“Do you have time for this?” my husband, Peter, asked.
Peter almost never questions what I’m doing unless I’m doing something particularly stupid. Yesterday, I had a meeting on Zoom. I figured I could finish my work, take my walk early, then run downtown and get my errands done all in time for my meeting.
“Sure!” I assured him. Peter looked skeptical. “Maybe I’ll skip the stop at the hardware store,” I added, to pacify him.
But the hardware store was right on the way, as I went from the library to the grocery store, so I dashed in, got my paint roller and potting soil, and dashed back out.
“Plenty of time!” I assured myself as I hit the grocery store, chose two graduation cards in record time, and grabbed wrapping paper, ribbon and a bunch of flowers.
It wasn’t until then that I noticed there were people standing in the aisles.
“Why are people standing in the aisles?” I wondered. But I continued my high-speed chase and picked out two bags of grapes and six Honeycrisp apples.
Only when I had gathered everything from the four corners of the store did it dawn on me what those people were doing, standing in the aisles. They were waiting to check out.
“What?!” I said aloud, outraged.
“It’s always like this at 4:30,” a smiling fellow, standing in the seemingly endless line, said to me when he saw my face. “Half an hour earlier, there’s no one in the store.” Apparently, I had never been in the store at exactly 4:30 before.
“But … I don’t have time for this!” I said to no one who cared – or could do anything about it.
I raced to return my items to the four corners of the store, zipped out to my car, and made it to my Zoom meeting in the nick of time. The meeting was about the benefits of meditation; the speaker started out by talking about how meditation could alleviate stress.
The irony was not wasted on me.
I used to judge how well I had spent my time by how many items I had checked off my “to-do” list. If I arrived somewhere five minutes early, I figured there was something I could have done with those five minutes and then arrived on time – or maybe just a minute or two late, since everyone else would be late anyway. I felt gratified when I beat the clock, skidded in at the last possible moment, got more done than seemed possible. I used to think that when I was bathed in adrenaline, I was the most alive.
Now I think it’s OK to have time to spare.
Because I’ve realized that it’s only in those times when I don’t need to hurry that I notice what is going on around me. Unexpected ideas occur. I see funny things. I have time to talk to people I meet. I take the time to stop and listen. I learn things. None of this happens if I am racing across the store in an effort to set the world record for the speediest purchase of a greeting card.
Manufactured emergencies are not the real thing. If the need arises to run from a predator, I’m pretty sure I’ll still be able to do it. Purchasing wrapping paper should not rely on survival instincts.
“The store was crazy!” I told Peter. But really, it was me who was crazy.
Today I will go back to get my apples. I will make my selection carefully. I will have time to spare.
Till next time,