“Rushing and racing and running in circles;
Moving so fast I’m forgetting my purpose.
Blur of the traffic is sending me spinning –
Slow me down. Don’t let me live a lie.
Before my life flies by,
I need you to slow me down.”
~ Emmy Rossum (Listen Here)
“Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. You’re only here for a short visit. So don’t forget to stop and smell the roses,” said Walter Hagen. And, I am not the first blogger to use this quote. Surely, I will not be the last. This simply bespeaks our need to be told then, now, and always to slow down and enjoy our lives. I don’t know about y’all, but I happen to think this is much easier said than done. I recently went to a conference in California and when I returned it took me more time than usual to rev up to the pace I normally live my life. That is a pretty significant detail since I own my own business and can essentially choose the hours I work. For a couple of days I did not do much more than sit on the couch with my dogs.
Walter Hagen died in 1969. I mention this to illustrate that nothing I have to say in this post is going to be ground breaking. Blogs are supposed to be just that, right? Cutting edge? Avant-garde? We all need shiny new tools for our mental health toolbox. It is true that innovation can shape our lives in profound ways. In the era of “self help” it can seem trite to dig up an old tool, dust it off and use it to work on the problems of today. In our rush toward growth, success, happiness and having it all, a man by the name of Carl Honoré did just that. In 2005, he put new language and perspective on our need to “stop and smell the roses”.
You can watch Honoré give his entire TED Talk (Here) and purchase his book In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed (Here). So, I am not going to spend this whole blog post quoting him. But, there are a couple of points he makes that I want to highlight. He says in his TED Talk: “We’re so marinated in the culture of speed that we almost fail to notice the toll that it takes on every aspect of our lives – on our health, our diet, our work, our relationships, environment and our community. (Honoré, 2005)” This made me think. As a society, we stigmatize people with addictions to gambling, alcohol, drugs and sex. We see them prioritize these vices over their own health and family. We watch them isolate, lose jobs, and end up with various illnesses. What is so different about hurrying?
On Friday, March 21st, 2014 the Miami Herald posted an article online entitled “Chronic Stress Linked to the Six Leading Causes of Death”. People everywhere trade healthy eating for fast food. Employees figure out ways to cut corners or face layoffs for not getting the job done. Trust me when I say that I witness first hand the effect of couples not taking the time to listen to one another. And, community gatherings seem to be a dying tradition if not a thing of the past altogether. One of the common characteristics of many addicts is their assertion that they could stop “using” whenever they want. If you have ever had an addict in your life, then you know that what follows over the course of days, months, or years is a whole slew of excuses for their continued intoxication. Likewise, when conversation turns to slowing down, it all sounds so frighteningly familiar.
“I have bills to pay.”
“This is the responsibility that comes with being an adult.”
“What am I going to do? Quit my job? I don’t think so.”
“No one else is going to pay my student loan debt for me!”
“She was too needy.”
“He is too lazy.”
“As soon as the kids are out of the house.”
And, it seems like the right time to slow down is always some time in the future: Retirement, old age, “For God’s sake I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”
Often, addicts will not stop using drugs or alcohol until the cost of staying the same seems greater than the fear and effort of change. They have wake up calls, or rock bottoms. In his TED Talk, Carl Honoré goes on to say that he did not even consider slowing down until he realized that he was excited about an option that could decrease (down to one minute) the amount of time it took to read his son a bedtime story. “I took a step back and I thought ‘Whoa! Has it really come to this? Am I really in such a hurry that I am prepared to flub off my son with a sound bite at the end of the day?’ (Honoré, 2005)” He points out that most people don’t make the choice to slow down until extreme fatigue, illness or a ruined relationship forces them to face the truth.
My intention here is not to shame everyone into quitting their jobs and boycotting Jack In The Box. I am simply suggesting we all call into question that nagging feeling when trying to relax. Does the voice in your head make you feel guilty for chilling on the couch with your dogs? Shortly after my return from California I spoke with three friends I trust to give me advice. Each one of them assured me that it was perfectly okay to enjoy life and not always work so hard. But yes, it took three different people I know and love to convince me that time on the couch with my dogs is okay. Now, I am typing these words and watching them quietly sleep. Clementine is dreaming. Her body and nose move slightly as if she is imagining walking around in soft grass sniffing for bunnies. Bill’s little paws are touching my leg. He has a tendency to wedge himself between his sister and me. They remind me to stop and just be.