Slow is Boring
Had you told me seven years ago that today I would be an advocate for slow living and that I would have enough opinions on the pace of modern life to fill a book, host a podcast, and speak in public about the benefits of living a slower life, my first reaction would probably have been, “What’s a podcast?”
After that, I would have scoffed. Seven years ago my life was definitely not slow. In fact, I worked diligently against the idea of slowness. To me, slow was boring and downtime was merely a wasted opportunity. A wasted opportunity to do more, buy more, covet more, compare more, and cram more in. More stuff, more toys, more clothes, more busyness, more places to go, more rungs to climb, more expectations to meet.
Somewhere along the way, I’d learned to equate the idea of more with busyness, busyness with success, and success with happiness.
I was diagnosed with severe postnatal depression not long after my second baby was born in 2010 and, as part of my treatment and recovery, I met with a psychiatrist every week for many months. Every week I would sit in her office and spend the first 15 minutes of our session pretending that everything was fine and that I didn’t really need to be there because, look at me, I am coping! I’m great! Everything’s great! Then I would spend the following 30 minutes complaining bitterly to her about just how busy I was, and how I never felt at peace, never enjoyed time with my kids, and never felt happy or content. How, in fact, aside from crippling anxiety and a terrifyingly, almost constant black rage, I didn’t actually feel a lot of anything.
She would sit and listen to me, week in and week out, as I would tell a slightly different version of the same damn story. Busy, unhappy, crying, distant, lonely, leave me alone, sad, angry, never relaxed, absence of joy, sleepless nights, iPhone, constant scrolling, endless comparisons, mindless consumption, emotionally unavailable, self-medicating, head up my own ass… Choose your own adventure.
And then, one week, as I finished recounting all the things I “had to do” in order to live a successful, meaningful, productive, and socially acceptable life, she looked at me and asked, “Have you ever considered… doing less?”
All I could hear her say at the time was that I simply wasn’t cut out for a modern existence. I was lacking in some way. Deficient. I needed to slow down because the world was moving too fast for me. Initially, I was offended. But as her question settled in my brain I began to get excited at the idea of slow. Over time, the simple suggestion nestled within her question genuinely changed the course of my life.
Slow gets a pretty bad rap in modern society and I only had to look at my own assumptions about living a slower life to see just how little we value slow. Slow meant saying no. Slow meant missing out. Slow was lazy. Boring. Average. Mediocre. Beige.
But in the seven years that have passed since I began to adopt a slower pace, my life has become immeasurably more interesting. It’s become more active. I’ve said yes to more incredible things than I ever thought possible. I’m awake and aware and living the hell out of my days. I’ve written my own eulogy and am living the life I want celebrated when I’m gone. My life has become anti-beige.
Really? Ask the nay-sayers. How can slow – plodding, ponderous, lagging, sluggish, leaden – be anything but boring?
But slow is the precise shade of lavender in an incredible sunset.
Slow is noticing the smell of wet earth after the rain has stopped.
Slow is committing to memory the sound of my kids playing and the feel of their fingers on my face.
Slow is having time for long conversations with people I love.
Slow is laying in bed with my husband and remembering how much we thought we knew 15 years ago.
Slow is having the energy to help others.
Slow is saying yes to Sunday afternoon bushwalks and siestas.
Slow is putting the phone down when someone wants to talk to me.
Slow is making time to read every single one of Stephen King’s books.
Slow is understanding that I will never be everything to everyone and that’s more than OK.
Slow is time in nature and learning how connected we all are.
Slow is feeling my feelings in their uncomfortable entirety.
Slow is saying yes to adventure.
Slow is traveling and learning and soaking in the reality of new places.
Slow is stopping to notice the clouds and the ants and the feel of the grass underfoot.
Slow is making space for the things I love. And then enjoying them.
Slow is understanding that life is fast and time is precious.
Slow is making the most of both those things.
I’m not here to instruct you on how to live a slow life. I can’t. Because your slow and my slow will look completely different. And, anyway, trying to tell a rebel how to do something is a great way of ensuring they do the opposite. But I do want to leave you with a thought. Slow isn’t just about the pace at which we live our own lives. It’s much bigger than that. Slow is about valuing quality and depth in all areas of life - connection, health, critical thought, our planet, education, parenting, relationships, and community.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Good. Cheap. Fast. At best, you can have two”?
Just what are we missing out on when we consistently choose Cheap and Fast? What are we missing out on every time Good gets left behind?
That’s where slow comes in.
More From This Issue
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The Nomadic Families of the United States by Kristin Hanes
The "So Don't Throw it Out" Project by Brette Sember