Not too long ago, I was in an exercise class when the teacher, an imposing man with abs of steel, commanded the students to stop making the easy things hard and the hard things too easy. We were doing intervals, speeding up our cycling cadence every 45 seconds and resting for 15. Instead of resting for the 15, lots of us kept pedaling hard. So that when the sprint came around again and again, we couldn’t keep up and thus, started to coast a little bit on the parts we should have been pushing. Afterwards, I realized this is how I sometimes go about things in my life. I rush through cooking dinner instead of making a cup of tea and leisurely hanging out with the kids while they’re doing their homework at the counter. I pack my weekend with too many things and then wonder why we’re grouchy and exhausted on Sunday night. I obsess and obsess about whether I am working too much or too little and how it’s all going to affect my career progression down the line…when the kids go to school all day, when they go away to camp, when they leave for college and their own lives…Yes, I spend a lot of time looking ahead and racing to get to the finish when I’m not really sure there is ever a finish line. And on the easy front, like say cleaning off my desk, finally setting up my new computer, hanging up my clothes instead of leaving them in a pile on my dresser, well you might say I make that stuff a lot harder than it needs to be. Somehow it should be the reverse. The organization piece should be second nature and easy and the big life moments should be where I spend my time not rushing, rushing through it all.
This came back to me today when I was swimming with my Monday freestyle group. The coach said something so simple but so profound. She told us to SLOW DOWN. Slow down each stroke and allow yourself to stretch through each pull. Huh? What she meant was that each pull needed to be deliberate in order for us to move through the water more quickly. Anyone who has ever taken a swim class will know about a drill in which you count your strokes while swimming a length of the pool. My tendency is always to have a high count. But when I honed in on stretching my arm as far as it could go before pulling down on the water, I took fewer strokes yet I actually moved more efficiently and ended up getting to the other side faster. Later I thought, this really applies to my life.
How often do we rush through the stuff that is supposed to be thoughtful and deliberate? Multitasking enables this for me. I can do twenty things at once! But the reality is that often, I’m not doing any of the tasks all that well. And when it comes to myself and my own growth and development, that’s when I rush the most or worse yet, sometimes don’t take any time at all. The swimming group was supposed to be a way to help me continue exercising through a heel injury until I can run again. But it’s become more than that, I think. The pool is a quiet reminder that I need to slow down. Slowing down makes me a nicer person to be around, too. And it creates calm in my household. Furthermore, I realize that appreciating time is an important life skill to teach my kids. Little things like stopping to read directions instead of jumping right into a work sheet, I realized are really important skills to start working on right now. The other night, we came home from school – no play date, no puppies to walk, no after school activities and the kids and I enjoyed a really calm, happy evening. They rode their bikes outside, leisurely read books on the couch with me and then worked on birthday thank you notes for their classmates . I cooked a meal they actually liked and didn’t burn anything because I wasn’t doing anything else but focusing on what was going on right then.
I remember my mom telling me wisely as I slogged through the first sleepless months of motherhood that babies force you to slow down. You can’t really rush a baby through a feeding or speed up the time it takes to rock a child to sleep. I guess I’m realizing it’s important, maybe even necessary recognize those moments when things should feel easy and to enjoy coasting a little bit. When you do it right, you have the energy to put in 200% when it’s time to put the pedal to the metal.
How do you feel when you slow down? Do you take time to slow down? How do you do it? Please share thoughts and advice.