I’ve been getting a few emails here and there asking how my “slower life” is treating me, and I realize I’ve never written a proper update on the so-called experiment. In a nutshell, the change has been amazing, and because there are so many thoughts swirling in my head, I’m going to just open the pantry and unload absolutely everything, all at once. This may or may not be legible.
Whenever I find myself saying, “I don’t have time,” I mentally re-word the phrase into “That’s just not a high priority for me right now.” Because I have the same 24 hours as you do and your neighbor does and the uncle who took you to your first movie growing up had. But our priorities are different. My priority right now, this very second, is to maintain a healthy relationship with my husband, care for (and find enjoyment in) the early months of my daughter’s life and end the day feeling fulfilled, restful and at peace. (I have a theory that I, personally, can only juggle three priorities at once, but I know many folks who have plates that overfloweth and feel content in that state. I am not one of those folks.)
What this means is that I often check myself throughout the day to make sure I’m working toward those priorities. When I sit down at my desk to work, I stop and think about what I’m hungry for (not literally, although that answer will likely be some form of cheese). Today, I was hungry to write. To have a conversation with myself that might result in some sort of personal growth. To host a discussion about priorities and timing and work and balance and helping others and all things good and perfect, Amen. And by feeding this hunger, I know I’ll end my day feeling fulfilled (priority #3 for those keeping score at home).
Baking muffins for my neighbor might fulfill me one day, but welcome stress and anxiety the next. Because priorities often overlap and bend and sometimes break until we forget they were important to us in the first place. The trick, I suppose, is knowing what we’re hungry for and which priorities take precedent over the other. They change, as do we.
I once read a beautiful passage in Donald Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” about change, personal growth and the beauty of seasons:
“People get stuck, thinking they are one kind of person, but they aren’t … The human body essentially recreates itself every six months. Nearly every cell of hair and skin and bone dies and another is directed to its former place. You are not who you were in February.”
The slower me understands this. I see deepened lines in my furrowed brow and remnants of old habits regenerating into new. And the slower me feels free when reading this. Because we are growing, whether intentional or not. The world is changing and we are in the world and we are the world. Cue Michael Jackson.
I’ve never been a gardener, but I know that bushes often need pruned for this reason. They grow and grow and grow until one wild branch often shapes the bush into something else entirely. For me, slowing down was simply another way to prune the bush. To force myself into cutting away certain parts of my life so that I don’t wake up next February, blooming roses I don’t like.
It’s hard, slowing down. We’re taught as young children that life is a buffet and the world is our oyster and we can wear many hats, but then sometimes we wake up and realize that our waistlines are too large and seafood is slimy and we’re tired of hat hair.
So we purge the hall closet of our berets and caps and bonnets until we’re left with empty space – a space that’s simultaneously inviting and terrifying. Because empty space is life’s first date where the awkward silence is deafening and there’s no bread left to butter. And we’re left watching the clock, wondering if there will be a spark or dessert or a goodnight kiss.
Or a pruned rose.
My garden is growing and shaping, but into what? I’m not yet sure. And I suppose it doesn’t matter, because tomorrow I’ll awake and become hungry for something else, or decidedly not hungry for anything at all. And in six months, a new me will regenerate and I’ll grow wild until I gather my pruning shears yet again.
But sometimes, I think, the empty space might sprout a tiny seed and something new will be planted in its place. And although I don’t know much about gardening, I kind of think this happens in February.