Is Pressing Pause on the Sense of Urgency Even Possible?
By Deborah Blackwell
You know you’re 'doing it wrong’, when four weeks in to your daily mindfulness course, you catch yourself in a perpetual state of swirl. I had to laugh (but it almost wasn’t funny), when I realized I’m going through this self-paced, online course about slowing down, in a hurry. It started when I thought I was behind, since I didn’t complete the first week’s lessons on time. So, I scrambled to catch up when the email reminders that I hadn’t logged on yet, nudged their way into my psyche. Being mindful suddenly seemed urgent.
Type A, I’ve always been on the move. I can’t remember a time when I just chilled, other than childhood…maybe. But this sense of urgency I always feel when I’m crossing things off the to-do list, or even just watching TV? Pretty sure I’ve cultivated and nurtured it my whole life.
This became clear last week when watching HBO. We saw a reenactment of Thomas Edison lighting up the New York Times building in 1882, and it was shocking. It’s not like we haven’t seen lights go on before, it was seeing the faces of the people who were there watching them go on for the very first time. It looked something like this:
G-A-S-P——E-L-E-C-T-R-I-C-T-Y——j a w s d r o p p e d—— A-W-W-W——wild clapping.
We almost joined in. To see how s l o w l y it came on, window by window, floor by floor, was mesmerizing. I’m guessing the feeling of urgency really took off after that. Back then, even when things were urgent, urgency had to wait. Then they discovered electricity. Now, when the internet slows down, even for a minute, I get antsy. I know I’m not alone. If it isn’t at the speed of light, we don't want it.
The FIOS rep we called to make the big switch a few weeks ago said, “Fastest Internet available in America. It’s on glass, so it flies.” I didn’t need a sales pitch, but of course I lit up. A week later, I realized it wasn’t much faster than what we had before, so the letdown was real. This must be built in.
Has anyone else noticed that as a culture, we keep speeding everything up? Not just rockets into space, or technology on our phone. Everything. And it’s contagious. From my pharmacist who doesn’t ever have time to answer a question, to driving, everybody’s in a hurry. This week I started going the speed limit on purpose, just to see if I could. It’s fun to watch other drivers yell “hurry up” to drivers who can’t hear them. I also noticed people inhale their food. Even me. Why? Because there’s other stuff to do! And here’s the kicker. I’ve caught myself holding my breath when I’m dashing through my day. I blame this on society. The pace is way too fast. Most of us are racing to the finish line. Where exactly is the finish line?
Whether the sense of urgency is a personality trait or rooted in evolution, it would be a relief to feel more centered. More balanced. More “at home” in my body and life. I’m trying to slow down. Pause. Notice things. Look with a sense of bewilderment. We don’t really have to solve everything, do we? I think for most of us, it feels natural to go through each day in a bit of a haze, try to keep up, meet expectations, think ahead, and rush onward. But I hear if we —pause— right here, right now, and take one thing at a time, we can have more peace in the present moment. Hmmm. Do I have the patience for that?
They did when Thomas Edison turned on the lights. The actors’ faces captured it all. And it dawned on me, mindfulness may take a minute, but urgency takes a toll. Why? Because nothing is truly urgent, unless it really is.