A friend is telling me about how her life never seems to slow down.
“I guess I can sleep when I’m dead,” she says.
Laughing, she turns and heads to her car — a four-hour drive is ahead of her and yet another hotel bed, another meeting and another day.
Life has a life of its own if you aren’t careful.
Ask yourself, or anyone else for that matter, if life is moving a bit too fast for comfort. Are we constantly trying to keep up with a schedule rather than pausing with nothing but our thoughts? Or are we so overly committed we find ourselves — absurdly — trying to schedule times to do nothing?
Finding the right balance is difficult. And in today’s world, one where our cellphone is rarely out of reach or text messages blindly intrude into even our most private moments, learning to erect walls or filters is becoming a survival skill.
My friend is not alone. And planning on catching up on sleep when you’re dead can be a dangerous for your health. Even the most finely turned race car motors run a finite number of hours before having to be torn down and rebuilt. Even long-term stress on high-tensile steel eventually leads to a weakening state. Our bodies and minds are not any different.
I’ll admit I am working hard to intentionally carve out a few minutes of each day with the expressed goal of not doing or thinking of anything important. While I’m not sleeping, I am trying to manage a mental balance of work, play and life.
Sometimes these moments are as simple as sitting on the front steps for five minutes actively listening for specific sounds — birds, planes or even the wind pushing through the branches of trees. My phone and the hectic pace of life are, at least for those moments, on pause.
Last year, a good friend sent me a book on the concept of mindfulness. He is not too unlike my other friend who jokingly claimed she was deferring a good night’s sleep until her death. Both are highly driven, remarkably talented and accomplished in all aspects of life. But to do so, takes balance on their part.
I’m learning that in order to take control of our lives we must first recognize the need to take control of our lives. It’s not unlike driving a car without glancing at the fuel gauge. Eventually, both will run empty — ending in disappointment.
We owe ourselves — and those around us — the effort to pause and periodically redirect our attention. Whether meditation, reading a trashy novel or getting in a few hours of fishing is our idea of escape, we need to remind ourselves doing so is an important investment in ourselves. A life out of balance leads to unpleasant outcomes. Engines seize, fuel tanks run empty — leaving us stranded alongside the road alone and damaged.
Yes, we can all sleep when we’re dead — but no need to rush the appointment.