Sometimes We Are Standing on Our Own Hose

A dear friend and I had breakfast together the other day. We were talking about many things (you know, “*Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–And whether pigs have wings.”).

We were also talking about how we as people often mess up both knowingly and unknowingly. My friend mentioned that when she was young and in training to be a nurse, she was watching a surgery in the operating theater. At one point the doctor doing the surgery yelled for “suction! More suction!!

As she watched, an older surgical nurse looked down at the floor and noticed that the doctor was in fact standing on the hose. That was why there was no suction.

This story made me laugh and made me think; don’t we all sometimes stand on our own hoses? Think about it; there we are, running our own marathons through life, doing all we can to keep everything right, and so on. But the harder we try, the more we push, the farther back we fall.

From “Alice in Wonderland,” here is the treadmill we often find ourselves on: “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” 

It seems that the more we chase our dreams (or just live through each day), the more there will be demands on our time and resources. We have to make a conscious decision to step off the treadmill now and then.

This reminds me of being a child again, riding in the back seat of the car. Dad would be driving, Mom sitting beside him, and now and then she would turn her head to me and smile. I wasn’t driving the car; I was just a passenger. There was no pressure on me to be careful, to choose the best route, to get to some place on time. I was just along for the ride. And at that time, it was just fine.

Years later, when I was driving my own car, things changed. I could no longer daydream; I was driving and had to pay attention. I had places to go, work to do, chores to perform; I was in the process of carving out my own life. Like many other people, I rushed to work, rushed to perform my job well, rushed to get home, rushed to clean, cook, maintain my car, feed the cat, and so on.

There were many, many times I sabotaged myself. I rushed here and there; always on the move. I remember my grandmother telling me to slow down and to enjoy my life. I always agreed with her, but still I couldn’t just slow down. It was as though I felt responsible for keeping the world turning.

I didn’t realize it then, but I do now: I was stepping on my own hose. The Penn-Dutch have a wonderful saying that I should have had tattooed on the palm of my hand back then: “We grow too soon old, and too late smart.”

Ain’t that stepping on our own hose!

*From “The Walrus and the Carpenter” by Lewis Carroll, (from “Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There,” 1872)