Dropping “Hurry” From My Vocabulary

For the lovely month of May, my practice will be taking my time or, to be more specific, dropping the word “hurry” from my vocabulary.

Why?  Almost a year ago, Uncle Phil, a vigorous, modest, and still mentally acute 93-year-old, emailed his family a PDF about aging well.  It’s 2-page treasure (which I’ll link to soon if he says I may) — jammed with sound advice that’s particularly useful to those of us nearing “very old age.”

Much of it I’ve heard before, although never packaged so succinctly.  However there are some other smart things he says I’d never considered before in this context. In particular, for those of us who are retired, he suggests that we:

Minimize and shed stress at every opportunity, except for that bit required for safely navigating in and around your world. “Hurry” should be dropped from your vocabulary.

~ Phil Leiserson

During this “Great Pause” created by the COVID-19 pandemic, teaching myself to turn away from stress and hurry seems the perfect practice.  In my world, things are noticeably calmer and this in turn calms me.  And yet, I still tumble into the future — rushing around “getting things done” and setting myself artificial, unnecessary deadlines.

I love the goal, not just because it will help with aging; clearly it will improve the quality of my life.

The challenge is HOW to do this.  There aren’t any obvious ways.  Giving up hurrying isn’t like giving up sugar.  I’m all too aware when I’m eating goo-gobs of sugar, whereas I’m so deeply habituated to push myself that I can do it for hours, sometimes even days, without noticing at all.

To combat my ancient habits, I’ve come up with three reminders.  First, I’ve set up the meditation app Insight Timer so that for one hour it chimes at regular intervals — a chance to pause and see if I’m hurrying.  Second, I’ve added it to the “time boxing” template I developed two months as part of my Indistractable practice. Third, I plan to write something on the whiteboard in our breakfast room.

I haven’t come up with any great strategies for holding myself accountable – with one exception.  Every morning for the last three years, I’ve been tracking how much I meditate and exercise in a spreadsheet. It’s my accountability Grand Central.  And I just added a column labeled “No hurry” to it.

We’ll see how it goes.