Chasing Down Your Own Peace

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I was in a crunch for time one morning this week, so I sped down the freeway, took a quick exit onto an arterial road, and proceeded toward my favorite coffee shop where I had a mission to complete the New York Times crossword puzzle before making my out-of-town appointment. Normally the speed limit on the arterial road is 50 miles per hour. This particular morning I found myself behind a silver Prius inching along at 30 miles per hour, and no matter how many times I flashed my lights or revved my motor, the driver refused to go any faster. Had I not been driving a small sports car, I would've given the Prius a good push from my front bumper. Yet, not wanting to damage my car or create a traffic accident, I lowered my speed while taking out of frustration by cussing a blue streak. My stomach churned, my face turned red, and all I could do was hope that the God to whom I had just prayed wasn’t still listening. It was then that it occurred to me that perhaps I had not only lost my peace, but my joy as well.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel that the pressure of getting everything on my to-do list completed in a timely manner begins to catch up with me. And when that happens, I get rattled. And when I get rattled, I can sometimes become anxious, rude, and irascible. Ironically, I had more than enough time to finish my puzzle, have a decaf Americano, and still be on time to prepare for the class I was scheduled to teach that day.

Part of my issue is not being able to say no to projects that I know in my heart-of-hearts I have no time for. However, I do them anyway but always at top speed and at the forfeit of a good night sleep. I admit that I enjoy being busy. Yet I’m beginning to see that there is a very fine line between being busy and just plain overwhelmed, which brings me to the second aspect of my dilemma, time management. I suspect that because I always complete every project I sign up for, but I assume I am fairly efficient at managing my time. And it’s true. Time management for me is not about completion, but more about the way I conduct myself when I feel the four walls of pressure moving in on me.

I think a portion of the answer has to do with being able to let some things go. As the song states, “say yes to some, and let the other ones slide.” I think the real issue for me is to find a way to relax into the busy-ness of my day, to take time to breathe slowly and deeply, and to know that every little thing is gonna to be all right. I worked with a colleague some years ago who was just as busy as me, yet always found a calm approach to every situation that loomed his way. Interestingly, I was nicknamed by the students as Dr. Agitato, and he as Dr. Adagio. I always thought back then that it had something to do with the speed in which we carried ourselves through the day. Now, however, I realize the nicknames had more to do with the manner in which we transmuted our busy schedules—he with peace and joy, and me with fire and lunacy.

            I think I’m a slow learner.

Gwen Overland