Today I sent out my quarterly newsletter – if you’ve not signed up yet, put your email in the box on the right hand side (under the followers).
It always has a competition to win free books, and you can enter too – just send an email titled ‘Thaw’ to email@example.com by the end of November and you could win one of three signed hardbacks. It doesn’t matter where you live.
It also had a link to this article on slowing down: Cornflowers and Roadkill. If you can find a quiet five minutes later you might want to read it. Happy weekends x
When I was young, I would tear through books like a whirlwind. Stories of new girls starting at boarding school, children packing picnics and setting out on adventures – I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.
My dad would tease me about ‘skipping pages’, and often threatened to test me on the chapters I’d already read. At the time I felt offended, as if he was accusing me of cheating. It’s only now that I’m beginning to understand what he was trying to say.
It’s impossible to properly taste a book if it’s gulped down. We miss the sentence about the field of shocking-red poppies, and we don’t stop to consider how lonely the central character might be feeling. We can’t properly digest the meanings of words if we don’t chew on them for a while. And life is the same.
I know that I prefer living my life at a slower pace. I prefer the mornings when I give myself ten minutes to sit outside with a cup of earl grey, to listen to the sparrows chattering in the hedge and notice the silvery light on the plum trees. I prefer days when I get my writing done as well as the trip to the bank and the thirty other things, without feeling ‘used up’ by lunch time.
I’m not good at taking my own advice. Maybe none of us are, which is why we have to give ourselves the advice in the first place. I’m constantly catching myself rushing from one task to the next, or making endless mental lists of ‘things to be done’. Last week I was in such a hurry to get to work that I backed my car into a skip. I manage to clear space in my diary, and then find myself saying yes to new commitments, filling it right back up. I let my body become hurried – a tense feeling in my stomach, a pressure on my forehead.
There are many reasons for this, but I still think the main one for me is that when I slow down I’m more likely to see the uncomfortable stuff as well as the good stuff. If I really think about meeting my friend for coffee, maybe I’ll notice a tight feeling in my throat, and realise I’m still angry at her for forgetting my birthday. If I spend a quiet morning at home, maybe sadness will rise up like floodwater. If I slow the car down, I’ll see the red mess of road kill as well as the luminous blue cornflowers. We’d all prefer to look at the cornflowers.
I think I am getting better over time. I notice the tense feeling in my stomach a little earlier, and I begin more days by waking up earlier and taking things easy rather than cramming down some toast and leaping into the car. And certain habits and ways of thinking do help. My small stone blog guarantees that I stop for long enough to notice at least one detail every day. Meditating helps me to practice letting go of the future.
We can all work at slowing down our lives. There are endless opportunities to practice – when reading, when working on an urgent report, when standing in the queue at the supermarket. Sometimes all it takes is a small mental shift – ‘it’s ok if this takes a bit longer’, or ‘I’m already going as fast as I can’.
If we can start to be curious about when we speed up, and what happens when we press the pause button, change will come. And, of course, real lasting change is slow too!
(My book on slowing down is A Year of Questions)