If you’re any kind of thinking person at all, you learn as you get older. And based on your experiences, you learn different lessons. I’m in the stage of my life when the rushing, rushing, rushing that I’ve done for years just doesn’t appeal anymore. The lesson that I’m learning is that rushing doesn’t necessarily get you where you want to go any faster.
Don’t get me wrong, this period of my life—the last few years—has been one of the most exciting, thrilling, adventurous, treacherous, scary, tough, emotional, draining, invigorating, frustrating periods of my life. So much has happened, so little has changed, everything is different, yet everything is the same.
But one thing that’s been at the center of it all is this break-neck rushing, doing anything and everything, in an attempt to feel like I’m getting somewhere, doing something with my life. Sometimes I look at the things I’ve accomplished and feel proud of myself. Sometimes I feel like a failure. But I keep pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion and…nothing. No cataclysmic, life-altering events. No epiphanies. No change in the status of my life. In the end, all that’s there is the exhaustion. And life is going by way too fast. I fear that I’m missing some of it.
I want to slow down. I always feared slowing down because I didn’t want to miss any opportunities. But I wonder, if I’m meant to receive certain opportunities, will I find them anyway, even if I trim my to-do list?
I was reading an article by Edward Behr, editor of Art of Eating magazine, about the slow food scene. The piece is about, of course, slow food itself, but he also talks about how slow food fits in with a slow life. And he doesn’t mean slow in a disparaging way; he means it in the most positive way.
One paragraph, in particular, really sums up what I think so many of us miss in the pursuit of achievement:
You’re living a slow life when you gather seashells along the shore, feed a campfire, visit a nearly empty museum on a weekday morning, talk late into the night, read an ink-on-paper book cover to cover without stopping to do much else, and, I would say, if you take the time to be bored. Part of being civilized is not just being slow but occasionally coming to a stop, establishing a point of reference for the moment when you start moving again. When you stop you aren’t really stopping, of course, because that’s often when good ideas rise to the surface.
I got a little taste of this notion these past few months. By September, I’d burned out from writing, and, as many of you read here, I had a project that turned a little sour for me, which put me in a holding pattern for a while. Then the holidays set in. What this all amounted to was a slow-down in my writing production. I stressed about it, and yet I didn’t. And I’m now emerging from that. And I have ideas.
I’m not going to delude myself into thinking that from here on out, I’m going to be some Zen master by taking everything in stride, by not getting anxious about anything, by quietly letting everything happen in its natural course without trying to rush, or push, or prod. I’d be lying to myself if I made that claim. Nor do I wish to just sit idly and let opportunities for new experiences pass me by. But I think I’m ready to let go a little bit. I realized that I have no control over anything, so why fight it?
(You can read Behr’s entire article HERE.)