By Neal Lemery
(published in the Tillamook County Pioneer, March 12, 2020)
How often do we wonder out loud why life is so hectic, and complain that we don’t have enough time? Our lives are full of obligations, errands, events, endless demands on our time, and yet we often feel that we don’t tend to the important things in life. We are bombarded with demands for even more obligations and commitments, and our growing collection of electronics chirp and beep further straining our capacity to manage our lives.
Do we really want fewer obligations and more time to kick back and enjoy life? I think we do, but we simply haven’t given ourselves permission to do that.
Well, now we have that opportunity. If there’s a silver lining in the cloud of the Corona Virus crisis, it is the gift of time and space in our lives. My calendar is getting cleared as I write this, with almost hourly e-mails announcing cancellations, postponements, and changed plans. I now have mandates to not be so obligated and committed.
Public health officials and the Governor are taking drastic actions to call us to a simpler, less hectic life. No large groups, no travel to meetings, fewer social interactions, and a call to spend more time at home.
There’s compelling scientific evidence to support these directives. Yet, this crisis is perhaps a blessing in disguise. The Chinese writing character for crisis contains the character for opportunity.
My meeting was cancelled for this morning, so I found myself in the garden, with time to contemplate where I’m going to plant my early spring vegetables. I planted some seeds in the greenhouse and began my annual organizing there. I’d told myself I’d get to that needed project, but I’ve just been “too busy”. Now, the cleared up calendar is telling me I have the time.
The “hunker down at home” message is going to allow me the time to tend to my garden, to find a sunny spot and enjoy a cup of tea, and read some of those books that have been piling up on the coffee table. Spring is truly coming and yes, I can even enjoy it.
I’m going to have fewer hours at my favorite coffee shop, but I can also make time to invite a friend over for coffee and sit out on the deck and enjoy the birds that are arriving at my feeder. I’ll catch up on some correspondence, even getting back into the old yet treasured practice of writing a letter to a friend.
We have a month, at least, with legitimate excuses to dial back the pace of life, to take our foot off the gas, and take a breath. I’ll even avoid meetings that, perhaps, weren’t really that essential. I know I’ve been over-obligated, over-involved. Now, I have an excuse to move into a quieter time. I can still do what I love to do: play my guitar, learn more about playing the banjo and mandolin, doing more in my yard than the most pressing tasks, even having a second cup of coffee on the deck in the morning, and linger over the daily paper.
I suspect my friends who are working will enjoy more productivity by working at home, and not having to travel for meetings. Maybe they too can live in quieter times and linger over that second cup of coffee on the deck. Perhaps we’ll be more like Europeans, with shorter work weeks, and more time with friends and family. Let’s give it a try.
I’m going to connect more with friends and family, too. More listening, more planning a small event where we really have a deep conversation and talk about our lives. Dinner can be more relaxed, and I’ll try to more thoughtful on what I cook and focus on healthier eating. In all of that, I’ll be in the spirit of our collective effort to deal with this disease, focusing myself on being rested and improving my health, being a responsible citizen in times of crisis.
I’ve been yammering for years on the hectic pace of life, whining about how Americans work too much and don’t spend enough time with their family. Now’s my chance, our chance, to get out of the fast lane, kick life down a few notches, and enjoy a quieter time, a slower pace of life.
It’s time I practice what I preach and get to really know myself and the people I love.
After all, it is doctors’ orders.