Today started with a bang; that is to say, briskly … and sped up from there as I spun from one request to another task to a fourth meeting to the 20th inquiry. Now it’s Noon-thirty, and I’m heading over to the other building two blocks away, moving at the next best pace to race walking, even though I have about 10 minutes to spare.
At the halfway point, my epiphany strikes: what the hell am I doing? Why am I killing myself for the sake of a workplace that might miss me if I walked off the edge, but only for a minute, after which someone else would step in to finish my projects and duties? Why am I pushing my anxiety higher, boosting my stress levels through the roof when I know – and, boy, do I KNOW – what’s really important in life?
Unbidden, that old joke floats past my inner vision: “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.” Except for one thing – here I am falling prey to the whole sense of urgency that scents my workplace like some cheap perfume these days. Indeed, it scents our world.
With chagrin, I immediately slow down – and I’m a little scared when I discover it’s not so easy to do. I take deep breaths. I look around at the plants, the trees, the cars, and the people along the street as I try so hard to ground myself in the moment, in the here and now. I stop to watch a happy little wren grabbing take-out for her offspring. In fact, I force myself to use every bit of those spare 10 minutes – plus 5 more deliberately – to reach my next stop.
I envision myself leaving cortisol-laced footprints along my path, the same way wet footprints mark the passage from the pool to the bar (oh, did I say that out loud?). My breathing reverts to normal and that sense of urgency slides away as I restore the balance, but the chagrin remains. How easily I forgot about what really matters in this life. How insidious the expectations that I freely accepted to just go and do and drive on and on and on and …
I’m late for my meeting – almost 10 minutes late – but at least my perspective is restored. Later that day, I’m rifling through some cast-away magazine left out for the taking when I spy it: an image of a mother bear with two cubs and a tagline that reads, “ambling along.”
I sigh. That’s it, isn’t it? Whatever happened to ambling? Merriam-Webster defines “amble” like so: “an easy gait; a leisurely walk.”
Lately, it seems, we’ve set the dial to light speed, if not outright warp speed. Maybe the movie “Spaceballs” had it right back in 1987 – we seem to be traveling at Ludicrous Speed, and I’m not convinced we’re any better off as a result.
So I vow, once again, to remain mindful of what’s really important, to recognize when the cortisol levels begin rising, and to honor slowness. I wonder if that’s why many people slow down as they age; not so much because they can’t keep up the pace but because they’ve learned that ambling has merit.
Tonight, I will not cook dinner. I will wait and relax until Charlie gets home, then we will go out for dinner. Not fast food, either. I want the sit-down-and-relax, slow-moving, full-sensory experience. The one marked by slowness, a lingering at the table, enjoyment of good conversation and an after-dinner cuppa. Tonight, I will refuse to live fast.