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Things Take the Time They Take. Don’t Worry.

 I recently became a member of Club COVID, the virus having finally found me last month after 2+ years.  I wish never to feel so depleted of energy, thought and stamina again.  However I also gained something valuable: the courage to slow down.

Slowing Way Down

During my 3-week recovery period, I slowed way down.  While my life was already structured to contain breathing room, I found that I had to turn the dial down even further.  What once took me an hour to do (like writing this monthly article) took me twice as long.

And so today when I came across this Mary Oliver quote from one of her rare interviews, I understood Oliver’s advice on a visceral, physical level.  She said:
 
“Things take the time they take.  Don’t worry.”
 
Simplicity Cures Complexity

When I consider the complexity of what each of us has to do each day to function as a colleague, leader, spouse, parent, friend, etc., then I appreciate the simplicity of her advice.
 
To manage that complexity, perhaps you are like me, and you assign an amount of time that any given task will take:

  • Clearing my inbox: 45 minutes;
  • Preparing for a workshop: 2 days
  • Making the weekly menu: 5 minutes
  • Completing NYT’s Spelling Bee: 25 minutes (only if I’m on my game, so to speak)

But when external circumstances intrude or I become distracted, I miss my deadline.  And then I get a bit exasperated with myself and rather worried that my other tasks will start to pile up outside my door like an unstoppable assembly line.
 
Yet why did I choose that specific amount of time? How can I reasonably expect myself to control external circumstances?  As a regular ol’ human, can I always avoid distraction?
 
Covid taught me I can’t,

And so I can now consider how life would be different if I simply accepted that tasks take the time that they take.  If tasks take longer, serious consequences might follow, but how often would that really happen?  And how serious would they really be?
 
A Different Mindset

What if we each could go through our day, focused on the task at hand, and see it through to whatever completion point feels right? And let the other tasks fall where they may.  What if you gave yourself that freedom just once in a day?

Why must we run from the top of our to-do list to the bottom, as if chased by monsters?  We created that list.  We have more power than we may think to adjust the speed at which we complete it.  And we have less power than we may think to control external circumstances, such as recuperating from COVID.

So, I invite you to join me in this advice, reassurance and challenge:
 
Things take the time they take.  Don’t worry.

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