Thoughts on Life

#120422: Slowing down

Thoughts on time
by Leandra Medine Cohen
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I was feeling kind of crappy towards the end of last week, but it was a different kind of crappy from what I am used to. Or, actually, now that I think of it, the feeling was extremely familiar, but it had never felt crappy before. I think in fact I used to love this feeling — it’s that adrenaline-rich one of going so fast. So fast that you get a lot of things done in a short window of time, but also so fast that you barely remember you’re you.

Like you become the sum of your accomplishments and the establishment of your connection to self is lost.

It’s a double-edged sword because these spurts are often very productive, productive and prolifically generative. Though I guess it bears mentioning that prolific generation is different from profound generation — the slow, deep things that often present to make stuff in the still quiet of a slow moment.

It is funny to hear myself speak in this way and to understand exactly what I mean. For years I have been reading texts by thinkers and writers sympathetic to Buddhist philosophy and I have been careful to maintain my own style of discourse, to not adopt the same language present in zen thought. When I think about why I wonder if it has anything to do with a desire to convey that though I have a deep yearning to travel far inward, I also enjoy and really appreciate being in and of this world and this decade and the very present moment, a member of the material world that is here. As if both experiences can’t co-exist.

But maybe that tension is the very conflict: the difference between slow and fast. For as good as it can feel in the tactile moment to go fast, to witness the fruits of that speed as the to-do list whittles down and the kids are fed and my work is done and I even had time to go for a run — eventually, inevitably, I have to slow down.

But it always seems so hard at first.

Usually, I can sense that it’s coming: a twitch in my eye or crank in my elbow, or the first cloud of forthcoming mental exhaustion. Why’s it so hard to listen? To get off the treadmill while you’re running, when it seems like by now your legs are running themselves, and to try a new pace.

But it’s not a new pace, it’s like the first pace I ever knew. And I know I can do it because it’s much slower — it’s the effort to get myself running that’s hard and yet when it comes time to do the easier thing, it is actually not easy at all. The mental codeswitch gives me whiplash.

Enter the parade of distractions: plans I don’t actually want to make or attend, an endless scroll through an array of headlines I don’t care to read, products I don’t care to look at, social media accounts that always do deliver on the promise of keeping me out of myself.

And you know what the worst part is? I think this — the self-inflicted refusal to slow down — is precisely what makes being a parent seem like it’s so much harder than it should be.

In the moments of slow that I’m able to meet, I find it so easy to be with my kids. To catch on to their pace, which might seem on the surface like it’s crazy and fast but is gentle and slow. So much so, I could cry.

And then there’s also the thing about going so fast and what happens with that, how keyed into time you become. Or maybe it’s just me that this happens with, but often I’ll find when I’m beating the clock that I’m much more aware of the clock, like I almost come to worship it or something, because I’m not feeling the letdown of losing. I’m going so fast like it wants!

Only now am I starting to see that this awareness sucks when I’m with my kids because the nagging clock in the background could make me —has made me snap in the past when their pace was “too slow,” when the pace that my kids benevolently and innocently and naturally move at just does not match.

So then I wonder — if for sure I am going to let one of them down: the clock or my kids, who do I choose to let down? In an ideal world, I never pick my kids. But in reality, that’s often what’s happened.

For years I have found that when I can access a moment of quiet, there’s a voice that tells me it’s time to slow down. I think I’ve ignored it because I have feared that I’ll never go fast again if I don’t, that one is good and the other is bad and they can’t co-move through one person. Yet when that same voice tells me it’s time to pick up the speed, its rare that I so much as wince. In the end, I think it comes down to how much I am willing to trust myself from present moment to moment.

Shortly after I finished writing this earlier today, I pulled a tarot card (from a slightly different kind of deck) — guess which one it was?

Signing off yours,