Buying into ‘thoughtful living™’

by Mick Rhodes |

I’m slowing down.

And not just with age: the lure of decelerating has won me over. I’m calling it “thoughtful living™.” It’s a lifestyle, I’m realizing, with myriad benefits. And best of all, when used properly it reduces stress.

The problem I’m having is remembering I am this new guy, this calm, chill dude. My job and DNA has predisposed me to be anxious at idle. And when things heat up in my brain, whoa! That anxiety can spike spectacularly, and good intentions can go up in flames.

The seed of this new philosophy was planted when I was recently tasked to teach my youngest daughter Lucy how to drive. As per usual, I didn’t give a whole lot of thought to the exercise beforehand. We just headed over to Citrus College’s rambling parking lot in Glendora — where my mom taught me to drive as well — parked the car, and I began talking. The words just sort of erupted, from a source heretofore unknown.

“The most important thing about driving is you can never be in a hurry,” my mouth said. “Bad things happen when you are frantic.”

Who was this guy and where was this information coming from?

The kid took it in, nodded her head, and off we went. She was understandably erratic and tentative at first, but by the time the hourlong lesson was over, she had smoothed things out considerably. This was followed by a handful of additional Citrus driving sessions, a few outlaw lessons on the actual roadway, and before long Lucy was driving me around town.

Soon I began incorporating my improvised driving mantra into other areas of my life. I found that by taking my time while eating, listening, and responding to emails, texts, and even interactions with live humans, I made better choices.

From time to time I’m asked to do some public speaking. Being mindful about rushing through whatever it is I’m trying to say can look like confidence in that arena as well, which is a helpful asset.

And in my other job as a musician and bandleader, I’m expected to project some semblance of charm and organization of thought during between song banter, introductions, etc. Predictably, it hasn’t always worked out, but I am finding that by slowing down both in between songs and during performance there’s a benefit to be had there as well.

Thinking, I’ve heard it said, is the enemy of performance; one should have already done all the thinking before going on stage. Once there, ideally you should be listening, reacting, but certainly not thinking. I’m beginning to understand this axiom. It’s too bad it took me until my sixth decade of performing to get hip to it.

Old dog, new trick.

I’ve found a guru of sorts in the unlikely form of a young Texas lawyer named Jefferson Fisher’s Instagram posts. Though he’s clearly selling his “brand,” I find his content advocating for better communication and mental health to be useful. I’ll take my wellness tips wherever I can get ‘em. Others seem to be responding to his pitch as well, as he has nearly 5 million followers.

It may sound like I’ve cracked the code for how to be chill, but truth be told I’m not close. I’m afraid impulsivity and laziness are baked in ‘round these parts. But I’m trying, and am enjoying the challenge.

I’ve found maintaining my cool and taking the time to choose my words — or not respond at all — during conflict to be one of the most beneficial aspects of this newfound superpower. Unfortunately, I don’t always follow my own advice, then spend days reliving whatever exchange I botched, imagining all the calm, emotionally astute response I might have given, rather than the wild-eyed, irrational burst of insecurity I chose. But on the rare occasions when I have stuck to the gameplan, it’s been a bit of a rush.

Maybe this is what being an adult feels like? I dunno. I’m still working on it.

I wish I’d adopted this philosophy back when my kids were little. I’m sure they do as well. (Regret is clearly baked in ‘round here as well.) I recall a stranger once took me to task as I was getting off a bus in Santa Monica with my then toddler daughter Grace (now 21). I was frustrated, sweaty, in a hurry, and was short with her as I wrangled a stroller and a diaper bag, and stood on the curb trying to persuade her to step off the bus. An older woman at the bus stop interjected, “You need to relax and enjoy parenting.” At the time I sarcastically thanked her for her unsolicited advice. But looking back now I see it was very good advice. I sure could have used my new thoughtful living™ approach back then, and countless other times while raising my three young kids.

Oh well, better late than never, right?

Where Am I?

You will notice a new feature on page 6 of this week’s edition, “Where am I?” The brainchild of Courier Circulation Manager Tom Smith, the idea is we will publish a photo of a random location in Claremont or the surrounding communities, and ask readers to identify it. I thought we might turn this fun new feature into a contest as well. The idea is folks who think they know the answer can email it to and I will draw a winner at random at noon the following Wednesday. We will then publish the answer the following week along with the name of the random winner who guessed correctly, and a new “Where Am I?” Winners’ names will go into a hat and we will draw a random grand prize winner at the end of the year who will receive a copy of our new coffee table book of Courier photography, “Timeless Claremont.” Sounds like fun, right?

If you’d like to join in, email your “Where Am I?” photo to Be sure to include your name and where the photo was taken.

I look forward to seeing the answers to today’s inaugural “Where Am I?” Good luck!


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