I’m almost always in a hurry.
Catch me on the freeway and I’m the idiot who’s weaving in and out of traffic, sometimes forgetting to use his blinker, constantly looking for that strategic maneuver that will get me to my destination a good thirty or so seconds faster than everyone else.
In the supermarket — if you can catch me in one for more than a couple minutes — I’m zipping through the aisles, looking only for what I came for and nothing else, getting frustrated when shoppers block my path with their overstuffed carts.
When I shave, I wield my razor like a Filipino knife fighter, cutting away that annoying morning stubble in seconds flat.
I’m always anxious to be done with whatever it is I’m doing, but I’m never quite sure why. It’s as if I’m trapped in a suspense thriller in which the hero has no specific goal except to beat a ticking clock. I think I’ve seen more than a few movies that could fit that particular bill.
Even as a writer, I find myself rushing. I’m so anxious to finish
writing for the day, to be done with it, that I rarely take the time to really enjoy the
process. And something about that just seems wrong.
My wife would disagree with me, of course. About the "in a hurry" statement.
To her, I’m the guy sitting on the couch with a laptop balanced on his knees, not particularly interested in going anywhere anytime soon — and I’m sure if she’s reading this (hi, hon!), she’s probably thinking, I wish he’d hurry up and mow the lawn.
But even when I’m sitting on that couch, I’m usually anxious to finish writing, surfing, researching, so that I can get on to the next thing, whatever it may be. When I’m searching on Google, I often wind up rushing to find whatever it is I’m looking for so that I can look up something else I’ve suddenly thought of. My brain tends to move at warp speed and, as a result, my thoughts are often fragmented.
Yet, this morning, while I was in the shower getting ready to take a shave, I asked myself the very question I never seem to have an answer to: why?
Why am I in such a hurry?
What if I were to slow things down a bit, I thought. And before I knew it, I was rubbing the shaving lotion between my palms and slapping it on my face as if I were a fugitive from a John Woo film, moving in slow motion. I immediately thought of a passage from my first novel, KISS HER GOODBYE, which goes like this:
Somewhere behind him a phone was ringing, but Gunderson ignored it, enjoying the spectacle. He relished his ability to slow the world around him to a crawl whenever the mood suited him.
He grinned at the exaggerated looks of surprise on the faces of bank tellers and customers. Marveled at the fluidity of motion with which Luther and Nemo wielded fire extinguishers as they put out stray flames and climbed into the vault to fill their duffel bags.
He watched as, backpack full of Semtex in tow, Sara glided past the Plexiglas teller windows toward the rear of the bank, moving with an easy grace that only his slow-motion point of view could provide.
Gunderson felt high. As if he’d taken a dozen hits of ecstasy. But he never took drugs of any kind when he was working, didn’t need them to see the world this way. This was his gift. His power. One he used sparingly and never took for granted.
Nice trick, eh?
Years ago, if the family was hopping into the car and I asked my son to run back to the house for something we’d forgotten, the kid — to our eternal frustration — would never hurry. And nothing we could do or say would get him to pick up his pace.
When asked why he was always so slow, he responded — at eight years old, no less: "I’m not slow, I’m deliberate."
As Robin Williams used to say, what a concept.
So, as I stood in the shower this morning, lathering up my stubble in slow motion, I wondered what would happen if I were to spend an entire day moving like this. Or, better yet, what if I had Gunderson’s gift of slowing the world around me?
Imagine the detail I’d be able to take in.
But as I look around me now, I notice that I’m not the only one afflicted by this illness. Slow and deliberate seem to be concepts that many of us have failed to grasp.
There are probably more drivers like me than not — at least where I live. People are always rushing to get to their jobs, or back home to their loved ones. Fast food has been part of our lives since I was a kid. Movies are given a weekend to prove themselves. Books, if they’re lucky, get three months on the bookstore shelf. Everything seems to be disposable.
Consume, discard, move on.
But what would happen if we ALL slowed down a bit? Would mothers weep? Would the world collapse?
I don’t think so.
So, I’m making a vow, right here and now, to follow my son’s lead and live my life in a more… deliberate… fashion. To pace myself. Allow myself time. To stop and smell the roses.
And who knows, maybe I’ll learn something in the process.
Would any of you like to join me?