In our fast-paced world, I feel like I am constantly trying to set personal and family “busyness boundaries.” I am so grateful for the improvements in our technology that allow us to cook faster, go more places, instantly communicate, or get the information we need. But, the hustle is also confusing.
It’s confusing because it is hard to know what is a helpful hurry and what is a damaging one. And, it’s also hard to separate ourselves from the endorphins that come from checking off lists, padding accomplishments, and avoiding the discomfort of waiting. Believe it or not, that “ding” in our mental slot machines from getting “just one more thing done” is pretty addictive. So, even when we have the space and time to slow down, it can feel uncomfortable.
In a recent, relevant example from my own life, I take you to Walmart. I had several errands to run that night, one of which was making it to Sam’s before it closed at 8:00 pm. These stores are only a stones throw apart so when I checked the time at 7:20, I certainly had plenty of time. At this same moment, my children asked if they could read a book. Like, take a book off the shelf, sit their booties down in the aisle, and read the whole thing. So, because we had the time I said, “Sure!”
At first, I was pleased. Who doesn’t want kids to read, right?! And, because the aisles were not crowded, they weren’t hurting a soul by plopping down and reading whatever caught their eye. Truth be told, I was rather proud of my chill. Unfortunately, that unraveled pretty quickly.
For the first few minutes, I was good. I checked my e-mail, social media, sent out a text or two. But then, I noticed I was growing uncomfortable. Nothing had changed. My children were still reading quietly and I still had plenty of time to get to Sam’s—but I started feeling anxious. Not anxious like nervous but anxious like I couldn’t sit still. I just couldn’t seem to get comfortable “being in the moment” because I wasn’t moving forward with tasks, purpose, and checking off of the proverbial list.
Thankfully, despite being uncomfortable I managed not to hurry my kids and we still made it to Sam’s in plenty of time. However, the whole situation caused me to reflect on how conditioned I am by the world’s pace and how I could stand a bit of reprogramming.
This pursuit of presence is not a new theme in my writing, but its repetition suggests how hard it is to accomplish sometimes. And, I know I’m not the only one who struggles with feeling so hustled by all the things that it’s hard to turn it off when we actually have the time and space to do so.
In the days ahead, my hope is that we can each take some time literally practicing being still. Being unstimulated. To test the boundaries of our to-do slot machines that don’t need to “ding” quite so often. While we are certainly designed to do work, we were never designed to operate at the levels the world will tempt us into if we chase every convenience, notification, and final drop of midnight oil.
Be still. At least sometimes.