I haven’t always been rushed. There was a time in my life when cell phones, cable television, the internet, debit cards and instant mashed potatoes were unrealized.
We didn’t do instant. I grew up in the 80s and 90s on a farm in Central Nebraska. The only time I remember feeling rushed was the day before a 4-H project was due or Sunday mornings. On Mom’s clock – we were always late to church on Sunday morning.
Life was simple, but it was grand. I wasn’t bored. Opportunities were endless. Mom wrote checks in the grocery store, and people didn’t complain. Everyone wrote checks – we all held up the lines. We wrote letters, too; and made phone calls – without leaving messages. We simply had more patience.
Then college hit – which also happened to be the turn of the 21st century. I was bombarded by MTV and cell phones and instant messaging and a totally new way of life. I loved it. Maybe you did too? By the time I graduated from college, I immersed myself into journalism, a field that – you guessed it, is always instant. Not long after, social media and all forms of instant communication became the norm.
This information isn’t new. While the facts aren’t alarming, they do make me wonder.
I want you to try something. This won’t take much of your time. You can do it in 5 minutes. In less time than it takes to cook a bag of frozen peas (you know, the instant kind in the freezer section) this experiment can be done. Set the alarm on your phone, or if you still have an old fashioned watch – just look at it.
Are you ready? For the next five minutes I want you to do nothing. Just sit there. Unless you’re reading this on your phone – in the grocery line – then you better keep moving.
Are you doing it? Nothing? OK, I’ll wait for you to continue to do nothing for five minutes.
Did it work? Could you do it? Did you really sit there for 5 minutes and do nothing? If you did, I’m impressed. Instant doesn’t get to you. If you’re like me, a solid 5 minutes doing nothing will make you twitch.
Not in a good way.
I was forced to sit and do nothing last week. I was getting my eyes checked. I don’t like getting my eyes checked. The doctors are all lovely, but it’s a nuisance. It takes time out of my day when I would rather be doing something. Taking care of me gets in the way of instant.
After they dilated my nearsighted green eyes, I was sent to the waiting room. I joined two lovely couples and a few women all my seniors. I won’t say they were old; that’s a sticky line to cross. But – they were seasoned. Seasoned sounds bad, too.
Let’s just say they didn’t have anything instant to keep them company.
They did this old fashioned thing that no one really does anymore. They talked – to each other. Complete strangers having a jolly conversation. It really was lovely, but I was taking the time to answer e-mails on my phone and didn’t join in.
Until, of course, my eyes fully dilated and it made me dizzy to read my phone, or watch TV or read a magazine. So I had to sit still – with nothing instant to occupy my time.
While I was sitting I watched a friendly man give his wife a small pat on the behind as she got up for her eye appointment. I heard him tell the story of how she was defeating the odds; walking again – even though doctors said they didn’t think it was possible. I heard a woman wish her great grandson a happy birthday over a joyful phone conversation. I heard gossip of a new grocery store in town and the changes to a local church.
One by one, most people were called for their check up’s. But my name wasn’t called. I was forced to wait – until it was just me and the old man in the waiting room. He smiled, looked at me and said, “You’ve been waiting a long time, haven’t you? I nodded and smiled. “Ah, that’s OK,” he responded. “Sometimes it’s better to relax and not feel so rushed. Life is easier that way.”
Not long after, my name was called. By this time of day, most patients were gone. I was one of the last ones there. The front desk assistant, the tech, the doctor – all apologized for my long wait. In the end, I was in the building for over two hours. But I didn’t mind. Someone made me stop and remember what life used to be like before it was instant. Surprisingly, he made the time fly by.