Monday, April 16, 2012
Take your time, pt. II
Impatience is a form of anxiety. It reveals a lack of trust, a frantic need to control, a deep-seated fear. I believe this to be true for every form of impatience.
Certain situations create an environment that's ripe for impatience, such as sitting in a car in a traffic jam. It's worse of course when you need to be somewhere by a certain time, but traffic jams create anxiety even for those who are not trying to adhere to a schedule. When you think about what's going on in the midst of a traffic jam, the car exhaust and noise, the one or more cars that have their stereos cranked up in spite of the fact that their speakers are blown, the drivers clenching their jaws, the honking, the shouting, the flipping each other off - well - who wouldn't feel anxious? I can become anxious just walking past a traffic jam! The vibe is ugly.
I'm always in awe of the drivers in these situations who seem unaffected. They're listening to music, chair dancing, or maybe just smiling, talking on the phone and such. How do they do it? They must have nerves of steel or be taking powerful anti-anxiety meds.
One of the big problems in the society in which I live is the truth that impatience is a habit. It is seen as a virtue sometimes. It's very unbalanced. Even when we aren't stuck in a traffic jam or a long line at the supermarket, even if we aren't flogging ourselves at work to finish a project by the deadline, we are impatient. We want everything yesterday, as fast as possible. What I'm saying is, we are suffering from an epidemic of impatience, hence we suffer as a society from chronic anxiety.
Impatience/anxiety is really bad for the body. In hyper-alert mode, we never rest, not even at night when allegedly we should be blissfully sleeping. Some call this the "fight or flight" mode but that only describes the state at its most extreme. Physiologically when we're in this state, we are anticipating action. The body sends as much energy as possible into the muscular system, enabling us to sprint across the street at a red light (because we're too impatient to wait 30 seconds for the light to turn green). The problem is that in this mode, the body diverts energy that might be used for small repairs and for digestion, also for deep respiration, to the muscles. We never give ourselves a chance to re-charge, re-group. We do not fully digest our food.
At some point the body has to digest the scone you had for breakfast, while racing down the sidewalk of course. So the stomach dumps more acid into the mix, to hasten the process before the next perceived emergency. Is it any wonder that indigestion and/or reflux is such a widespread problem? Is it any wonder that our immune systems are so fragile? That we suffer societally from terrible insomnia? It's because we're anxious, chronically fearful. It does not bring out the best in us, believe me. Some of us are absolutely incapable of relaxing. I see the jumpy legs, the tapping fingers, the restlessness on the Metro, in restaurants. It's a big problem.
In medicine, too, we are absurdly impatient. I remember when I developed pneumonia a few years ago, my M.D. prescribed strong antibiotics. This was on a Monday. She said, "Can you wait to go back to work until Wednesday?" I told her I would not be working for at least a week. I had pneumonia! For heaven's sake.
I asked my great San Francisco healer, once upon a time, "What is walking pneumonia?" He said, "That means you're too stupid to lie down." Oh yeah. My doctor expected I would want to rush back to work before I was well again. Wow. Or should I say whoa?
Are you stuck in a loop, relentlessly turning the hamster wheel of impatience-anxiety? I'm sorry! May I gently suggest that you have a long lunch today? Or take a nice walk - don't race - stroll, smell the roses that are blooming way too early in hot, dry DC? Please? How about going to bed an hour early? Stare out the window at work and daydream for twenty minutes? Well?
Right now, check in with your jaw. Is it tight? Part your lips slightly, part your teeth slightly. Now take a deep breath and relax your tongue. If you don't know what that means, pretend to relax your tongue - you can't imagine how well it works. Reconnect with the truth that life is unfolding as it does. Rushing (except when actually necessary) doesn't ever help anything, and impatience is very bad for your health.
Take your time, please? You'll feel better, I promise. Shalom.