Friday, March 1, 2013

Taking My Time

How I feel when I'm hurrying

“What are you giving up for Lent?” was a question commonly discussed in the St. Bernadette's cafeteria. Usually I would give up chocolate or Doritos, maybe Coke. I hadn’t practiced the Lenten sacrifice in decades, but last year, my friend Claire told me she was driving in the car without any music or news for Lent. She liked the idea of a short window to try out a new behavior, like an experiment.

Claire's take made sense to me, so last year for all of Lent, I drove the speed limit. I felt much calmer in the car, less focused on other drivers’ behavior, more open to noticing hawks soaring or trees budding or clouds drifting. After Easter, I relaxed my restriction – driving 55 on the highway is excruciating – but find that most of the time, because it helps me enjoy my day, I respect driving laws.
How I feel when I'm taking my time
 This year for Lent, I’m slowing down in general. The inspiration came from a speaker who started her talk by saying, “I’m going to take my time. That was something I was never given permission to do as a child.” This idea stuck in my head. My parents are not “take their time” kind of people. If there is one more activity they can squeeze into a day, they do it. And God bless them, it seems to work fine for them. (Except for the occasional missed cruise ship.)

I also fill my days completely. Do I have five minutes before a friend arrives? I’ll put in a load of laundry and wash the dishes. Ten minutes before Daniel will likely wake? I’ll write a draft of an essay, check my email, and call the portrait studio about ordering those wallets. Yes, I’m efficient, but many days I feel harried and stressed. I hoped that by slowing my pace to a jog, I might enjoy life more.

Since Ash Wednesday, I’ve caught myself rushing many times each day: changing my son into his pjs; tugging the dog along on her leash; speed walking to the bathroom at work. My writing teacher observed that maybe if I wrote more slowly I’d be able to read my own handwriting. Wow. I’m in too much of a hurry to write legibly.

The first real test came on Tuesday, when I woke up later than planned, and had a doctor’s appointment.  But when I noticed the stress, I took a few breaths, gave myself permission to take my time, and accepted that I might be late. The frenzy might have saved me a few minutes, but it would have made all of them unpleasant. I let Daniel dawdle a bit over breakfast, drove the speed limit, and breathed through my anxiety. With very little traffic, and a prime parking spot, somehow I arrived at 9:45 on the dot, and much calmer than frantic Julie would have had.

The gift of awareness is realizing I have choices. Oh, I’m hurrying again? Okay, I don’t have to do that. So I guess, in St. Bernadette’s terms, I’m giving up rushing for Lent. I think Sr. Mary Bertha would approve.


Carol Fragale Brill said...

I so get this. Carol

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Last year, for Lent I gave up reading approval-seeking and other damaging or anxiety-triggering (for me) material online. I agree, it can be a time of contemplation and reflection.

DJA said...

Hey Jules. Thank you. Miss you. Love you.


Julie Owsik Ackerman said...

Thanks for the comments, gang. I like the idea of giving up damaging news sources. Perhaps next year I'll try that.