We can’t calm the storm, but we can ignore it

[This is part four of a series reevaluating some propositions that I perceived as crucial and important in my early thirties.]

Proposition: I have about 112 hours of con­scious life to live each week: wis­dom dic­tates invest­ing at least one of these hours to med­i­tate on how I will use the remain­ing 111 hours.

First of all, why does getting eight hours of sleep a night seem to get harder with age? It might be time to recalculate my math here. But I digress…

Like most people, my commitment to grand declarations of personal self-discipline ebb and flow with time. Laser-focus intentionality is great: I just have a hard time controlling it consistently. As much as I like the idea that a calm mind — detached from the pressure points of deadlines and expectations — can transcend the temptation to feel overwhelmed, I fall victim to the tyranny of the urgent as much as the next person. Some weeks, devoting 1 full hour to contemplate the usage of 111 hours seems far more anxiety provoking than grounding.

However, in the fits and starts of life, I think I am slowly getting better at realizing that the feeling of pending implosion should be a trigger to slow down, not speed up. Thinking that I will alleviate the pressure by accomplishing more has proven, on many occasions, to be counterproductive. The days when the to-do list feels the least conducive to going for a walk or eating lunch in the park are the most important times to prioritize fresh air and clear headspace. Stress feeds its own momentum. The only way out is to break the cycle, not kick at it harder.

Leaving my laptop at the office and my phone in its home basket has done wonders for helping me appreciate that finding ‘the calm in the storm’ means leaving the storm behind, regardless of how loudly it is thrashing about. There is always a storm. Or at least an opportunity to fight a storm. Serenity only lives in parallel to the storm, not in place of it. The storm is only absent in some other magical realm, where divine management gurus receive book contracts to write about it the rest of us might imagine transcendence.

Those of us stuck in this dimension need to figure out how to strategically ignore the tornadoes trying to send us notifications.

I suppose the ‘problem’ with my initial proposition is that producing a week of organized calm is a lot to ask of one hour. Sure, I know that a weekly review of my projects, commitments, and calendar goes a long way to helping me make better decisions about how I leverage the hours at my disposal. This remains a valuable commitment to pursue, yes. But I also know those other 111 hours can throw plenty of curve balls of their own. Today, I think I’m less concerned with cleverly averting the tumultuousness of life in one fell swoop. There appears to be an infinite amount of chaos and only one me. The older I become, the more interested I am in learning how to just quit worrying about as much as I can altogether.

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