Slow and steady: realising there is no race

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/3a9/1665537/files/2014/12/img_0513.jpgI’ve always been a fast walker. I think it began when I was very small, and had to walk-run-walk to keep pace with adults. And it continued that way, always trying to keep up with someone or something, present or not. 

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me or anyone who’s read this blog for any length of time that I love to walk. I’ve never owned a car, and for one reason or another, I’ve never quite settled into riding a bike. My feet and legs have carried me all over the place. I walk a lot. And, until recently, everywhere I went, I walked quickly. 

Sometimes I needed to move quickly; sometimes not. Walking quickly was my habit, and I was, I guess, quietly proud of how quickly I could make my way between places on my own two feet. 

This year, for one reason or another, I’ve finally stopped hurrying everywhere. Bit by bit. A cumulative slowing. 

I’ve slowed enough to notice how I’m walking, and to begin to make changes to my locomotion that mean I’ve less discomfort and pain in my hips—discomfort I didn’t realise was so bad until it wasn’t there anymore—and less compression and rigidity in my back—something I hadn’t actually noticed at all, until it too began to disappear. 

But what’s amazed me the most is the ripple this slowing of my walking has sent into the rest of my life. As my walking has slowed, so has my thinking and feeling. Just as there has been space open up for me to notice my physical body and the physical surroundings it’s moving through, there has been space open up in my mind. Space between the thoughts and the feelings and the worrying about everyday or not-so-everyday things. Without a doubt, slowing my walking has calmed me. There’s something about unhurried motion that works so well for me in this way.

Sometime earlier this year, I made a little pact with myself to stop hurrying. To stop rushing. Even if I was late. Perhaps especially when I was late. 

Because I realised at some point that for me, hurrying and anxiety were really one and the same. Hurrying was the embodiment of my anxiety, and hurrying had become so habitual for me that I was no longer sure whether the hurrying or the anxiety came first. 

It’s been an interesting exercise. Not one I’ve always succeeded in, of course. But those little ‘failures’ are probably the most interesting. Once I’d made the connection for myself between hurrying and anxiety, the times I failed to slow down became a sign that there was something it might be useful for me to look at. An anxiety that was perhaps stronger than my general desire to slow down. Noticing that I’d failed to stop hurrying became an opportunity I could take advantage of when I did manage to slow myself. 

And the funny thing was that most of the time, those ‘stronger’ anxieties were not really worth worrying about, once I gave myself the opportunity to tease them out a little. More often than not, they were like a shadow I’d vaguely seen in the corner of my vision as I hurried past—a shadow that looks like a monster until you look at it properly and realise it’s just the shadow of a tree branch moving around in the wind.

This year has been a very full year. Full of wonderful things, but also things that were challenging (those things were often one and the same). It’s not surprising that there were some anxieties lurking. (There always are, aren’t there?) But what I keep thinking about is how I’ve managed to get more done this year by moving slowly than I could ever have even hoped to have done by hurrying. 

The past year feels for me like it was an extended lesson in wandering, in noticing things along the way. Perhaps in appreciating things along the way, rather than missing them as I rushed towards some fairly arbitrary destination or goal. Stopping to smell the roses, sometimes quite literally, since many of my neighbours are skilled gardeners.

I keep thinking about how my year has been full, but not busy, and that the difference between those two things is all in how they feel. I know which one I prefer.

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Breaking

This week I’ve taken (mostly) a break. After last week’s adrenaline-fueled activity, doing very little this week has felt… well, actually, it’s felt a little like breaking. Taking a break has given me space to break a little. And I think that’s a good thing.

But I’m interested in how closely related those two things are — stopping, and falling apart a little, that is. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the word ‘break’ covers both. My body is sore and bruised and tired from all the moving of belongings. I’ve got back into a more energetic yoga practice this week, and noticed that tiredness more than anything else. My flexibility and strength don’t appear to have changed all that much after a week or so of only restorative yoga, but just how much my body’s willing or able to do has changed quite a lot. There’s just not a lot of energy there.

It’s funny, I often notice the effects of stress as fatigue in my physical body before I notice that I’m feeling it emotionally. Yesterday, my arms didn’t quite want to hold me up in poses they normally have no trouble with, and my legs were wobbly where they wouldn’t normally be. I had to stop for a while quite a lot. My body was relieved when I finally lay down on the floor to rest at the end. Then last night I finally cracked and cried about some of the logistical issues we’re having with the move. And I realised that what I was crying about was not just the particular worries from yesterday, but about all the worries that are associated with this (and any) move.

So today I’m moving slowly. I slept in this morning, then pottered around before going into town to have lunch with Mum. This afternoon I’ve done a few bits and pieces and will spend a little more time on my yoga mat. I’m just letting myself be a little broken because, well, I am a little broken, and it’s not going to help me to pretend otherwise. Instead of pretending I’m okay, when really I’m fragile, I’m going to put that effort into picking up the pieces and making sure I’m keeping them all together in a safe place.