Friday, October 30, 2009

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

I've been trying to figure out why I seem to do everything in a rush. Maybe I'm just a New Yorker, and maybe taking my time is just not a part of my nature, but it strikes me as odd that I can't really do anything unless I'm in a hurry. When I eat, I want to finish what's in front of me, or on my fork, or in my mouth because I'm usually anxious to move on to the next flavor. The other night I was clipping my fingernails, and it was like I couldn't get through the ten nails fast enough because I was so anxious to stick myself right back in front of the television where I had been before.

The term "leisurely stroll" is really just a figure of speech to me. It doesn't matter how early, or even late, I am to wherever I'm going; if I'm walking, then I'm walking fast. When I played basketball in college, we were scolded if we were caught moving too slowly. Everything was expected to be done at "game speed," of course because the pace and focus employed during practice was the best predictor of our next game performance.

I would routinely run from basketball practice to a cappella rehearsal or to play rehearsal because my schedule was always jam-packed and I was overextended and that's just the way I liked it. It kept me out of trouble, or so I would say, though it really just made me budget my time well enough that I could still accomplish some mischief on the side of my academics, achievements and accolades.

In terms of my studies, I've never been able to plan anything too far ahead of its due date and then take my time giving it the proper research and preparation necessary to finish it in advance. For whatever reason, I prefer a time crunch. The pressure has always seemed to bring out the best in me, and I produce my best work under the most demanding circumstances. It's procrastination, pure and simple, but the fact is, I can't focus without a deadline breathing down my neck, and I've never written an outline. I always just wing it and figure out the structure of whatever I'm doing as I go along, organizing the pieces into what eventually becomes a coherent body of work. I've been told that it's because I'm a Libra, or just that I'm a fool, but whatever it is, it's not going to change now, and I'm pretty okay with it.

I'm inclined to believe that the activities of my daily routine would be more enjoyable if I could slow myself down enough to take the time to appreciate them. I'm so used to running from one thing to the next, starting with the first thing I do when I wake up and ending when I go to sleep, it just isn't natural for me to "stop and smell the roses."

At least, that's the way my life has always been until now. My natural rhythm is hurried, I'm high-strung, short-tempered, and I demand immediate results from both myself and those around me. But now, this has happened and it has changed everything. The speed at which I live my life has slowed to a crawl. Walking has become my new means of exercise, though my muscles seem to have forgotten their purpose. I have to take frequent breaks, and I'm not nearly as quick on my feet as I would like to be, or have been in the past.

It feels like everything is in slow motion, it's not just the way I walk. I get out of bed slowly in the morning because moving too fast makes me feel sick. I eat slowly because I want to make sure whatever it is goes down smoothly; hiccups are painful, throwing up is worse. I think slowly because I take morphine three times a day, unless I've just become dumber, and I'm not nearly active enough to justify my body maintaining the same metabolism that I'm used to having. I've been given no choice, especially with all of this free time on my hands, but to take plenty of time for consideration and reflection.

In the spirit of being positive, it can't be a bad thing to learn to appreciate some of the little things in life. Waking up on my own, without an alarm clock, is always a pleasantry. I don't have to put on a suit every morning and brave the commute, though breakfast has never been such an adventure. It is breakfast, after all, as long as it stays put.

Maybe it's some kind of blessing to be forced to slow down for a little while. I've always wondered about the next thing, trying to find the answers to the questions and the stories for the chapters in my life that haven't been written. But there's only so much I can figure out while spending the majority of my time in bed, on the couch, in front of the t.v., or wired to an I.V. drip.

It's all too common to rush through everything to the point where life becomes routine. I never want to feel like my life is mundane, like I know exactly what each day will look like before the sun rises. It's the way things are for me right now, but I fully expect to lead a normal life again someday, as long as I can get through this. My message, then, for myself and anyone else interested, is just to slow down for a moment every once in a while. You can all be thankful that your entire lives are not paused the way mine is, but you can still call a timeout when you want to. When you can't figure something out, you can take a step back, refine your approach, and go after it again. The relentless pursuit of satisfaction can be fulfilling, but also frustrating, because things will never go your way all the time. Patience and compromise can be ultimately rewarding, and seeing the big picture will usually overshadow the stresses of minutia (i.e. don't sweat the small stuff).

I'm allowing myself a chance to relax. I'll appreciate the time spent on my own, time for my own thoughts and prayers and imaginative tangents, and I'll also cherish the time I spend with others, because everyone's busy and it's nice to spend quality time with the people I care about. Surely, that's the lesson I'm supposed to be learning here and sharing with everyone else. It's the most sensible explanation for a complicated situation. I'm just biding my time on the bench until it's time to go back into the game.


  1. Hi Jonathan
    Hope to see you this week. Your message to everyone - to slow down - is not an easy lesson to learn, but it value is in the reward - you learn to appreciate life more.
    Hi to mom and dad --will katie be home for her birthday
    love grandma

  2. Does this mean you are going to do the Tour de France?..It's gonna be a great week man. Hard to take things slowly when their still moving fast thanks to DJ. I guess don't sweat the small stuff when the big stuff is awesome?

  3. I'm awed by your reflections on having lived speeded up and now slowing down. I've been busy with details before a trip, and yet this day is the one I'm living.

    I once asked my Dad what piece of wisdom he'd like to pass to me from his 80+years of living. He hardly skipped a bet and then said, "Everything changes." I find I still think about that, and try to accept change, (which I'm not too good at). But then, here you are, taking in the change and getting something from it. I just do see you off the bench eventually, but meantime, thanks for the reflections on pausing and taking one's time.

    Thinking of you and hope to visit soon. Or else expect a postcard or a new rock from New Zealand!

  4. Jon, it was good to see you this past weekend. Keep writing and fighting. Howie.