Slow down and really live

3 February 2011
I grew up in a much slower time.  A time when bread was delivered by horse and cart and a ginger beer merchant sold his product, from a cart, in stone bottles.  Believe it or not, that was the start of the commercialisation of food.  Previously mothers and grandmas had made bread and ginger beer at home.  A few years later we started taking our saucepan to the local Chinese shop, very infrequently I must add, for a treat of takeaway Chinese food - well before any thoughts of plastic or polystyrene containers.  These were slow times with lazy Sunday roast lunches, talking to the neighbours over the back fence and train travel when you'd take a Themos flask of tea and sandwiches to eat en route.   It was a time when you'd often hear: "we'll do it tomorrow.", "it has to cook for three hours.", "let it sit and ferment for a few days.".  Nothing was rushed


I sped up a lot while I was in my twenties, thirties and forties, and I doubt I gained much from it.  I've slowed down again, enjoying life a lot more, and now I'm wondering why we think we should rush through life.  When I was a young mum, I worked full time, studied for a degree, was on the P&C and other committees, had to drive three hours each way to reach the shops, spent time with friends and generally had a good time.  But I never considered myself busy and I always took time to sit with a cup of tea and talk to friends.  If anyone asked me to do something I could usually fit it in and I don't remember ever feeling stressed by the work I had to do.  Now I hear so many people say they're busy and I wonder if it really is busyness or are they rushed and think that is being busy.

Let me say here I mean no disrespect to anyone and I'm not undervaluing the work anyone does, either in the home as SAHMs and WAHMs or in the paid workforce.  This "I'm so busy" thing is a real mystery to me, but you see and hear it all the time in the media too - "everyone is busy".  I don't see any evidence that the workload of parents now is more than it used to be, and family life seems to be pretty similar to how we experienced it all those years ago. I wonder if it's the stresses of keeping a job, worrying about the mortgage or how to pay the rent, rushing to get things done and not taking time out when it's needed.  Does that add up to people being overwhelmed and feeling as if they don't have a spare minute?


Whatever it is, if you feel you are busy or rushed all the time, I encourage you to slow down, and take more time to do your work.  It may surprise you that you get more done and feel better for it.  When I closed down my business to return to my home, initially I rushed through my housework to make sure I got it all done.  I never did, so I felt anxious and inadequate.  Then I had one of my Eureka! moments, realised that housework never ends, I slowed down, took whatever time it took, concentrated on my work and came out better for it.  And I got more work done.  Rushing doesn't facilitate work, it blurs it, making you feel you're constantly behind and you have to hurry. Remember that fable The Hare and the Tortoise?  The tortoise came first.  

This minute is all you have.  Yesterday has gone, tomorrow hasn't happened, you only have now.  If you constantly rush through what you're doing, thinking of what you'll do next, you don't get to truly experience your minutes.  Slow down, think about what you're doing, experience it fully, and get something out of it.  Every thing you do is part of your life.  Make your minutes memorable.  Thoreau wrote: "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience..."  I live by that quote.  When I first read it many years ago it helped change my life.  The way he expresses it might sound a bit over the top now, but what he's saying is we need live deep, think about and really experience everything we do, whether it's good or bad, enjoyable or mundane, so that when we come to die we don't realise, too late, we haven't really lived.

There is a lot to be said for slow and deliberate living.  Let's reclaim our slow lives so we are able to see and genuinely experience what we do and who we spend our time with.  Try slowing down and being in the moment.  If you feel you are always giving and have no energy left to enjoy your home and your life, give yourself the gift of time out.  If you feel you have to rush through your work and that you're always busy, rushing will not help you, slowness will.  When you're more relaxed you'll feel more capable, you'll be able to do what you have to do and you won't get to the end of the day exhausted and wondering what you did all day.  If you've made a commitment to yourself to live a more simple life and you know that will be better for your family, include yourself in on the gift, by slowing down and seeing your work as productive and creative and not just chores to be rushed.