Slowing Down (An Update)

slowing down

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.

  • “Baking muffins for my neighbor might fulfill me one day, but welcome stress and anxiety the next.”
    I so much agree with you.
    For a long period, I felt guilty if I didn’t do regularly the things that I thought were important to me, even the hobbies. I was thinking: I love to dance, if I want to improve and give a chance to this part of my life, I HAVE to go tonight to that workshop/party/course…
    And I felt bad, and stressed …for something I’m supposed to love!
    Now, I just let my inner self decides for me. Do I feel like dancing tonight? Do I feel like writing (in French hey, I know I’m too bad in English ;) ), cooking, working badly, calling a friend, being alone, reading a book travelling, staying in my comfort zone, taking a risk,…?
    And it’s so good! And most surprisingly, I don’t loose anything doing less and not thinking in a “competitive” way. It’s all the opposite!
    Thanks for your article, I loved it!

    • I LOVE this; thank you for sharing, Musa!!! I used to be really hard on myself in this way, too – here’s to breathing deeper and letting our inner selves decide! :)

  • haven’t been here for such a long tie. partly due to leaving blogging alltogether. and look: slow blogging movement! Exacly how I feel/felt about it all. Not negative, just racing too much. Nice to read your posts on this.

  • haven’t been here for such a long tie. partly due to leaving blogging alltogether. and look: slow blogging movement! Exacly how I feel/felt about it all. Not negative, just racing too much. Nice to read your posts on this.

    • I couldn’t agree more – glad to hear there’s a kindred spirit among us. :) Nice to see you!

  • This is SO good and I ate up every word from this post! I need a new direction because the current me is worn out every day with all the things I have going on. Reading about how satisfying it is to lead a slower life is making me want a less hectic one too! Thanks for sharing and inspiring! :)

  • This is a really beautiful metaphor for EXACTLY how I feel right now. Sometimes pruning the bushes makes you feel like you are giving up on things that you feel you took on and feel you should see through all the way to the end, but when you keep taking things on and don’t clear any out, thats not good. Prioritizing is the key word, and it’s something I need to get better at.

  • I love Donald Miller’s book! You are so right on.. We are all just works in progress. I, too, am working on slowing down, enjoying life, and finding out who I am, and what I want my life to be about, and that I don’t have to go 90 miles an hours all day every day to feel like I have worth or that I have accomplished something. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • I super enjoyed this post and just wanted to say that your such a great writer. Thats all :)

  • I feel like my priorities are constantly shuffling.
    I want to bake muffins for a neighbor, cookies for coworkers, and more! It sounds like such a great idea. And, I do enjoy the process. But cleaning up? Dirtying a just-cleaned kitchen, then cleaning it up is enough to suck the joy out of it. Is it laziness? Or, something else?
    I found you through Shutterbean, and I’m so glad I did :)

    • SUCH a great point you’re raising! I think it’s interesting how some activities have these micro-joy-suckers attached that keep us from doing them. I’d love to travel the world, but (and this is CRAZY, I know!) as soon as I start thinking about it, my mind counts all of the itchy airport seats and crowded terminals I’d have to swallow to get there. Ha.

  • you have put into words what i have been trying for so long to understand about myself. and i firmly believe motherhood adds a twist to it all. thanks for writing this!

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