I think about this often when I am on the road. Today, for example:
As I was going through one light on my path out of the city a car zoomed up beside me. I thought she must be going to turn at the next intersection, and she did--then she turned left again and raced to the next stop sign so she could get in front of me. I had to laugh and just waved her through. It apparently was desperately important to her to be in front of me. And I remembered the couple of times I've done it myself. Why was it so important to get one car ahead in the after-work race? Why will we press the accelerator just a little harder if we think someone is going to get in front of us? Are we really in such a hurry? Where are we rushing to?
I can recall times in the grocery store when I have been in line behind someone who takes forever to check out. I'm on one foot and then the other, trying to figure out if I should stay in this line or try another one. I also know that sometimes I am the one holding up the line and enduring the impatient foot-tapping of the person behind me.
But what's the rush? One car length doesn't make a trip noticeably longer; a few more minutes in line at the store will not make that much difference to my evening. Why do we begrudge those moments?
I noticed the people on the elevator in the parking garage with me this evening too. No one was smiling; there was no conversation. Everyone looked worn out and worn down. They just wanted out--out of work, out of town, out of the space that caused them to look like they did. We read over and over that we should do the work we love; in the elevator today I don't think there was one person in love with their job.
As I move closer to my retirement date, I think about time even more than usual. My time will be mine to plan. Will I plan wisely, using my minutes and hours in ways that enrich my life and the lives of those around me? Will I learn to relax a little, ease up, maybe even meditate or just piddle around? Or will I keep trying to get one car length ahead and getting irritated with the lady at the grocery store who can't find her Kroger card? I want to believe I will do better, be a better person when the stress of 9-to-5 is gone. Knowing myself it's quite possible that what I will do is pile on more work of a different kind and continue the pressure of deadlines that are self-created rather than inflicted.
I don't have answers to any of these questions--yet. Perhaps simply asking them is enough to guide me to a calmer, more mindful state of being. To the lady in the white car, I hope you got where you needed to be this evening and at some point could let go of the pressures that pushed you so hurriedly down the road. You gave me a gift without knowing it tonight, a reminder to just slow down. And smile.