You know sometimes I try
To take it fast in this life
But it gets me down
And I fall to my knees
I take it wisely
There’s no time, no time
I got no time to keep up with you
This post originally appeared on space2live in October of 2011 as Poky Puppies and Hares with ADD: The Benefits of Taking it Slow. It’s possible three or four of you read it. I’ve edited and added to it now. I’ve given myself permission to play and act summerly this week so while I revel in space to live you get a re-run post. I still think you’ll like it.:)
I plod along at 5.7 MPH on a treadmill at Lifetime Fitness. Ahead of me, a woman with a short chestnut ponytail, sprints in intermittent bursts of 7-8MPH. Her ponytail swishes back and forth as she skims the seamless tread with her weightless feet. I glance into the side mirror and swear I see a Clydesdale chasing a deer. I am the Clydesdale and my sprinter friend is the graceful, springing doe. She finishes before I do because she isn’t going a great distance and she’s fast. I finish a half an hour later but with a slightly bigger digit on my mileage display and a much bigger number on my time elapsed display. I prefer to run longer at slower speeds. Like a marathoner (but not really), I bank on endurance and enjoy the run. Like the proverbial tortoise, slow and steady.
As a kid my mom called me Poky Puppy (after The Poky Little Puppy, a Little Golden Book) because of my tendency to dawdle while dressing. While I didn’t like this nickname (at least I wasn’t the Saggy Baggy Elephant;), it was warranted. Tucked away in my corner bedroom, I would sit in my pajamas and consider what my dolls should wear for the day (all six of them). After dressing them, I might put my undershirt and underwear on and read one of my Disney books for a while. Eventually fully dressed, I’d look out the window, stare at the corn field until it grew fuzzy, and think about my grandparents or marbles or Anne of Green Gables. No zip in my execution, just a calm, content state of being.
When my grandparents visited, I inevitably found myself sitting at the end of a meal with my Grandpa K. He and I would be the last to clean our Coronet plates of ham and succotash. Grandpa had a reputation for being a slow eater so I guess we were two peas in a pod. Two well chewed, easily digested peas.;) Besides physically eating slower, Grandpa and I both had a tendency to get lost in the table conversation. He loved to converse and I loved to listen. It’s always been difficult for me to shovel food in my mouth and absorb what is being said. I want to give the speaker my full attention and respond thoughtfully.
Hares with ADD
In the U.S., speed and drive are highly valued. Being a turtle is not so prized.
This cultural bias compels me to kick it into high gear. I must produce reams of writing, process endless loads of laundry, attend multiple school functions, whip up gourmet meals, work out five times a week, and soak my family in unconditional love, all at break-neck speeds and without melting down into a lifeless puddle on the rug. Needless to say, this way of living is met with great resistance by my slow and reflective nature.
I often feel outdone by those who juggle and multi-task easily.
At the same time, I am concerned about those who live(?) on four hours of sleep, drink coffee by the tank, break life down into fragments of achievement, and no matter what, barrel on. To me, that is skimming the seamless tread of life. Fast and furious with no feelings of deep content and connection.
How To Get Off the Speedy Treadmill
I’ve learned that moving slowly through life, savoring it, produces a deeper satisfaction. If I try to be hyper-vigilant, perpetually busy, and wired, life becomes a treadmill of tasks and deadlines; an endless loop of What’s next?; a machine mentality that buries feelings.
I can hear some of you out there asking, But what if I can’t slow my life down? I feel you. I understand the influence of others on your time. It’s hard to work slowly under a jack rabbit boss. It’s hard to saunter through the grocery store when your kids are popping wheelies with the cart.
Make space for leisurely satisfaction.
In Meaningful Minimalism and Three Things That Save Me from Mental and Emotional Burnout, I mention how to pare down material items and scheduled activities. It would be lovely to move to a less developed country with a slower pace, but that’s not feasible for most of us. The only way to get to the yummy floaty feeling of right-brain stillness is to remove distractions and free up some dawdling time.
Say no every once in a while. You don’t owe everyone your time. Here’s your pat response: No, I’m sorry that doesn’t work for me. That’s it. You don’t need to explain any further.
Show up with intention. Do what has to be done first. No email checking. No Facebook perusing. What has to be done? Ok, now do it. Set a timer for 90 minutes and do the work. Ninety minutes is the maximum amount of time we can maintain focus before needing a break according to Tony Schwartz author of the book and TedTalk, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working.
Work and renewal. We perform best with renewal time between efforts. Schedule in renewal time.
How Slow and Steady Works for Me
When I allow myself to move at a moderate speed of life, I notice a calmness that soothes from within and then radiates outward. I smile easier. I laugh genuinely and often. I take time to hear others’ needs and supply compassion. I have the desire to draw with my daughter or take a walk with a friend. My intuition speaks and I hear her. Creativity slips in. I believe well-being does not come in constant staccato bursts but in well-placed languid affairs.
Nothing kills well-being like a stop-watch.
My inclination to pause and reflect also serves me well in the world of writing. The very essence of writing comes down to observing and reporting life’s wonders. You have to pay attention. You can’t pay attention quickly.
Blogging involves resonating with readers. It’s difficult to resonate with anyone if I don’t know myself. Intuition needs stillness to be heard. Running around like I am on fire does not bode well for mindfulness. I use what I discover in my own heart to relate to readers. I put myself on the page and then listen to responses. It takes time to nurture relationships. The slow building of connections is completely enjoyable.
Back to Clydesdales
Clydesdales are actually quite fast (up to 124mph) and of course, strong. I am not a fast runner but that’s OK. I’ve figured out that between 5.5 and 6 MPH is the pace where ideas flow and daydreams manifest, where I feel strong.
Much of this post was developed during a relaxed run.
How would your life be different if you made a conscious choice to slow down? Why do you rush? When are you at your best? When you are hurrying or when you move leisurely?
The Sheer Terror of Sitting Still (Notes and Errata by Mark Morford a SFGate.com blog)
What’s Wonderful? Dilly Dallying and Meandering (space2live)
*Funny running side stories:
1. During my son’s Middle School orientation, someone asked the principal if the mile-run for middle school P.E. would be longer than the mile run for elementary P.E. 😉 Now that’s a whole different kind of SLOW.;)
2. I once unknowingly ran three miles on a treadmill in a crowded gym with a pair of my underwear dangling from the leg of my shorts.;)