113. Unexpected Time Like Wisdom


Things have been exceedingly busy since the new year began. A waiting list is growing in my practice. It’s not that I say, “You are on a waiting list” like the Washington Redskins told wannabe ticket holders for twenty years, sad humans who dreamt of natural disasters that would only befall Redskins’ season ticket holders. It’s more like, “I can’t get to you for two weeks.” I’m okay with that, but if the gap gets any longer, I’m afraid I will forget too much. You know, if a client is speaking about conflict with Shelia, and you can’t recall if she is a sister, spouse, mother, dog, parrot or coworker…well, you are too busy.

So cancellations are a welcome surprise today. Looking at 7 hours of fixed attention and thinking… ahhh, melt into only 4, brings a sigh of relief. Ahhh. Or two. What to do with this gift?  A workaholic would run into working faster and harder, looking for ways to work more. That’s not me. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I could take a nap, but that would not work well where I am at the moment. I can blog, yes, by God! That’s the ticket.

Instead of merely wasting my time I can document wasting my time. If you’ve ever read a badly written memoir or the memoir of a badly lived life, you have read documentation of wasted time. In fact, you could write your memoir and call it “My Wasted Life Reading Memoirs of Lives Wasted”. Not likely to become a best seller or even a seller, but there you go. I read Keith Richards’ and Eric Clapton’s autobiographies. In their cases Wasted takes on another meaning. I’m not complaining. I liked one more and one less after reading their stories. Here’s the darnedest thing: my wife bought me Clapton’s story and my daughter bought me RIchards’ story without knowing that I already had a copy. I find that freakish. Was their gift of a memoir of a wasted rock legend wasted due to duplication? I think there is some cosmic conundrum here that I can’t unravel. Anyone want the hardback Life by Keith Richards?

What is waste, really?  Empty time is not the enemy, is it?  I had a guy recently tell me that for two weeks he unplugged from social media and his phone. He reported, “I found a lot of time.” Now I found this an illogical outcome.

“You still only get 24 hours in a day; so what was this extra time?”  He conceded that he found productivity in time that had previously been lost, squandered on fluffy pursuits of social chit chat marshmallows.

“So, by unplugging from hyper-attention and multitasking, you actually became more productive?”

He thought a moment, then said, ” I guess it’s more about prioritizing my time and choosing what to do, planning what I want to do instead of simply reacting to my texts and tweets. I felt like my life was a video game.”

“That makes sense. By detaching from the video game of life, you engaged more organically and purposefully in real life. You were proactive, playing offense.”

“Yeah, and the funny thing was that I was calmer and felt more connected with the folks  who truly matter to me. My wife was amazed that I put my phone down and talked with her over dinner, you know, with eye contact and timely responses.”

“Have you heard of the rectum off switch option on the new I-phone?” I asked.

“No, what’s that about?”

“Well, it’s this option where your wife shoves your phone up your butt and turns it on mute. Makes it hard to talk like that.”

Chuckle, chuckle, guffaw. “I can see where that would have a ready market appeal. Why do we do this– put real life on hold while we focus on the annoying urgent?”

“I suppose the squeaky wheel still gets the grease, even if this is an Industrial Age reference.”

“Hmmm, I’m gonna think about this.”

“Oh, please do. Don’t post it on Facebook or tweet it out. Just sit and think about your thinking. Linger on it. Sleep on it. There is nothing to be gained by racing forward with your cognitions as if you were Bell inventing the telephone or Edison the light bulb. Just honor the cognitive strings and neural pathways. No need to set them on fire.”

“Yeah, that’s me. I get going and my thoughts race. Then I don’t sleep. The next day I am grumpy or irritable because I can’t catch up to where I think I ought to be. My mind gets ahead of my body and my feelings and tries to zoom into next week or a year from now. It’s so hard to capture these thoughts and corral them. They are like wild mustangs running across a desert… Man, I need a helicopter to keep up with them.”

“I get that, but even a rocket propelled grenade won’t catch them.”

“So what do you suggest? Drugs?”

“No, although a sedative might help you. I was thinking of waiting for your thoughts to come to you, you know, as if you were waiting at their watering hole, calmly and quietly waiting, relaxed, with even your breathing trained to blend in with the rhythm of the air around you. Practice patience in the shade of a cactus. Lure them with food placed nearer and nearer to where you want them to be. Do the horse whisperer thing, showing your thoughts that you are in charge but not a threat.”

“Yeah, I like that. I don’t know why I’ve always felt like I had to outrun them. Sometimes I just sit at the computer and write manically, trying to contain the uncontainable, and I’m left in their dusty fumes like the Coyote in the cartoons. So waiting patiently and confidently…sounds wise to me, Doc.”

“Yeah, let’s go with that for a while. You might find something pleasantly unexpected in your corrals, something calmer and more genuine… very much like wisdom.”

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