Getting a rush out of rushing

As I've written about a lot recently, I no longer get a rush out of rushing, but I kinda understand the spell of it a little bit more. It used to be a thrill to jump on a train at Penn Station just as it was about to pull away or start a paper the night before it was due, or to only have a half hour to get somewhere that takes an hour to get to, but somehow just about make it. Once I had Wally, I stopped getting a thrill out of it, because it's literally not possible. You can't sprint for the train; you miss it. You can't get somewhere in less time than it takes on a good day (try double), you can't say "I'll figure it out when I get there" because you'll have forgotten something essential.

At the end of July I went out to stay overnight at my friend's cabin on Long Island. I got to the bus absurdly early (20 minutes or so). I was used to giving myself extra time, because with Wally I need it. Just little things -- pushing a stroller you can't dash across the street as the light is changing. This time I didn't need the extra time, hence the early arrival. I thought about buying a coffee or taking a walk, but I was kind of curious about the novelty of being the first one on the bus. I got on, and was one of the last, with only a handful of seats left to choose from. As I sat down on the aisle next to someone with a giant iced coffee, headphones on, and a newspaper spread out, I felt two things: 1) confusion at why so many people chose to spend even part of a beautiful Saturday morning that they didn't have to sitting silently on a dark bus 2) a sense of defeat.

I know there are people who just like to show up early, and be prepared, and slug enormous iced lattes like their lives depend on getting the whole thing down their throat in under five minutes. And in general, yes, earlier is better than late. It's more considerate of others too, not to be last-minute holding things up. Plus there's nowhere to sit around there, it's one of the buses that picks you up on some random street corner. But the second feeling I had to think about a bit.

Getting somewhere too early = defeat.

The thing is this. People sometimes used to think I was New England tough because I  wore a t-shirt through most of the winter even outside. (I don't know why New Englanders get so much credit and Midwesterners always have to explain that their warmest day is our coldest.) But I wasn't that tough, I was just often in a hurry, printing out last-minute papers, scurrying off too meet someone. I was in that overheated, panicky rush mode, so I didn't need a jacket.

When you're told boarding your flight "Hurry, you're the last one", when you just barely get that paper in on time that you started the night before, when you catch Fed-ex just as the truck is leaving, in short when you squeak by, in a little, tiny way, you've kind of defeated time. You've tricked it. You did something that should have taken longer in a shorter time, you caught a flight you should have missed, judging by the hands on your clock. You didn't do anything like walk a high-wire between the Twin Towers, but in a microscopic way you did something impossible, or so it felt to me. I stretched out time.

It's a rush, to do that, to say an hour is not an hour, it's actually a little bit more. Three activities is not too much for one evening, throw another one on there. It's my dad's favorite expression when everyone starts heading off to bed, "The night is young." (His mom, too, never went to bed until every last person was fast asleep. Into her 90s she was up to 1 in the morning, doing dishes, putting away folding chairs. The day was never over. It was never time to let go.) The juggling act we're all performing, trying to balance too much and saying, "Yeah, sure, throw one more in there, I can manage" is that too. Whereas getting somewhere early, saying, "That's too much, I really can't manage that" -- that's complying with the laws of time and space. Noncompliance is a kind of drug. Jamming everything in is like getting more out of life than you reasonably should. Time flies, but not as fast as I do! Except sometimes, for me anyway, it's really not. It's the opposite. It's a store called "Everything for Everybody" that doesn't sell anything to anyone. I'll save that for my next post.

(Oh, and I'll probably wear a bona-fide winter jacket around this year, but it's very likely I'll slide right back into rushing as soon as I'm able to. Hopefully not, but can't promise.)


  1. Existential observations trom lonely buses to the Island, to macho iced-latte consumption to the eternal quest to defeat time and space. Great post.

  2. Re:plane-I teach my clients the phrase "Preparation Prevents Panicking," I think we talked about that. What's funny is that often Being Prepared can actually cause panic. We're so used to turning to others to save us that the idea of truly being able to care for ourselves, of being a reliable grown-up with responsibilities, of being that person, "G-d, she really has it together...and she's so nice!" is just plain terrifying. We weren't raised that way.

    Good luck in your efforts to de-rush...and to individuate.

  3. The moon is bright, the day is not over, and I will not let go.

  4. I finally figured out a few years a big part of rushing for me was that I always over estimated the time I had to do "one more thing". And then I had kids...and to make things go smoothly with them, I've had to get their timing down. I am more on-time now than as a single woman.

  5. Couldn't let go of the day yet so I decided to catch up on your blog. So much better than doing dishes...

  6. GGW - I have found that too! I am much more on time now than I was before, better prepared (not always running to ATM or whatever). I guess it forces you to accept you can't do that "one more thing". Whenever I take a trip now I think about how before I'd just barely get to station, bag spilling over, hungry, needing coffee, no extra time. It's weird how we have to make things so hard on ourselves.


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