I seemed to have been procrastinating a bit lately and have not written anything here since before Thanksgiving. The holidays came and went. I told myself I’d get back to it after the New Year, but I remained absent. I’ve been devouring books more than focusing on my writing so that has been a most enjoyable distraction, but a distraction, nonetheless. Eventually, I knew I’d come back around to it. So here I am…
I came across an empty shoebox the other day while cleaning out my closet. “Embrace Your Journey” it said on the side of the box. As I continued cleaning, I let those words soak in a bit. Appropriate catch phrase for a shoe company to use, I thought, especially for comfortable ones. But it also made me think about how many of us are trying to get through our day just so we can sit and relax in the evening. Depending on the circumstance, we sometimes seem to wish time away just because we’re doing something we’d rather not be doing. Shouldn’t we “embrace” every day and every situation no matter what? Life flies by so fast. “Be happy wherever you are, whatever you are doing”, I once heard someone say. Sound advice.
Gratification comes easy for us when we’re involved in activities we enjoy. How many times have you thought to yourself, “I am so relaxed. This is so much fun. I don’t want this day or week or vacation to end?” Other times, it’s not so easy to have that mindset. Like when you are sitting in traffic, shopping for groceries, or cleaning the house. When you consider how many hours we spend on the mundane, why not make the best of those hours, too. I admit, it’s easier said than done. But maybe if we tried to view those times, not as drudgery, but as more minutes, hours, and days we are blessed with on this planet, time would slow down for us.
We are a society that is rushed. I get it. We scramble in the morning to get the kids fed and ready for school, feed the dog, get ourselves ready for work and bolt out the door at the last minute. Our workday whizzes by and before we know it, we’re back home rushing again, only to do it all again the next day. Do we really get to enjoy each day of our lives?
Our lives are accelerated and moving at an incredibly fast pace. It seems we just cannot slow down. We are conditioned to have everything instantaneous. Often times, I’m reminded of a song that was out a few years back by country singer, Miranda Lambert (Titled: Automatic):
“Whatever happened to,
Waitin’ your turn
Doin’ it all by hand,
“Cause when everything is handed to you
It’s all only worth as much as the time you put in
It all just seems so good the way we had it
Back before everything became Automatic”
Our music is instant. Today, we make a few clicks and Bam! Music is at our fingertips. Those who don’t know any different really don’t realize what they are missing by not going out to the record store, browsing and listening to the latest music, then picking out your most wanted album or cassette. I’m dating myself, but it truly was something I looked forward to.
Our news is instant. This can be good and bad. Sometimes we know too much too quickly, which adds to the stress of our daily lives. On the other hand, it’s nice to have the quick updates on what’s going on in the world.
Cell phones have taken the place of land lines in many homes and they give us more options than just making a call. Today, we can reach out to anyone, anywhere and at any time. Years ago, we had to find a pay phone, put a dime or quarter in and sometimes all while standing out in the cold and wind just to make a quick call. Or we waited until we got home.
We waited a great deal years ago for many things. That’s all we knew. We weren’t tempted by a much quicker way. We. Just. Waited. Yes, Miranda, it was all “so good the way we had it” and because of it were much less stressed and more patient.
Slowing down is an art these days. I wish it came easy to me but I walk fast, tend to talk fast and eat fast. I feel like I’m always a couple steps ahead in my life and I find it hard to just be in the present. I even rush through things I enjoy. For instance, when I am in a bookstore, I love to casually stroll through each aisle, picking up every book that catches my eye and reading the synopsis. But I end up going through the store much quicker than I want. I hurriedly grab a couple books and head to the register, then leave the store feeling deflated because I didn’t allow myself the time to browse longer.
It happens when I read, too. As much as I love immersing myself in a good book, sometimes I tend to rush through it. I don’t allow myself to soak up the words, enjoy the characters, and take the time to revel in how the plot unfolds. And I’m not sure why. My sister in creativity and very smart best friend, Amy, sets me straight every now and then. She tells me to just “Enjoy the process”. That is something I try to keep in the back of my mind… in all aspects of my life.
So, one day a couple weeks ago, I went out for a ride in my car because part of the “process” for me is doing something to get my creativity to flow. One of the easiest ways for me to do that is while I’m driving, and it’s the freedom of the open road that does it for me. I noticed this little trick a while back. On several different occasions, I have pulled the car over to jot down ideas for a blog post or story idea. What can I say? Ideas come at the strangest times and I have to take advantage of them.
While on my drive, I came across a road I’ve never taken. At one point the road started to narrow slightly and I saw a sign up ahead, No Winter Maintenance. At that point, I had a choice. I could stop and turn around or continue on down the gravel road at a slower pace. I chose the former, only because I wasn’t quite sure where I would end up if I kept driving and didn’t know the condition of the road ahead.
Sometimes, we need signs, whether literal or figurative, to remind us that we have a choice. Since we are so conditioned to our speedy lives, we don’t consider taking the slow road. We think waiting is not an option because we want things now. But being the “Tortoise” instead of the “Hare” has its advantages. It allows us to be more present instead of thinking of what comes next. Our stress levels decrease giving us more energy and we learn to be more patient.
How do we obtain this “Tortoise” mindset? Well, here’s just a few ways:
Instead of multi-tasking, do one thing at a time. This one is a hard habit to break because we are so conditioned to it. I have been working in an office environment for 28 years, and I am guilty of bringing extra stress on myself by doing 5 things at one time when I know I can cut back. I’m even conditioned to do this at home. Many times, I will start cleaning, then I spot a bill on the desk that needs to be paid. While I’m paying the bill online, I think of something I want to buy and I start searching for that. At the same time, I forgot I started getting laundry together and making my coffee an hour prior. That is no joke. Happens all the time.
How about disconnecting for a bit. Take a break from your cell phone, social media and the TV. Take a walk, read a book, play games with your family, go to a concert or an amusement park and enjoy life without the distractions. Sometimes, I wish I would accidentally leave my phone at home when I go out, just to see how it feels.
Say NO to things. It’s not always easy but sometimes it’s necessary. Saying “Thank you for considering me, but I will have to pass” is a very polite way of doing this. You don’t always have to explain yourself, just be courteous. Freeing your time to take it easy is liberating and vital to keeping your stress under wraps.
So, learn to take heed when signs come across your path. Whether it’s along the roadway (The road ahead of us may not be well maintained but we usually have a choice.), or on a shoebox (The journey is more important than the destination), or you hear words of wisdom from a friend (savor each step). Because maybe if we just put on our comfortable shoes and embrace our journey, we can take the slower road, and enjoy the process of living…. One minute, one hour, one day at a time.