My definition of a good day is simple: it’s a day when time moves at the right speed.
“The right speed” means not too fast over the good parts, nor too slow over the parts that I would skip if I could. Everything is simply in the right time in the right place. This is how an ordinary day becomes perfect.
Conversely, pretty much any great life crisis is linked to time becoming singularly uncooperative. It’s those moments when life forces you to move at a different speed than you envisioned; nearly always slower, or (in less common cases) more quickly, but in a direction you would not have voluntarily chosen.
I recently joined one of my more charmingly mischievous coworkers in an effort to explain to another grocery store coworker – half teasing – how to work slowly. Take your time, we said: what’s the rush? Smile at everyone, lean against the counter, carefully dust the same spot for ten minutes or more. Saunter to get water, multiple times a day. Double-check your password, your online training statuses, your schedule and your timecard. Relish the small tasks that can be repeated ad infinitum with complete ingenuousness.
To clarify, this would not be my normal advice. It is evidence of the sheer unprecedented nature of our time (read: pandemic) that I was advising what under normal circumstances (alright, the dictionary definition) would be considered “dawdling.” And the coworker to whom we spoke is notorious for doing her work in record time, as she has all her life. She has worked in food services since around age 16, and she is now around age 71. If I asked her the meaning of the word “slack,” I am confident she would throw something heavy at me.
But this coworker’s normal workplace routine is currently not applicable. She is, currently, not allowed out on the grocery store floor, because she is elderly and at heightened risk from Covid-19. She also cannot afford to lose pay from being sent home early, as she might if a manager noticed she had run out of things to do. It’s the proverbial rock and a hard place (coupled with a stubborn and spicy temper). So we coaxed and cajoled her to go slow. But the main problem with going slow, it turns out, is that she is determined not to be “a slow person”.
Have you noticed? So much of our identity is linked to the speed at which we live our life.
As Death in the Sandman comics says, “You get what everyone gets; you get a lifetime.” In the face of infinity, it doesn’t matter if you’re “slow” or “live in the fast lane.” It doesn’t matter if you made the “30 under 30” list. It doesn’t even matter if you have time to develop all your ideas, finish all your projects, do what you came to do; you almost certainly won’t.
I’m not going to tell you to slow down, or make peace with your life. I couldn’t do either of those things if my life depended on it. If you can’t pay attention to today because your head is stuck in yesterday or tomorrow, that’s your business, and I wish you the best. But for Heaven’s sake – don’t do it because you feel you need to be “the sort of person who…” lives your life at a speed anything other than your own.