Life sometimes needs a “reboot”

This morning my computer did it again. Some of the programs went wonky. Between a hung “update” and too much junk in the cache, things slowed down (to the point of absolute frustration) or simply stopped functioning at all. I clicked on the power key and hit “shut down.” It was time for a “hard reboot.” A short time later, it came with all its faculties intact.

Sometimes life is like that. It just gets jammed up. Professional operations falter. Between supply chain issues and labor shortages, this has become more prevalent of late. Personal relations falter or fade (often related to the stress above). Personal biological and emotional functions just seem to shut down (I have often said that my hard drive is full and if some piece of information is added, something else gets erased). The result is an environment that can tax our ability to cope or at least function efficiently. The “right” answer seems to elude us, rather it seems a choice between competing sub-optimal alternatives.

What I wouldn’t do just to turn the world off for a moment. Reset all of the variables, or at least clear out the junk and purge the corrupted data that seems to impair operations. I know it is not possible, but I sometimes wish I could “pull the plug” for a bit.

The funny thing is how many times simply doing just that with electronic equipment (shutting the system down) really does “fix” the problems. A program that refused to “boot” suddenly (and inexplicably) comes back to life. The “lost” files suddenly reappear. The memory can handle the multitasking. Life is back on an even keel.

Even if a complete reset is not possible it would be nice to take a pause. I would love to be able to take a “shoelace time out.” This is a reference to the scene that would unfold when my kids were little and played in a youth basketball league. Safety was a prime concern and there was a worry that a loose shoelace would be a trip-hazard. It often seemed that there was more lace-tying than basketball-playing. When a shoestring popped free, a timeout would be called to allow the coach or referee to rectify the problem.

As I recall these events, I think of how pleasant it would be if the rules of life included such respites. It seems more frequent that life’s frustrations push me to the limit. In the middle of a difficult negotiation with a client or subcontractor, the whistle would blow, and I could wander off to a corner, collect my thoughts and “tie my shoe.” It is wishful thinking that somehow, when the pace of life exceeds my ability to deal with it, some external “referee” would recognize my predicament and intercede to allow me to refocus, if only for a moment.. And like the interplay on the basketball court, I can’t help but believe that the players on the “opposing team” would take advantage of the timeout to rearrange their own mental shoelaces as well.

There was another rule that intrigued me. When the ball switched hands, there was no back court guarding. Once the opposing team had gotten control of the ball, they were free from interference until they crossed mid-court. This allowed the kids to get the ball under control before they were beset by the opposition. I think life should include this rule as well. When the problems are flying at me fast and furiously and I manage to corral one of them, it is not fair for the other problems to gang up on me before I can control the first one. This rule in particular should apply to personal relationships. As things get hot, it would be prudent to have to back off to your end of the court. “Oops! Back court guarding. One issue at a time. Another of those and it is a technical foul.”

Life is complex and our often-precarious relationships make it ever more so. Like an old computer without technical support or an organized sport broken down into a mele, we clog our interactions with excess baggage from the past, the overwhelming tensions of the present, and the specter of future conflicts (be they real or simply imagined). Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to purge the system. Before things reach the precipice, it would be nice for an impartial referee to back us off and ensure that we have a chance to regroup. Sometimes it would be nice to just reboot the system and see what happens.

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