That would be a feat. To spend a day walking down the street, talking to lampposts, not worrying that somebody might call in the men with the white coats.
No, I am not going crazy. At least I don’t think so. I simply want to slow things down. The hours, the days, the years.
It is not about feeling old or about feeling like I want to do things differently. I’m perfectly at peace with who I am right now and with who I’ve been in the past; I’m even okay about all those times when I wasn’t kind or didn’t make the smart choice or couldn’t get my happy going. A friend used to say, especially when I was feeling low, that everything you do makes you who you are. Living through whatever crisis of the moment and coming out on the other side makes you stronger. And sometimes choosing to apologize for bad behavior helps too.
Recently, somebody posted a blog with close-up photographs of the buds on the trees in her yard. I think my blood pressure dropped several points as I looked at her photos. Examining those pictures led me to think about Georgia O’Keeffe’s flower paintings, which got a whole lot of hype back in the 1980s, around the time my mind was beginning to open up to the wealth of art and beauty in our world. Georgia O’Keeffe said something in regard to those paintings that perfectly describes what I am looking for when I say that I want to slow things down,
“Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time—like to have a friend takes time.”
When I say I want to slow things down I mean that I want to take the time to take notice, to recognize the beauty that surrounds me, which I lose sight of when I am stressed out or overbooked or feeling unloved.
It isn’t the days when I’ve successfully completed my to-do list or finally worked out the problems with my insurance company that make me feel that my life is worth living. They are just the stuff I got done because I had to do it. All of the most poignant moments in my life have occurred when I have slowed down and taken the time to notice what is right in front of me.
Several years ago, when my daughters were young, we were traveling and a flight delay left us with five or six unanticipated hours with nowhere to go. At first, I pulled out every activity book I’d brought for the trip, as well as the Sleeping Queens playing cards set, If I Gave a Mouse a Cookie and Goodnight Moon books, and paper and crayons. But the girls were very young (5 and 7 maybe) and they quickly got bored with all of the entertainment. So I let them wander (within a contained space without taking my eyes off of them, mind you). And a funny thing happened. They started to see things and point them out to me: the texture of the wallpaper, the shine of the pleather seats, the man with his head slumped over, sleeping while sitting up. It was I Spy without the rules. And I got to see in a way that I hardly ever had time to notice the inner workings of my children’s minds. They turned all of their exploration into little performances for me and time passed easily, rapidly, meaningfully.
Saturday night, my husband and I ate dinner with two other couples whom we’ve known for years, people we count among our closest friends. We are all busy with work and kids and extended family and the minutiae of our lives, so we don’t get together as often as we would like; one couple lives only five houses away from us but we can go weeks, dare I say months, without seeing them. We prepared the food, we ate, we drank, we talked. Our conversations ranged from catching up on our kids’ activities of the moment to digging deep into childhood traumas. We arrived at our friends’ house at 6:30; the first time somebody looked at their watch, it was past midnight. For six hours, we did nothing that had to be done. We cut into what normally would have been bedtime (yes, we’re old) and we ate whatever we wanted without feeling bad about it (at least I didn’t).
To have friends takes time. To know your children takes time. To see the beauty in the world takes time. And, to create anything of value takes time.
Now if only I could give myself a break, take the time, and not feel guilty about all that I am not doing when I do slow down then I could offer up some advice without being a hypocrite. Oh to hell with it. Here’s my advice: Take the time to stop and smell the roses. You won’t be sorry and if you let it, it will give you the lift you’ve probably been needing.
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