Applying the Brakes

Or… Slowing Down With Orthodoxy

Today I wrote two condolence notes – a wake-up call of sorts. My time is limited, and I am not making best use of my time. I need to strike a better balance as I teeter on the tightrope. Balance calls for finding that sweet spot between reflection and productivity.

Finding the balance between reflection and life in the real world.

Finding the balance between reflection and life in the real world.

Why are we all so busy? Obviously during our working years, as we ricochet between work, community service, soccer practice, music lessons, home maintenance and feeding livestock, life is hectic. But what about those of us who have retired? Why do we feel trapped in a pinball machine?

In our quest for instant friends, instant information, and instant confirmation (facilitated by our handheld devices) we have picked up speed, and the speed has become an end in itself. I don’t need instant gratification. Life is already passing too quickly. Why would I want to speed it up?

I remember when the Colorado Department of Transportation raised the speed limit to 65 MPH on State Highway 96 east of Westcliffe. I remember Jim Little’s editorial in the Wet Mountain Tribune. He suggested that just because it was legal to drive 65, driving that fast was not mandatory. Good point. Sometimes I drive 65 MPH. Sometimes I go faster. But sometimes Jim Little’s words dance on the fringe of my awareness, and I take my foot off the gas.

2015 05 10 owl 009 In my last blog, I wrote about the bonding calls of our Second Street owls. Their cooing is soothing. Their coos suck me into the natural world. The male is smaller with a lower pitched call; the female is larger with a higher pitched call. The regularity of their back and forth pillow-talk is Zen-like, and it takes me away from life in the fast lane.

Oliver Sacks, neuroscientist, humanist, and prolific author, died at 82 this past summer. The New York Times spoke of Sacks as the “poet laureate of contemporary medicine.” His last essay, “Sabbath” was printed in the New York Times just weeks before his death.

In his last essay, Sacks reminisced about growing up in an Orthodox Jewish home. He remembered his mother cooking, donning Sabbath clothing, lighting the candles, and reciting prayers on Friday evening. As for the Sabbath day itself, Sacks remembered that according to custom, no work was allowed. No light or stove was turned on. Driving was forbidden. And no telephone was answered. As practicing physicians, his parents had to bend the rules, but their intentions were pure.

Oliver Sachs - fully engaged up to his demise. Photo credit: Aidan Koch.

Oliver Sachs – fully engaged up to his demise. Photo credit: Aidan Koch.

If Sach had been writing about life today, he would have had to add computers, television and smart-phones to the list of devices out of keeping with the Sabbath.

I love the otherworldliness and the pace of Orthodox strictures based the Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

And so… my husband and I are going to add a Sabbath to our week. We have yet to choose a day: the choice of day does not matter: our self-discipline is less about religion and more about centering. But… (no laughter please) we cannot begin this week. We will start on our  return from a rail conference in England.

We have a head start in that we live in town and have no need to drive. Also, we have no television, so that temptation is off the table. I can easily forget the phone. Ignoring the computer will be more difficult, but if it weren’t difficult, what would be the point?

I will let my readers know how it goes. Meanwhile, I expect my readers to hold my feet to the fire.

Philippe Petit, a man who knew about finding the balance. Pictured here taking his ease on a cable stretched between the Twin Towers in 2008.

Philippe Petit, a man who knew about finding the balance. He is pictured here taking his ease on a cable stretched between the Twin Towers in 1974.

Last evening I watched a 2008 award-winning documentary, MAN ON A WIRE. You can stream it on Netflix. The film followed the life of Philippe Petit as he prepared to walk between the Twin Towers in 1974. An amazing movie – an amazing life.

About timeout2

I have lived 100 lives. I write essays, short stories, poetry, grocery lists and notes to myself. If I am ever lost, look for a paper trail, but be careful not to trip over any books that lie scattered here and there. I am a reader. I am a reader in awe of writers. When I don't live in Westcliffe, Colorado, I live in London where I am a long-time member of Word-for-Word - Crouch End.
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11 Responses to Applying the Brakes

  1. Maria Weber says:

    Love it! The owl “pillow talk” was perfect! Good photos too! Have a blast on your trip – in the wrong lane, if you’re driving. Maria

    • timeout2 says:

      “Pillow talk” is the best. Have you read Kent Haruf’s swan song, “Our Souls at Night.” I read our library copy twice. Today I order my own. Sorry to have missed the stage adaptation of Haruf’s “Plainsong” (I guess.) I love all his work and I am always keen to support Hospice. Did you go? Was it a good adaptation?

  2. Bbruser says:

    Yes, once more. Bar and I held on to our Sabbath rope but during this summer forward it has mostly slipped away. Yes, hold it a sacred ground. Or, lose it. Thank you

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. bar scott says:

    Thank you, Doris. I struggle with the same things. Always too much on my plate. Thankfully most of it is stuff I want to do. For me that’s the trick. My sister taught me to say “no” when I’m asked to do things I’m half- or not at all -interested in doing. Then she tweaked that comment to be, “that doesn’t work for me” which felt less harsh. I hope you’re feeling better. I always love seeing you. Come over if you want. We’ll be here. Love, Bar

    • timeout2 says:

      “That doesn’t work for me” is so much better than “Sorry” which is my first response… even if I am not sorry. If you sign on to mentor me, do I have to pay you?

  4. Annie says:

    Another wonderful piece …

  5. Marty Wolff says:

    Good blog, Doris. By now you are well into England, and perhaps looking forward to Iceland. Wish I could have gone in the luggage. When you get back, don’t forget to let us know which day will be your Sabbath so we can all avoid calling you and disturbing your peace. Have a great trip and see you on your return.

  6. Fred's Story says:

    I loved this blog. It assures me that pursuit of balance and rest is not a quest of mine alone. At my age, time and energy have to be budgeted as much (if not more so) than my money. How are you doing on your Sabbath keeping? (You did mention accountability. 😉)

    • timeout2 says:

      Dear Fred. Sad to say, we have done poorly on observing the Sabbath. Three weeks in and my husband and I were wondering if it would be OK to celebrate the Sabbath on Wednesday. And so it went. A slippery slope to say the least. We will try again. Maybe observing the Sabbath is like giving up smoking in that you have to try it seven or eight times before it takes.

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