In Praise of Slowness

Do you or someone you love suffer from allegrophobia?  This is really a thing – it’s the fear of being late.  And I have it bad.  So much so that I have spent much of my life rushing around always making sure I’m not merely on time, but early.  I need to have that buffer in case any mishap should befall me while I’m on my way to do something (no doubt) terribly important. A curious thing tends to happen, though; the more I rush, the more often I forget something and have to stop and go back or drop something or something else happens that thwarts my efforts to be early. 

One day as I was rushing out the door to go to work, breathless, with adrenaline pumping through my veins (and mind you I have a five minute commute and it was over an hour before my official start time), I decided to stop.  Just stop.  Catching my breath, I finally realized that all that rushing doesn’t really change a thing and the stress I cause myself is probably dramatically shortening my lifespan.  For me, rushing isn’t running down the driveway to my car, driving like a maniac, racing up the steps to my office building – no, it’s really just a frame of mind and the reality is that much of what happens the moment I leave my house is outside of my control.  Making a conscious decision to stop rushing has been a life changer.  I don’t get cranky when people are going slow in front of me, or when a light turns red just as I approach.  It allows me to take the time to actually look at my surroundings, to see my neighborhood, the people and animals that live there, to hear birds singing, to just enjoy walking or driving along. 

Over the weekend I read a book called In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honore.  He starts the book by telling a story of how excited he was when he saw an ad for One-Minute Bedtime Stories, thinking he could cut down on the time it took to read bedtime stories to his child (who was always choosing longer books), and get back to doing other things.  That was a wake up call that he needed to start doing things differently. 

I was feeling pretty smug when I started reading – I mean, I had already decided to stop rushing, right? – but instead I quickly identified a pattern that has been a part of my life since I was a child.  I always have an agenda, always have a long list of things I need to accomplish, and start each day determined to get as many things checked off as I can.  I realize that this is nothing short of complete and utter madness.  It’s as though my entire identity has been wrapped up in this concept that my value and worth is dependent upon the number of tasks I can successfully complete at the end of each day.  Never mind that I often go to bed exhausted and bleary-eyed, I am gettin’ ‘er done!

For years I’ve prided myself on being an excellent multitasker, only to realize – and grudgingly admit – that multitasking just means that I do a lot of things at the same time and don’t do any of them well.  Shoot.

I would like to say that I’ve left behind the constant push, push, push to get stuff done, but it’s just not that easy.  It’s still really hard to slow down or to do just one thing at a time.  I’ve read more than one article recently that stated that some of the most brilliant people take time to just sit and think every day.  Just sit and think.  JUST SIT AND THINK!  What would that be like?  I can barely wrap my brain around it and yet I know at the very core of my being that it’s the right thing. 

I’m going to sign off now and get some stuff done.  But before I call it a day, I might just try to find five minutes to practice sitting and thinking.

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