being held up: mug shots

The 8:30 a.m. conference at your downtown office will emphatically not wait for being held up in rush-hour traffic, for getting the kids ready for school in time for the bus, for finishing your preparation for the pending presentation, for putting gas in the car, for stopping at the ATM, for… for… for. If only youcoffe-mug could have something to hold you up amidst the stress and lack of sleep that seem to purposely invade each week. Add waiting in line at Starbucks for that shot of espresso that briefly jolts the brain and body.

Why do we put ourselves in such a position? Must we stay up so late answering that enveloping stream of emails, watching and/or reading the end-of-day news, overextending to spouse and children? Well sure, this is contemporary life, when wanting it all comes with an inflationary price that only the weak decline to pay. Let the morning mugs of Colombian coffee be drained, let them be damned, but let them work!

The biblical tenet of reaping what we sow represents quite a clear directive to work hard—with discipline, focus and purpose. Yet are we similarly directed to lose sleep, to experience the kind of stress that eats away at fulfillment and achievement, let alone eliminates volunteerism? Must ‘calm’ be nothing more than a long-sought four-letter word?

In his recent article in The New York Times, “The Epidemic of Worry,” David Brooks writes:

Worry alters the atmosphere of the mind. It shrinks your awareness of the present and your ability to enjoy what’s around you right now. It cycles possible bad futures around in your head and forces you to live in dreadful future scenarios, 90 percent of which will never come true. Pretty soon you are seeing the world through a dirty windshield. Worry dims every sunrise and amplifies mistrust. A mounting tide of anxiety makes people angrier about society and more darkly pessimistic about the possibility of changing it. Spiraling worry is the perverted underside of rationality.

Coffee—that great enabler—does indeed work for the moment, but at what cost? Why not make an active decision to head up to bed 20 minutes earlier (and make no mistake, this is neither a passive nor easy decision in light of rushing demands), put on some Beethoven or Bennett or Bon Jovi, and just chill till sleep has its way? The mugs aren’t going anywhere, so they’re there if called. Yet that extra 20 minutes each day, those two-plus hours each week and 10 hours each month may well hold up the body and sustain our pursuit of happiness.

Try it and let’s talk.