True Confession

I have a confession to make. I am a recovering quickaholic. I used to arise early and jump on my bicycle, mounted on a wind trainer, and read and respond to my work emails. It was an expectation that managers at our medical center would respond to all emails within twenty-four hours; I received fifty to one hundred emails per day. Each morning, I added appointments and meetings to my schedule in response to the emails. After the biking came a shower and the drive to work, during which I had breakfast and my morning “quiet time.”

Arriving was like stepping onto a treadmill, which I did not step off until I was driving home at night, usually quite late. I entrained to the pace around me, despite my best efforts to escape to the meditation room or the campus work out facility at lunchtime. Every minute was booked. I stayed late to do email, prepare for classes and work on projects, since this was the only unscheduled time. I hurried to maintain these practices under the increasing pressures of deadlines, expectations, the happy expansion of our department and the planning of a new hospital. Leading our department, I sped up to keep up. Our department’s number of people, programs and services all grew, for which I felt grateful and blessed, at Mach speed. My colleagues were wonderful and yet personally, I felt like I needed more hours in the day.

Over the years, the stress from the pace and a few other things took a toll on my body. I was no longer a young person, who could function well without a full night’s rest. I had increasing medical problems, a surgery, and physical therapy – all stress-related in my understanding. In the long run, I was not coping well as a quickaholic.

So, I stepped off the treadmill; I retired early. During my first year of retirement as a recovering quickaholic, I crammed too much into an hour before appointments and was often late. This was an old habit from my working days. I was impatient and hyper vigilant in grocery lines, switching lines to find the quickest one. I still drove quickly through yellow lights to get to my destination, even when there was no urgency.

In When Society Becomes an Addict, Anne Wilson Schaef writes that an addictive behavior “keeps us unaware of what is going on inside us.” Keeping constantly busy is a way of tuning one’s own self out. During my retirement, I have been tuning my self back in like a radio station to which I have time to listen. However, a radio station is a poor metaphor because there is quiet when I am listening. There is also knowing things. For example, life grows fuller while I am being present in the moment – to nature, to my dog, to my friends, and most importantly to my husband. I do not need to achieve anything. I can be quiet and hear, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

Am I cured as a quickaholic? No, I am still recovering. At times, I find myself rushing around and tuning my self out, but I am also freer to relax and wait at other times. Life will not end as I wait in the grocery line. I spend the time wishing wellness upon the people around me, even the trainee checkout store clerk.