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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

In Other Words: The Gift of Slowing Down

Img: Clint McCoy

By Chuck Keller

Just because you are given a gift, doesn’t mean you have to accept it. We have been presented with an extraordinary opportunity. We are shut down. And we are forced to slow down. It can hurt. It can frustrate. But….

Everything has slowed down. The street traffic is noticeably lighter but the sidewalk traffic if heavier. We are sleeping a bit later. Meals aren’t rushed. Families are spending more time together. The hectic pace of school, work, and social demands has presented a gift to us - if we choose to accept it.

A friend was telling me how her teen daughter got up at the usual time during the first week of non-traditional Instruction. She would get online and do her work. The next week, though, she woke up later, got to her school work later, and finished later but she was more energetic, more focused, and more self-determined. She found her rhythm and since she wasn’t married to the clock she was more productive. My friend said her grades actually went up. I know this won’t work for everyone, but it works for her. What’s the rush when you have all day? What a good way to learn about what works for you.

It can be pretty crazy trying to work from home and supervise and even enhance a child’s school work.  And then throw in the usual household duties and the world spins. But then no one is rushing out the door for an activity or meeting. John Borroughs, an early writer and leader in the American conservation movement, said, "The lure of the distant and difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are."

Charlie Padgett, a work from home dad, told me that that he and his daughter “have lunch together (outside on nice days). We play more board games. I teach my daughter how to read, write and do math while she teaches me how to live.” That’s a pretty sweet agreement.

But then a slow down can create more stress.  Crimson MacDonald told me that “With a 1st grader, a 2 year old, [being] a business owner, and a mom [and with a] grandmother who needs help also, life has been insanely more difficult. Yes, it’s slower in some ways - like a 7 day ClickList waiting period -  but so many more plates to spin at the same time, along with no separation from other humans (I love my family but the 24/7 thing is new), has made this seem much more exhausting and difficult. Not to mention the fear thing, which we are trying to avoid. With that said, I’ve watched the trees bloom, I’ve watched my own flowers bloom, and have noticed the beauties easily forgot when shuffling around from one obligation to another. Long story short, it’s a new type of slow; a slower world but more work to survive it?” She voices the frustration of a world that is gone but sees the hope in an emerging world.

Slowing down increases the quality of an experience. My wife is the photographer in the house so when we walk in the woods it is a slow and mediative stroll. She eyes everything and will often stop to take joy in a tiny spring flower or wonder what kind of tree she sees or she’ll step back to survey how a particular plant or understory plant marks the landscape or wonder what bird song we heard. There is no hurry. We step aside for the trail runners and marvel at the little things we see. He may finish the trail before us but we know he missed a lot.

Close up of bleeding heart flower. Courtesy: Mary Lou Keller

Stop trying to do everything at once. You can’t do anything right if you try to do everything at once. You can’t enjoy the moment when you are rushing to the next moment, thing, event, or experience. Savor that ice cream or coffee or the emerging flowers. There’s no rush. The only rush I’m in is to get at least six feet away from people.

These are interesting times and these are choices we make. Lily Tomlin gave some great advice when she said, “For fast acting relief, try slowing down.” We have no control over what is happening but we can control how we deal with it.

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