrupt, the more we seem to piss each other off, so for God’s sake… talk slower. This is a hard one for me (my middle-child comes by it honestly) but I am trying. And I am blown away by how changing the pace of a conversation improves the whole exchange. Try it… you will be amazed!
That chicken with his head cut off never does “get ahead”… he just spins around in circles and eventually drops dead. And (spoiler alert) there are no awards handed out for participating in the most carpools or answering the most texts in a day or having the best-organized cupboards (with the biggest containers of salsa). None of us can “save” time but we may be able to “save” our sanity. Let’s start singing in traffic!
Singing in traffic is a great way to unwind – but some of us need to keep our windows rolled up so as not to disturb all the cats and dogs in the neighborhoods we’re driving through.
My dog is usually howling along with me from the back of the station wagon…
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Kim, good post about a real problem. I want to focus your readers on Item 2. Before my kids were born, I used to coach baseball. The kids even then were overbooked. They would go from one practice to music practice to an Odyssey of the Mind or another sport practice. The kids did not have time to just be or master one or two things. So, their ability to improve or be more proficient was compromised. Plus, the parents were frazzled. So, I would encourage all parents – please follow Item 2 and do not overbook your kids. Have them pick. They will do better because they are really interested in it. And, Mom and Dad will be more sane. Keith
Funny you should mention all of this, because this is the very set of issues I am facing. I need to stop going through life like something is chasing me and if I slow down, it will eat me! Well said.
Just breathe. Nothing will eat you. Although I truly know what you mean… I was just in the grocery store and saw an article on a magazine titled “5 minutes to tranquility”… seriously?!? You can’t make this shit up! What sort of tranquility can be attained in 5 minutes? And why do we need to get there in 5 minutes? I know we talk about the western obsession with youth but I am not sure that is really what we are obsessed with… what if it is actually TIME that we are all longing to control? Hmmm…. deep thoughts. Heading out for wine and dinner with girlfriends… will discuss…