Hurry Sickness

The first time I heard the phrase “hurry sickness”, I was sitting across from my elderly, widowed neighbor, Celia.  We were living in North Carolina at the time, and I had one of those rare opportunities to “soak up her wisdom” over tea and thin mints!  She was telling me about her son who had just retired for medical reasons, from a successful thoracic surgery practice.  He was depressed and suicidal.  He had put his surgery practice and surgical skills first in his life.  Now… forced to retire “young” at 52-years-old, he felt he had nothing to live for at all.  He had hurried through life, pushing himself to be the best (and he was!), making a name for himself in the nation’s Capital.  Two weeks after retiring, his practice had already replaced him and all he had to show for his sacrifice was a nice watch.

(As I recall… ) Celia told me, “Norm has ‘hurry sickness’… he always has!  He’s never been able to ‘BE STILL’ and enjoy quiet.  ‘Hurry’ has ruined his health, and now he’s alone in a big house, kids are gone… alone.  He never learned to enjoy ‘alone’… ‘Hurry’ has been like a pervasive, lethal infection, destroying him from the inside out!”

Dr. Ann McGee-Cooper has a great list of “red flags” for those who may think they have “hurry sickness”.  See if you can see yourself in any of these:

How do I know if I have “Hurry Sickness”

  • I typically drive 10 or more miles/hour over the speed limit.
  • I interrupt others and/or finish their sentences.
  • I get impatient in meetings when someone goes on a tangent.
  • I find it difficult to respect people who are chronically late.
  • I rush to be first in line, even when it doesn’t matter (for example, getting off an airplane first in order to stand at Baggage Claim longer).
  • If I have to wait over a few minutes for service in a store or restaurant, I get impatient and leave or demand service. To me time is money!
  • I generally view as less capable those who may be slower to speak act or decide. I admire people who move at my speedy pace! I pride myself on my speed, efficiency, and punctuality.
  • I view “hanging out” as a waste of time.
  • I pride myself on getting things done on time, and will sacrifice the chance to improve a product if it means being late.
  • I often rush or hurry my children and/or spouse.

Ones I have thought of as well:

  • I look for the check-out line at the grocery store with the fewest people, all the while scanning other registers to see if they are moving faster.
  • I stand in the shortest line at a fast food restaurant, and hop over to another line if the person in front of me just ordered something complex that will take time.
  • I go through my entire day multi-tasking so that I can get more accomplished in a short period of time.
  • I “dare” the kids to see who can clean their room the fastest, even offering a monetary reward for the winner!
  • I choose email over the phone because it won’t take as long as I don’t actually have to communicate.

I’m in the process of reading John Ortberg‘s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted.  He has a chapter in his book called “An Unhurried Life:  The Practice of ‘Slowing’ “.  I thought I was actually pretty good at “the practice of slowing”.  I was startled to read his opinion of what solitude is NOT.  I thought that by taking my cochlear implant off and curling up with a good book was a strategic way to practice “slowing”… to enjoy solitude.  Dr. Ortberg suggests that this is not actually practicing solitude.  It doesn’t “unhurry” you at all!  He said we need both brief periods of “real” solitude to “unhurry” our lives, but also extended periods.  Brief periods can be 30 minutes!  Extended periods should be at least for an entire day.  He states:

“What do we do when we practice solitude?  What should we bring along to that quiet place?  The primary answer, of course, is ‘nothing‘… At its heart, solitude is primarily about not doing something.  Just as fasting means to refrain from eating, so solitude means to refrain from society.  When we go into solitude, we withdraw from conversation, from the presence of others, from noise, (easy for me!  smile!  I need only remove my CI!) from the constant barrage of stimulation.

I have found that since I lost my hearing, it is especially important for me to be “quiet”.  You would think that would be easy!  But one must “quiet” more than sound.  I must “quiet” my hands from being busy, Busy, BUSY.  I must “quiet” my mind from always thinking about what I need to do next, accomplish before I go to bed, chores, work, service, etc.

This morning with my husband gone to work, my son busy working an eight hour shift at McDonald’s, and my daughter taking care of a doctor’s appointment and then a pet sitting job, I found myself alone.  Eager to take advantage of my solitude, I sat in our “quiet room”.  This room was lovingly dubbed “The Quiet Room” by my hubby.  The wallpaper is the cloth type that keeps noise from bouncing around, there are vinyl “noise reducing” blinds on the window, thick carpet and soft comfortable furniture.  NO ELECTRONICS ALLOWED.

Alone, with only a sleepy hound-dog at my side, I turned my CI off and sat in a big cushy chair and watched the rain.  Monday-Friday, our cul-de-sac is a very quiet place.  I enjoyed my time of just reflecting, praying and watching the rain!  I came away feeling rejuvenated even!

Do you have “hurry sickness”?  Do you need to learn to reflect… to enjoy solitude?

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

3 thoughts on “Hurry Sickness

  1. Denise,

    I absolutely loved this post and can relate. My husband and I are both guilty of “hurry sickness” in different ways.

    One of the ways I have found to enjoy solitude is to do yoga for an hour twice a week. But that is not enough. I, too, love to just sit and watch the rain and thunderstorms. Sometimes I wish I could just go back to my grandparents’ farms because it is there that I found solitude and life moved at a slower pace.

    Thank you for writing this. . .


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