What a Rush

by Robert Gregory Browne

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."

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?

15 thoughts on “What a Rush

  1. pari

    Rob,I came to similar conclusions about a year ago. Slowing down takes incredible effort, but I’m trying to do it.

    One thing that would annoy the h*ll out of you is that I’m now driving the speed limit. It takes astounding control to follow these rules — and I don’t always succeed — but it’s made me so much calmer. It’s also mind-blowing how many people disregard the law.

    I hope you enjoy the “deliberate” journey.

    Reply
  2. JT Ellison

    Great post, Rob. I made this decision some months ago too — sometimes in the rush to get everything done, I’d find myself NOT giving enough time to the actual writing. I told hubby one night that I was too busy to write and too busy to read. Just saying it aloud made me cringe. I read King’s ON WRITING soon after and realized I just needed to give myself permission to be what I am, a writer. I need to write. And in order to be a better writer, I need to read, too.

    At the same time, I feel lazy and guilty because my office is a chair in the living room (no air upstairs for two weeks has driven me to this.) The guys working on my air are climbing up and down the stairs, digging under the house, sweltering in the 90 degree heat outside and upstairs, working their asses off, and here I sit, pristine and cool, typing away, my iced venti Starbucks by my elbow. I wonder what they must think of me; even though I explain what I do I feel like I’m slapping them in the face.

    I’ll never get over that little struggle, but recognizing that life is too short to worry TOO much will get me through. And since I finally planted flowers this weekend, I’ll stop and smell the lavender, heather, sage, petunias, snapdragons and vincas daily. Thanks for the reminder.

    Reply
  3. Louise Ure

    Dear RGB,

    It sounds like you’re stuck in an Alabama song.

    “I’m in a hurry to get things done(oh,) i rush & rush until life’s no funAll i really gotta do is live & dieBut, I’m in a hurry & don’t know why

    Don’t know whyI have to drive so fastMy car has nothing to proveIt’s not new, but it’ll 0-60 in 5.2, oh

    Can’t be lateI leave in plenty of timeShakin’ hands with the clockI can’t stopI’m on a roll & I’m ready to rock oh,

    I hear a voiceIt says I’m running behindI better pick up my paceIt’s a race & there ain’t no room for someone in 2nd place”

    My recent sojourn to Arizona helped me slow down a bit. Rotary telephones. No internet. No cable TV. Small steps and slow thoughts. But it made me relish each and every moment there.

    Reply
  4. billie

    Great post.

    I’ve been moving toward a slower, more deliberate lifestyle for many years, but have come close to achieving it since we bought our little horse farm in the country several years ago.

    I never got too busy to write before, but the publication effort assumed such a driven, intense quality it detracted from the pleasure in the process. For some reason, being here with the horses and dogs and cats and kids and all the daily chores (plus the ability to walk to the barn and ride my horse any time of the day or night) has offered a balance to that.

    I had to laugh (with delight..:) at Pari’s driving the speed limit – I generally drive a bit *under* the speed limit, especially on the back roads – b/c who wants to fly by all the beauty there is out here? I take the slower scenic route everywhere I go, and that attitude absolutely ripples into the rest of my life.

    It seems corny in a way, but the truth of it is that most of us *are* moving too fast and missing too much, every single day.

    (and, it occurs to me, that on the two nights I go into the office and come home in the late evening, there is one wonderful empty stretch of 4-lane highway where the speed limit is 65 and it’s the perfect place to put the music on loud, the windows down, and go fast for a few minutes – it’s a precious “rush” – b/c it’s done for no other reason than to enjoy the sensation of speed and wind and an empty road ahead..)

    Reply
  5. E Scott Johnson

    Rob,

    Thanks for the reminder. I have an eight year old son who is deliberate too. I guess I should lighten up on him and learn a lesson.

    Reply
  6. Tom Allen

    Thanks…… for……. the……. post……

    I’m….. gonna….. give….. it…….a……. try.

    Reply
  7. Mark Terry

    Having re-watched “Hitch” this week, I’ve been contemplating his advice:

    Start each day as if you do it on purpose.

    Spent a lot of time thinking about that.

    Reply
  8. Joan Swan

    It’s built into the American culture — business (busyness?) is valued, like having a lot to do or a lot of people calling you or endless meetings equates to your importance.

    Then there’s the competition. One person’s in a hurry and another person feels the need to be just as busy, or busier.

    I’m terribly guilty of it–although I’m admittedly a mother of two with two jobs and a husband who is absentee with his job 1/2 the time. But still…my mind is always *on*, which makes me feel like I constantly have somewhere to go or something to do. Slowing down isn’t difficult…it’s painful. My DH says I don’t have an *off* switch.

    Maybe it has more to do with personality? Maybe a combination of personality and environment?

    It’s an interesting phenomenon.

    Reply

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