So, what is this, this slowing down?
I have considered myself an old soul for a few decades. Part of that old-ness has been a proclivity to chillax, and take things slowly. When I was a teenager, my older brother used to assert that i wasn’t running my fastest and hardest up and down the basketball court. When I look back upon it now, it is not surprising that my norm seemed slower-than-most to others.
The single simplest way that I embrace slowing down is by refraining from multi-tasking. After being conditioned to praise multi-tasking, I try to avoid it these days. When I brush my teeth, I no longer do calf lifts in order to build muscles in my legs as I tried to do at 17. I don’t brush my teeth while putting on socks and shoes as my 24 year-old self did. Instead, I brush my teeth, and allow my attention to feel the sensations of toothpaste, enamel and the stretch of my cheeks.
There is a geography to slowing down. The Southwest and Mountain West flows at its own rate. I sense the attraction and the fit now that I have returned after being gone for more than a decade. The hustle and bustle on the coasts is a different wavelength than what I flow on, with my flyover country ways. Thirteen years after leaving Barbados, a Bajan proverb of tekkin tyme ent lazyness resonates now more than it did when I lived there in 1998.
But it isn’t only due to the pace of the world outside. For the first time in my life, I am living without a television in my home. It has all sorts of consequences, only a few that I anticipated. Then, there are countless benefits of living free of cable, channel surfing and the echo chamber of the 24 hour news cycle. A few glimpses of what it means to not have a tv are: (1) I do not plop down on the sofa when I am exhausted — whether it is a weeknight, a Sunday morning or the middle of the night. (2) television has a powerful, addictive quality with my psyche, which used to keep me seated in front of it, long after I was actually choosing to watch. (3) As a result of the minutes and hours that I used to spend in front of a television, my days fill with hours and minutes that i sit, stand or lie elsewhere.
Other ways of slowing down range from reading, laying down and closing my eyes to baking or going for a walk. As a result, a slower lifestyle subjects me to fewer external stimuli, which keeps my internal systems (my circadian rhythym, I believe) lower. My mind, nor my days, are not as frantic nor as herky jerky as they once were.
I commit to fewer appointments, phone calls and obligations each day. This results in a slower morning, a relaxed afternoon and a soothing evening most days. A year ago, I was amazed to find that I had the time one evening to listen to how tired my body was when it was 8:06 p.m. As a result, 8:06 became a joke about my preferred bedtime.
Instead of having to scramble to honor commitments that had been made, I choose to be spontaneous instead. I can have a hunch of what I may get in to this afternoon or over the weekend, yet I refrain from fillinig it up like an itinerary. Fewer commitments allows for more spontaneity when living moment-by-moment.
More openness results in being able to cook and prepare meals more readily, and more easily. Whether it is the 5 minutes to toast bread for a peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich or 30-60 minutes for baking or a stew, food takes a precedence in my slower schedule. It is no surprise that I make more pancakes and french toast, bake more (cookies, brownies and breads), and eat more vegetables made in all sorts of ways. I choose to make time for meals, cooking and eating well.
I realize how much of lifestyle is about choice. The choice of whether to grab food out, or choose to eat a meal at home. The choice to get the groceries to be able to prepare a meal in as little as 2, 5 or 25 minutes makes home cooked meals much tastier.
I can choose to stop working at a designated hour, rather than allow my day job to encroach on my evenings. It is not the same hour every day, but I am content to leave my work alone when the time is right.
A few years ago, a friend told me how he and all of his coworkers were revising their job descriptions. What was memorable, was that they were cutting away one-third or half of what was on their old job descriptions in order to focus on what was essential, and what was desirable to them in their work. This, is the kind of cutting back that we need.
This is the kind of cutting back that slowing down invites.