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The crumbling shale on the small cliff beckoned, siren-like. There were fossils there – seashells and ancient worms, bits of bone and feathery plants – each a testament to time and mystery. I stopped the car, grinned impishly at my husband, and bolted across the worn, dirt road.

Without thinking, I scrabbled up the steep slope, grabbing bushes, rocks, and dirt to keep from sliding. At the top of the ledge, I began digging amid the rubble. There were fossils everywhere and I was, for a moment, a child again.

After the initial rush, I slowed some to savor the cool air and mountain scents – pungent pine, gooseberry tickle, wet earth coursing with spring. It was then I noticed the poison ivy growing dark and glossy along the edge of the cliff. I pointed it out to my husband and continued to search for ancient relics.

We found more than we could count and eventually tired. The enthusiasm had waned and the day was losing its battle with low clouds and light rain. We discarded our treasures, shared a kiss, and scampered back to the car.

The next morning, I woke scratching. By the time my eyes were fully open, I was clawing at my skin. Sure enough, the distinctive rash was blooming and you don’t want to know how much I itch.

Why am I telling you this? It’s not really to elicit your sympathy (though I wouldn’t mind it – I’m a baby when it comes to stuff like this). I’m telling you because the experience is an apt metaphor for life.

We all rush sometimes. Whether it’s to get to a final destination, because we’re so excited about what we’re doing, or because we’re tired and just want the project – book, sculpture, painting, exercise routine, whatever – to end. The problem is, rushing never works.

How many indie books are improperly formatted or riddled with poor writing, grammatical mistakes, and typos? How many artists rush to finish a painting and mess it up because they didn’t let the previous layer dry all the way? How many idiots like me go tramping through the woods without paying attention to their surroundings and end up with poison ivy, a twisted ankle, or even lost?

Laurence Gonzales wrote a great book called Deep Survival: Who lives, Who dies, and Why. In it, he talks about how and why emotions overrule logic in heightened situations and reveals that those who are fully present in the moment are the ones most likely to survive. If you haven’t read it, pick it up. Even if you don’t spend much time in the woods, what he talks about can be applied to any stressful situation (and by stressful, I mean anything that makes your heart hammer, be it joy or terror).

Deep Survival is one of my favorite non-fiction books and I should have known better. If I had been fully attentive, instead of consumed by my excitement, I would be writing a different post today, my wrist wouldn’t be raging with itch, and I wouldn’t be scouring the internet for relief. Then again, if I weren’t, I wouldn’t have found this nugget on Wiki How:

“Use gasoline as an absolute last resort. If you’re camping, have an extremely itchy rash and have no other options, gasoline, like alcohol, can help to dissolve oils from poison ivy or poison oak. Never go near an open flame if you’ve applied gasoline to your rash.”

Oh my god! I laughed so hard when I read that. Again, the urge to get what we want often dilutes common sense and creates much bigger problems for us to deal with.

The moral? Impatience breeds disaster. If you don’t slow down, pay attention to the details, and care about the process as much as the destination, you’ll get what you deserve. I did and it’s not fun.

How about you? Do you rush when you’re excited? Are there ways you calm yourself down enough to stay steady and do it right? Let me know. I love your comments.