A Case for Slower Living

Last week I learned that if I have a packed schedule and zero downtime for five straight days, I will have a meltdown by Thursday morning.

I find this interesting because a week of back-to-back demands hasn’t always bothered me this much. Now that the general pace of my life is significantly slower, I wonder how I ever lived in a whirlwind of constant activity.  Always running. Never resting.

Sometimes I remind myself of my brother. Our lifestyles look completely different, but our schedules have one thing in common. Neither of us knows when to quit. We don’t rest until every bit of the work is done.

Both of us have sacrificed our sleep, our relationships, and our health on the altar of productivity.

Two weeks ago, he and his wife departed on a trip around the world. With nothing but a couple of backpacks, they’re letting life lead them where it will for the next five months. In October, they’ll end up in New Zealand (Moira’s home country), where they plan to live and work for a few years before deciding what’s next.

The night before they left, my brother told me how the last week of non-stop work had him wrecked. Said he’s not sure how he lived this way for so many years.

I never knew either. That boy worked harder than anyone I’d encountered. Determined to make something of himself, he paid his own way through graduate school, finished with two Master’s degrees, and landed a big-deal job as an investment banker for a top company.

The combination of his off-the-charts intelligence and workaholic tendencies gave him a clear path to the top of the corporate ladder.

It didn’t take long for him to call me up and tell me that no part of the climb is as glamorous as it looks.

Everyone talks about the glory of big success. No one talks about the cost to your health, your relationships, and the fabric of your soul.

Five years in, my brother decided he’d rather write his own definition of success.

He quit his job with two months to prepare for his move overseas. During that time, he learned what it’s like to sleep a full eight hours every night, to eat real food on a regular schedule, and to experience the soul-reviving wonders of down-time.

A week before their departure date, he went back to his old ways while making final preparations.

“I’m not sure how I ever lived like this,” he told me around midnight.

“I know it,” I said.

I never knew how either of us ran the way we did. And for what? For our lives to appear successful while everything under the surface is failing? 

Although I never experienced success the same way he did, I sure thought I wanted it. Determined to stand at the top of the blogging world, I spent countless hours reading and writing. While my brother spent late nights crunching numbers in a 44th floor office, I sat in a rocking chair with a baby in one arm an my laptop in the other.

I told everyone I did this for fun, but I had a secret list of goals, big lofty ones that might someday take me all the way to a national stage because dream big, right?

Well, my dream-big goals sucked all the fun right out of it. Every day became an assessment of where I should be by now and who’s doing it better and what am I doing wrong?

Instead of building a dream, I built a life full of frustration—frustration with myself for not being the kind of person who can juggle everything with ease; with my kids for needing things like food and attention; and with my husband for being able to have a career without making the same choices or sacrifices that I do.

My desire to be the best at everything from parenting to blogging kept me running in circles for nearly five years. Every part of my life suffered except the surface, which looked deceptively perfect.

Maybe some people truly enjoy life at that pace. I don’t. Maybe they don’t even see it as a chaotic whirlwind. But I do. When I get too many balls in the air, I find myself overwhelmed, unhappy, and cranky.

It took me a long time to embrace this side of my identity without shame.

In a culture that encourages rushed agendas, it’s hard to accept that you’re someone who thrives in stillness.

Perhaps you’re not sure if there’s a place for you in a world that would rather not sit still. Let me assure you, the world needs people like you now more than ever.

The world is begging for people who know that happiness is not about the physical pleasures of food, comfort, and shiny new things that we constantly throw at our egos. She begs for more people who know that true happiness is about spiritual contentment rooted deep in the soul, separate from our net worth and our life circumstances.

The world needs more people who don’t spend hours a day glued to their phones, stuck in a digital existence.

We need people whose top priority isn’t pushing a sales pitch or raising the bottom line.

We need people whose lives send a message that a slow, intentional existence also deserves the mark of success.

Today my brother woke up to the sun rising over Bolivia. With nothing but his wife and a backpack full of essentials, he’s happier than he ever was behind the wheel of a Porsche.

This morning I rolled out a yoga mat under that same sun and pushed myself into a downward dog. With nothing else competing for my attention, I focused only on stretching and breathing. I thought about how far I’ve come since the days when I believed I hated yoga.

Too slow, I said. I’ve got places to be.

Truthfully, I don’t know if I ever had what it takes to climb to the top the way my brother did. But I do have what it takes to walk away the way he did. To honor the deep desires of my soul the way he did. And to recognize like he did, that we all really have only one place to be.

Right here. Right now.

 

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