Musings of the Day - Slowing Down
Hear this read aloud below
“Slow” has never been my speed. I was always the one walking faster, working faster, multi-tasking and actually doing it well. I prided myself on that. I was quick of mind and body, doing more in a day than most could accomplish in a week. Slowing down seemed like the lazy way and not a way that would get me where I thought I wanted to go.
I have been told that I have two speeds: high and off. What that really means is going at warp speed and then crashing hard, only to get up and start the cycle all over again. I have also been told that this is common with those who have suffered trauma and deal with anxiety and depression. We are in a race to outrun the terror, the next anticipated attack, always running for our lives.
The problem with living this way is that over time it breaks us down, physically and emotionally. This is not a sustainable way to live, though I have given it my very best shot for a long time. It’s basically all I have known, until now. Now, is a “whole different ball of wax,” as my Mom used to say.
The reality of “now” is that I have to slow down. I need to create a life and a way of working that, in the past, would have seemed lazy to me. No more nose to the grindstone to get where I want to go, because where that got me was nowhere I ever wanted to be.
Truthfully there is nowhere to go anyway. Life is happening now, not in some imagined future of my mind’s creation. So the new painting has to express what is so, NOW.
I pushed a bit harder than I should have the past couple of days. Back in the studio beginning to make myself some gorgeous velvet pillows, I was so intent on finishing them and on adding in the other things that I thought were necessary, that I wound up crashing big time with a panic attack. My body was trying to tell me that I was off track - again.
I had a saying when I was a coach and trainer back in the day: “Your mind will always deceive you, but your body never lies.”
And here I am eating my own words, having to remember once again that just because it felt good to overwork, it wasn’t what I needed to be doing. It took me off my healing path and back into an old pattern.
Old patterns are so hard to break.
It can be terrifying, actually. Patterns of thought and behavior are created because on some level, they help us feel safer and more in control of our lives.
When I became aware of the patterns that were actually harming me rather than adding to my wellbeing, I made myself a promise to reprogram myself and live in a different way. As an old behavior surfaces, my gut instinct is now telling me that instead of keeping me safe, it’s taking me way off track and threatening my actual survival. Hence the panic attack.
My body was telling me to stop and look.
Yes, my survival was at stake, but not in the way I used to think it was. In the past I was running from an imaginary threat, something I thought might happen if I deviated from my behavior. This time it was a real threat to my actual survival telling me that if I didn’t slow down and take a look, I was going to die.
Fear of death, whether imaginary death or actual physical death, is most often the cause for my panic. Being out of control in any way meant death to me. Being less than I thought I was capable of being, not meeting my own ridiculously high standards, not getting it "right”, all were forms of death, ego death. Death of whatever ideal of myself I had constructed that I believed would keep me safe.
To break this pattern of living at warp speed and the drive to accomplish more, I need to be willing to be very uncomfortable and feel the imagined threat to my survival. I need to keep reminding myself what the real threat is and that it is not what I have always believed it to be. And I need to be willing to face all of the fears that surface as a result of altering the way I live.
Facing the truth can be a bitch sometimes, but I remember the old saying: “The truth will set you free, but first, it will piss you off.”
I know in my heart that slowing down is what I need to do and that whatever comes of that will certainly hold more freedom for me than the race to survive some imagined threat. So I am going to go outside in the unexpected warmth of an early March day, curl up with my Bubbe Pillow, and listen to the birds, accomplishing nothing other than being alive.
My invitation to you...
Experiment for one day. What would it feel like to slow your pace, just for a day? Do something you ordinarily rush through more slowly, like folding your laundry or eating a meal. Notice how you feel in your body and the possible discomfort in your mind. Be willing to take your time...just for one day. In reality, there is nowhere to get to other than exactly where you already are.