Once you stop rushing through life, you will be amazed how much more life you have time for. ~Author Unknown
At the beginning of a coaching session, I often ask my client random questions such as, “What is your color today?” or “What animal are you today?” When I have my kids in the car, I ask, “What is your theme song for today?”
I love these questions because it gets a client (or my kids) to answer without any overthinking on their part and then allows me to ask a follow-up question such as “What is it about today that feels red?” or to my younger son “Clout? Why, clout?” These kinds of questions catch people off guard, and answers usually come subconsciously. When I query around their responses, a more profound meaning comes to light.
Last week was the tenth week of shelter-in-place; at least I think it was the tenth week – I have lost the concept of days, dates, and weeks – it was 5:30 AM, and I was sitting in the comfy chair in my office, coffee in hand. The familiar “Groundhog Day” feeling set in, a feeling of monotony, and going through the same motions as the previous day. I was not motivated to do anything, and I hated that feeling.
I imagined being my client: “What animal am I today?”
“Tortoise” immediately came to mind.
A tortoise? Why a tortoise?
A few things that happened earlier in the week had stood out, events that showed the negative impact COVID-19 was having on me.
The first was when I snapped at the Branch Manager at the bank, complaining about changes at the bank. The sun had been hot on Monday morning when I walked up to the front door at precisely 9 AM only to read the sign stating new COVID-19 hours: 9:30 AM to 4:00 PM. It didn’t make sense to go home and come back, so I sat in the car until 9:30 AM. A long line had formed, and I had to wait as they let one client in at a time.
“Sorry, it’s a corporate change,” Jenny said to me as I waited to go in.
“It doesn’t make sense, Jenny,” I had snapped. “Why open later when only one person can go in at a time?”
Jenny had simply shrugged her shoulders. There was no use complaining.
Turtles and tortoises are closely related, and some turtles are snapping turtles; my “tortoise” response made sense.
The other thing that happened last week was that I shut down. I didn’t set up “distance” walks with my friends. I didn’t write, I stayed away from social media, and spent very little time with my dad. I ignored text messages and emails and pushed aside household chores and projects. Instead, I hunkered down with a 1,500 piece puzzle and Netflix, withdrawing from friends and family.
Turtles tend to retract into their shells when they sense danger. I didn’t feel like I was in danger; I felt overwhelmed and exhausted from the news, reports, and discussions that revolved around COVID-19.
I understood why “tortoise” was my animal of the day: I had allowed the negative side of COVID19 and SIP to dominate my time and bring me down. I didn’t want to continue to spiral downward.
Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare came to mind: Tortoise challenges Hare to a race, but the over-confident Hare naps midway through the race and when Hare finally awakes, he learns Tortoise has won. The moral of the fable is that you can be more successful by doing things slowly and steadily than by acting quickly and carelessly.
I pondered for a moment, applying the moral to my current situation. Before COVID-19, I had been like the Hare, running back and forth to appointments and activities, filling my days with multiple commitments, and spreading myself thin. I had was forced to slow down and no longer needed to move at the speed of light; I missed my natural inclination to do things swiftly and impulsively.
Before COVID-19, I had been rushing, now was the time to slow down a bit, spend time with my family, and work on projects I always say I never have time for; I will never have time like this again.
I took a deep breath in, held it for a few seconds, and then let it go. Like a tortoise, if I keep my feet grounded, stick my neck out from time to time, and continue to move forward slowly, only then will I successfully maneuver through the remaining days of shelter-in-place.