I drove back from holiday on Sunday in ‘one hit’. Which means I spent nine hours on the road – stopping only for a bit of lunch, a cup of coffee and some walks for Jack. There was no urgency behind the decision – it just seemed the right thing to do.
I didn’t think about anything much at all on the way back. There was no talking aloud or addressing of issues. No calibrating and recalibrating of decisions. No dismantling of the past. There was just a doing of what was happening then and there. I guess that was a clear example of the concept of Flow described by my positive psych pal Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Or what the Buddhists call ‘being in the moment’.
What a difference two weeks makes. I didn’t bat an eyelid at the lukewarm coffee I got in Swellendam. Or the double-cab truck drivers who tailgated me aggressively until I pulled into the yellow line to let them pass. I even dealt calmly with the ipod and its inexplicable focus on a few albums. Nudging it past anything that I didn’t want to listen to. Somehow the time passed – and we were in one place and then in another.
Which got me thinking about how seldom we allow time to take its course. We tend to rush to resolve – often with spectacularly disastrous results. I’m always telling friends and family that most problems can be sorted by throwing either time or money at them. Wisdom I don’t heed myself.
Money buys services and options and allows for practical resolution. The application of time allows a different kind of resolve. Leaving problems to rest, unpicked apart while life happens around us, allows things to happen naturally. The mental equivalent of hitting the pause button on the TV, while you go for a pee. It’ll be there when you get back, but you’ll feel lighter. And more able to continue.
Taking our time: giving that irritating, insulting or unfair text or email 24 hours before we respond. Putting that row or argument onto the backburner for 48 hours, or 72 or even a week or a month: allows the storm to pass and the dust to settle until the way forward is clear (today is apparently metaphor day in sofaland). I know I could have avoided all kinds of hassles over the years if I had adopted that plan. So, at 52 I’ve added ‘take your own sweet time’ to my list of resolves.
The other thing that struck me as we drove through this wide-open country of mine, is that a satellite tracking us would have seen this tiny red car speeding down a long black ribbon of road. It would have read direction and intent – but not known quality and content. But that would have enough for its purposes on that day.
Socrates said the “unexamined life is not worth living”, but too much close inspection of ourselves is also not always a good thing. Sometimes a summary is enough. Bit like those magnifying facial mirrors we need as our eyesight fails. With them our pores are magnified 25 times and look like tar pits. And we pick at them. Without the mirror, our skin looks dewy and newborn. And we smile and pat our cheeks.
Sometimes we just have to say “Fuck it” and move on.
Jack was thrilled to be back. When he realised we were close – he put his paws on armrest and surveyed his ‘manor’. Tail swaying happily, as he sniffed the breeze. When we got home he dashed along the fence barking at anyone who happened past, peed in the garden, gobbled down his dinner, gave his phantom billoxis a good grooming and collapsed in a heap on the sofa. He was home.
I poured myself a Campari and lemonsoda and joined him. Tomorrow and all the work that needed to be done would come soon enough. For now we were going to watch “Masterchef Australia‘.