On the slow life

Life is asking me to slow down which is a little odd as I feel as though I’ve been moving through peanut butter for the past year or so. Everything seems to take so much damn effort. Still the signs are clear and present.

The first one isn’t the heat, it’s the humidity, the air muddy and thick. I’d say that first step out the door is like hitting wall but it’s not: the heavy air seeps in around the doorway so it’s more like a zero entry sauna, if such a thing existed. Not slowing down is not an option. I haven’t gone for a run or exercised since Friday, the last time the dew point was high enough that a slight breeze was even a possibility.

The second sign is my left foot. I don’t know how or when, but I injured it at some point. I’m guessing it has to do with simply pushing myself to run more and longer than I really should be. So I’m not running at all right now. I’m getting my exercise other places. Slow down, my foot tells me. Don’t forgot about us extremities.

The third sign is sleep. Or lack thereof. I know I need it, so I’m trying to take it everywhere I can get it.

The fourth sign is my kids, who, when I’m really doing a good job of paying attention, remind me always and in myriad ways to slow down. Today, two kids were off in a bedroom “playing” (which is to say, throwing stuffed animals hither and thither) and the third, the oldest, was lying down on the couch. “I’m SO tired,” she moaned.

“You can rest,” I told her but then I took out my notebook and sat down at the dining room table, pen at the ready.

“What are you doing?” She asked.

“Writing,” I told her. One of the things I really like about kids (or at least my kids) is that they rarely ask for more specifics in situations like this. Perhaps she could tell that I was absorbed in the task enough that I wasn’t likely to expound.

She went and got her notebook that contains one of her recent writing projects. And we sat writing, jotting down notes in companionable silence. It was only a few minutes and I don’t think either of us wrote more than a few notes here and there (or, at least, I didn’t do more than that). But we both got a little bit done. My 8 year old daughter came in whilst we were writing. She saw what we were doing, didn’t ask any questions, and immediately turned and left the room. She returned a few minutes later with her science project. She paged through a book and took a look at her project. I glimpsed the page she was open to and saw the word “nanotechnology” across the top. The three of us worked on our individual projects for a few minutes and then put them all away.

I’ve been trying to carve out a little time here and there to work on a piece of fiction I’ve been writing, but this was far and away one of my most productive few minutes of working on it. In large part, this was because my sitting down and putting pen to paper had inspired my daughters to work on their own projects. I don’t often work on my own “fun” projects around my kids. In part because it feels a bit self indulgent. But the truth is, of course, that they see and are watching everything we do. By pulling out my writing this morning, even just for a few minutes, I conveyed two things to them. Your work (of learning, of creating, of doing whatever it is that inspires you) is important. And two, even just a line edit here or there or a reread or just opening the pages is moving you closer to the goal, whatever that may be.

I know that part of why my foot is injured is that I pushed myself too fast. I was getting tired of the too slow incremental gains on the running program I was following and so I jumped ahead. My body wasn’t ready for it. Writing and even other creative tasks can be like this too. The best and most lasting type of change and growth and learning is incremental. There’s something deeply satisfying in that.

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