I recently put away my coffee maker and microwave. I want to slow down, create some space for, well, me. I had noticed I was missing things, moving from one task to the other, head down. Technology speeds things up and that is not always a healthy thing. The Internet gives me access to information and communication with a speed I could have not have imagined a few years ago. Coffee makers allow me to push a button (unless I use the timer) for my morning coffee and the microwave, well, with my microwave I can heat things and cook things in a fraction of the time it took me when I used oven and stove.
But to what end?
Why is it so important to do these things at high speed? Do I benefit? Am I getting more done? And can someone please define what more actually is?
If I want my life to be about work, household tasks, making or returning phone calls, reading or sending e-mails, then yes, speeding things up with technology allows me to complete more of these tasks in a given day. But that is not what life is about, at least not my life. I cannot tell you what to decide about yours. I look around me and I see most people caught up and frenzied with so much work and so many chores there is little room left for anything else. So many of us, me included, rush past the very moment we are in without so much as a pause. After all, we have things to do!
I have decided to disengage from as much speeding up of my life as possible. I do this for several reasons. First, I am missing things I do not want to miss. The other day, stirring a warming pot of food, I heard birds singing outside. As the scent of food drifts up to me, their notes fill the air like jewels. I would have missed this had I pushed a button on my microwave and hurried back to my writing task.
Recently I adopted a puppy I named Charley after Charley in John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley.” McKenzie, my seven-year-old female German Shepherd has taken on the role of Charley’s mother. They love to wrestle and roughhouse in the kitchen. Heating my food in a pot affords me the opportunity to watch this miracle of life; the older dog teaching the younger dog. Charley, who has yet to be in the same room with coordination, by the way. Charley leaps at the nape of ‘Kenzie’s neck only to miss and land on the floor, a jumble of perpetually moving legs and elbows (are they elbows?). In another moment Charley is spread eagled on his back and ‘Kenzie checks him head to toe, finishing off her inspection with a lick to his nose. I would have missed this if I was using my microwave.
Slowing down, learning to pause and be in the moment, allows us stillness, allows us to be with ourselves, something so many of us avoid for so many of us have, one way or the other, been given the message we are bad people. More often than not, that message is pure myth with no relationship to our internal reality. Yet when we get this message long enough we learn to believe it. So, while slowing down may at first bring about some unsettling experiences, if you hang in there long enough, you will likely get past them and begin to discover that all along you have been a truly good person. And who wouldn’t like to spend time with a good person?
And then there is this. Slowing down has brought me closer to my family again. My father and mother and my grandparents all cooked on stoves and used ovens. Engaging in these tasks today makes me feel close to them. I am doing things they did and perhaps, in some small way, this affords me the chance to feel what they felt, live moments they lived, and in doing so, they are with me again.
It seems to me that slowing things down opens doors to some precious experiences in life. And hey, I can wait for my coffee or my food to warm. My father did. And if it was good enough for him, it is good enough for me.