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Monday, February 28, 2011

Slow down and enjoy

So, here it is, the last day of February—and my first blog post of the month.  I am determined not to have a missing month!  So, here I am.

Where the heck did the time go anyway?

A few weeks ago, there was a lot of snow on the ground.  And then some ice and slush too. This forced me to walk slowly down the sidewalks and got me to thinking.  I pondered how nature sometimes forces us to slow down, instead of rushing through in a blur. 

It’s like walking on a sandy beach, not where the sand is wet and packed down, but where it’s dry and thick.  It’s difficult, almost a struggle, to walk through quickly.  So, you might as well walk leisurely and notice the sea and sky as you go.  No need to hurry on a beach.

An uncleared sidewalk in the winter has a similar effect, if you think about.  You’ve got to tread carefully so you won’t fall down.  Slowing down, it’s easier to notice the snowy, glistening wonderland right before your eyes.

I thought that would be a nice blog topic.  Slowing down.  Being fully present, practicing mindful awareness.  It’s so very Zen.

But then a funny thing happened.  While I was contemplating a slow-down, my life started speeding up.  Or, rather, I started speeding to keep up with my life.  At work, a couple of co-workers left, and suddenly I had a lot of new responsibilities, adding a whole new layer of busyness to an already full plate. 

At the same time, life at home also became fuller.  The addition of three (yes, three) furry little pets to our previously pet-free household created some new time-consuming responsibilities, as you might imagine.  On top of that, in furthering my resolution to forge new connections, I joined a couple of discussion groups that meet on a weekly basis, including one that has homework.  These groups are a lot of fun, but they do take time. 

I also signed up (my daughter) for Girl Scouts, decided to refinance our mortgage, and did I mention the new pets?  Add all this to the regular everyday chores and family life and, well, there’s not much room left to breathe.  Hyperventilate, maybe.

Far from slowing down, in recent weeks I found myself practically racing to keep up.  In fact, at work last week I had the feeling I was treading water to keep my head above the surface.  And my arms were getting tired.

How could I write about slowing down?  I’d be a hypocrite.  There’s no TIME to slow down, I thought.

And then the snow melted.  So, there went my great sandy beach analogy.

But, here’s the thing. I still think it’s important to slow down.  It may be even more important when you’re busy, than when you’re not.

Going fast tends to cause mistakes and accidents.  That should be obvious, I guess, but we do it anyway.  Trying to zip through my morning routine, shaving off seconds wherever I can as I shower and dress and get ready for the day, I know I’m more likely to fumble and drop things.  Spilling make-up, I can tell you, does NOT end up saving you time.

Speeding through life without pausing to think causes more serious mistakes too, from car wrecks to regrettable words.

Sometimes, you’ve just GOT to slow down.  Like with the Tortoise and the Hare, slow and steady wins in the long run.  Why do we always forget the moral of that story?

Sure, I have a lot going on in my life.  Who doesn’t?  But I also have a lot going for me:  an awesome partner who does more than his fair share of the parenting.  A built-in rest period on my CTA commute.  (I’m not driving the train so I might as well sit back and relax.)  And the free will to get out of bed earlier in the morning-- and to go to bed earlier too.  (Still working on the going to bed part.  But, on the plus side, I get a new chance to try every single day.)

And weekends, blessed weekends.  This past Saturday I did something I’ve never done before.  I went and got a therapeutic massage.  After all the recent craziness, I knew I needed to de-stress and this seemed like a good idea.  It was great, just what I needed.  One hour to slow way, way down. 

Life may be hectic, but there are moments of peace. You've just got to look for them, acknowledge them, and take them.

Breathing in these moments can make all the difference.

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p.s. Here’s a quote I came across, coincidentally, as I was thinking about slowing down:

“Slow down and enjoy life.  It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”  - Eddie Cantor

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