I don’t really have a natural mode to go slow. My two speeds tend to be go and stop. The guy who has been my boss and mentor for much of two decades told me once that he didn’t have any complaints about my creativity and productivity–only that he wished I’d slow down and give the things I created a chance to work before tossing them out!
Most of the time I don’t mind my two speeds because my “go” really is a beautiful mixture of passion for meaningful living and ADD. Truly. I am wired to pursue more good things than one might think could be crammed into a 24-hour time slot. And at the same time, ADD kicks in and supplies the energy to juggle my attention between multiple competing endeavors without breaking a sweat!
But even passionate ADD people tire out. That’s when my “stop” mode kicks in. My typical life drill is go, go, go until I stop. I do love to cram my days with all that I can possibly fit in, while grinning triumphantly at doubters who ask, “And when are you going to get that done?” Once I have started multiple fires to tend, and proudly silenced the naysayers, I do hit a point of just needing to stop and do nothing of any material or spiritual value for a short interval. Then, I get up and go again.
I embrace my wiring, even encouraging ADD kids who’ve been categorized with a life sentence of attention deficit that they have the unique ability to energetically tackle more challenges than most people around them. But, I am once again at a nuanced life experience where I cannot ignore “slow” even though it is very difficult for me. Today is day five after a surgery that restricts my activity for several weeks: no driving for at least a week, no lifting ten pounds or more for six weeks, rest often, walk–don’t run for a while, and basically take it easy on my body until the doctor releases me. But I can only sit so long and at some point too many naps give me a headache. So what am I to do when I can’t go, go, go, but also am weary of all the stopping?
Go slow. I know it may sound obvious to you, but I don’t naturally think that way. And frankly, “slow” is much easier for me to accomplish when it’s not optional. There are gifts to this speed that cannot be experienced at a feverish pace. I have encountered them in each of the seasons where I had no choice but to go slow. When I moved to Tulsa between my junior and senior year of high school, I knew no one and had no venue where I could really get to know other high school students for a few months. My memories of that time were of reading several books, exploring my new city, spending some good time with my family, receiving and responding to handwritten letters from cherished friends in Colorado and Wyoming, and getting a great tan at the neighborhood pool! It was a summer of deep breaths before a whirlwind senior year at a completely new school of almost 2000 eleventh and twelfth graders.
The last time it happened was more dramatic. I actually had a bi-lateral pulmonary embolism (blood clot in each lung) about four years ago and that crisis made me go slow and heal so that my body could actually breathe again. The details are in another blog entry, but the point here is that in the midst of slowing down for several months so my body could heal, I discovered some much needed spiritual and emotional healing.
If my own personal history tends to repeat itself, there must be some gifts I can glean from this most recent activity quarantine. Yes, my body needs to heal, but this time it’s not a health crisis or drastic life change. There is no trauma or drama to unpack. The gifts this time it seems are a few activities that require more deliberate thought and reflection than my typical pace can sustain. I am reminded that I skim too often and don’t do enough deep reading. I am sitting on my couch at 5:30 a.m. writing my first blog since springtime because I am fully rested from all the naps! I love to write, but I cannot do it well in a flurry of activity. Instead of just quickly praying and considering a scripture passage in a morning rush before work, I have experienced sacred space where quiet lasts longer than a few minutes.
The reality is I won’t be able to maintain this gift of slow in my regular routine much past the next week. Things will speed up. I will say yes to more than a sane person should agree to. But my goal now is to find days and times to enjoy the gift of slow more by choice. In between the go, go gos and the abrupt stops, I’d like to slow my time down at the intersection of these graces often enough to better contemplate my “humanness” and experience God’s goodness.