The room filled with cheerful Rotarians by 5:15, all eating that “meat-lovers” pizza which stood steaming and lovely on a side table. As the greeter, I pressed the cold hands of almost all of them as they blew into the room from the frigid Kansas City streets.
Our speaker glowed with something close to nuclear good cheer. He threw a box of books-for-sale down on the bench and clutched my hand in both of his. Great to be here! he chuckled, and I cleared my mind of its customary cynical reaction to let my genuine agreement shine back at him.
By evening’s end, I actually found myself liking the guy, despite the fact that his profession typically galls me. One of those “motivational speakers” who sells himself, Gregory B. Knapp talked about “Finding Your Passionate Purpose”. But he had a pleasant air and it’s the way of Rotary to give everyone the room to be themselves, so I listened.
Later, at home, I got online and checked out his webpage and the PDF download you can get for free. I stopped short when I saw this:
5) The 15-minute trick.
Set a timer for 15 minutes and say you will only work until the timer goes off. You can do anything for 15 minutes. Most of the time you will want to keep going. But, even if you quit when the timer goes off, at least you did it for 15 minutes. When you do that every day, it starts to add up.
Hey! Wait a gosh-darn second! That’s MY line!
I found myself immersed in memory, back in the mid-1980s when my mother had just condescended to take her own damn time dying and left me half-orphaned at 30. I found my way to the world of single malt Scotch and wallowed in miserable contemplation of my failure as a daughter, an attorney, a law student, a woman, a person. I drifted from day to day, sliding closer to oblivion. Dark moods deepened to thoughts of what-if-I-just-check-out.
I no longer recall who or what sent me to the realm of What-If-I-Live-Instead. But I know how I finally returned to the land of the living. I took a thick yellow pad and scheduled my every moment in fifteen-minute increments. I only required myself to commit to fifteen minutes at a time. I told myself that if any particular fifteen-minute period proved impossible to endure, then I had permission to stop living. Conversely, if I got through fifteen minutes, I would try the next fifteen-minute task.
Within a month, I found myself able to re-allocate the days to 30-minute divisions. A half-year later, I threw that tablet on a fire and kept living.
I would see dark days again, even this century. I would use the fifteen-minute rule twice more in my life. I’ve recommended it to several folks — a friend, a client. Just force yourself to live for fifteen more minutes. And if you make it for that fifteen minutes, commit to fifteen more.
As I got ready for bed last night, weary from a long day in an endless series of long days, I found myself laughing at the idea that the fifteen-minute rule can be used for something other than mere survival. I smiled and silently chided Mr. Gregory B. Knapp for stealing my line. Then I thought about my friend Aneal Vohra, a videographer and IP paralegal, who always urges me to register my work. Day late, dollar short! But I’m not complaining. The fifteen-minute rule works. I’ll give it away for free.
I’m halfway through the thirty-sixth month in My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.