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“’S a little song I wrote,
You may want to sing it note for note.
Don’t worry, be happy.
In every life we have some trouble,
But when you worry you make it double.
Don’t worry, be happy.
Don’t worry, be happy now.”
– Bobby McFerrin
As May has blurred into June (the busiest time of year for our family), I have noticed this classic song cycling through my head with one key word changed. “Don’t hurry, be happy” has become a bit of a mantra. As we dashed from regatta to banquet to concert and home, I hummed it. As we helped our girls sprint to and from the boathouse seven days a week for crew practice and then back to school for choir rehearsal or home to study or maybe even to sleep, I hummed it. As we bounced from graduation party to birthday party to dinner party to end of the year party, I hummed it.
“Don’t hurry, be happy.”
As I hummed, I was a little surprised to find that it worked. It worked well.
When I feel hurried, I don’t enjoy anything. I find I’m so focused on what else I have to do, that I miss out on what I’m actually doing. Teaching a yoga class, talking to a friend, listening to a great song, wrapping a gift are all things I enjoy immensely when I’m paying attention. When I’m hurrying, I’m not paying attention. Like worrying, hurrying sends your focus to the future. And, when you’re focused on the future, you’re distracted from the present, which is precisely where all of the gifts of your one precious life are stored.
When I feel hurried, I take short cuts. I skip two sun salutations to shave what is, in essence, maybe three minutes off my practice. To buy myself five extra minutes in my day, I don’t take the beautiful route to work. I don’t linger for a few minutes over dinner to listen to the story my daughter is telling. I don’t pause for a moment so the dogs can stare at the field full of robins. I (literally) don’t stop and smell the roses blooming outside my studio door. I don’t sit on the back step in a late afternoon sunbeam. In hindsight, the price of these short cuts is way too high to justify any “savings” that they yield.
When I hurry, I’m grouchy. Hurrying does not foster love and generosity. In fact, it inclines me toward selfish choices and leaves me feeling tight-hearted and tight-fisted. When I hurry, I’m impatient with my puppies, my children, my spouse and my friends. I don’t listen carefully. I choose to text rather than to call. I don’t think creatively. I’m short-tempered and sharp-tongued. I’m more likely to react than to act mindfully. In short, hurrying does not help me live like the person I want to be. This does not make me happy. Rather, at the end of a hurried day, I often feel very sad.
As I’ve hummed my way through May and on into June, I’ve learned something powerful. Hurrying doesn’t help me get more done. In fact, hurrying simply leaves me feeling hurried – rushed, stressed and distracted. Choosing not to hurry sometimes doesn’t even require a change of pace. It requires a change of approach. It requires you to tear your gaze away from the marathon that looms ahead, choosing instead to focus on each step along your way. I have found that slowing down a little to live into my mantra has not meant that I’ve achieved less or missed events or even (horrors) been late. What it has meant is that I’ve not only relished each item checked off my “To Do” list, but I’ve enjoyed many others that weren’t even on the list.
If I’d been hurrying, I would almost certainly have chosen not to answer the surprise call from my brother. I probably wouldn’t have taken my mom out for an impromptu birthday dinner. I definitely would have missed out on the gigantic belly laugh with my daughter. I’m sure I would have declined the sweet, walk in the woods with my husband and son. If I’d been hurrying, I would have missed out on some of the sweetest moments of my life in these last six weeks. And that’s simply a price way too high to pay.
“Don’t hurry. Be happy.” It works for me. I hope it does for you, too.