Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Life in the Slow Lane

Something I've learned about myself in recent years is that I'm slow. And I like it that way.

Now, I realize slow has many connotations, so let me try to add some lucidity to my statement. I don't mean slow as in stupid, although my 17 year old might tend to disagree. I don't mean slow as in I move slowly. Sometimes I move very quickly.

What I really mean is that I do not embrace change quickly. Not quite right. I embrace change almost instantaneously, but making the actual changes, that takes me a long time. There, that's what I mean.

Let's take weight loss, for example. I have been following the Weight Watchers plan for a little over 5 months now. I have lost almost 25 pounds. I have a LOT more to lose, believe me. I have several acquaintances who have taken different routes to weight loss and have achieved their goals much more quickly. But I'm okay with the slow way. Here's why: I will not give up cheese, bread, pie, chocolate chip cookies, or french fries. I haven't and I don't plan to in the future. Weight Watchers is a program that helps me to enjoy all my favorite things while making healthier choices and giving me wiggle room to enjoy celebrating Mother's Day with some strawberry shortcake or eating a big juicy burger at my favorite restaurant. Granted, I'm not gonna lose my 100+ pounds by my birthday, but that's okay with me. I am taking the long view. I plan on living around 40-50 more years. I don't want to spend those years eating tiny helpings of carrots or baked potatoes with nothing on them. I want to be able to enjoy my food while being healthy. So I'm going slowly. I'm learning many things about myself, and I'm happy to be making progress.

Here's another example. I have had my fair share of medical headaches to deal with. Low thyroid function. High cholesterol. Depression. Migraines. Etc. My kids laugh at me and the other similarly aged friends of mine as we discuss our various aches and pains, our need for bifocals, and the best chiropractors. I'm a little like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I've always known that I have the power within myself to deal with my medical issues. I know I am a very, very strong person who has enough will power to shatter a skyscraper if I want to. But I have spent the last twenty years basically using that strength to raise my kids. As many of you know, this is a hard job, parenting. Hard doesn't even touch it. It's enormously taxing. It's outrageously exhausting. You get the picture. So even though I had it in me, 'it' got zapped out of me. This infuriates and frustrates my health care professionals who have preached and preached about the importance of taking care of yourself, meeting your own needs, blah, blah, blah.

I felt all kinds of guilt for a while. Then I realized, I'm slow. I'll make the changes I know I need to make when I'm darn good and ready, thank you very much. In the meantime, better living through chemistry is nothing to balk at. It has kept me going for the last ten years, and I'm have no shame in doing what I needed to do to make it through. Now I find myself motivated to get moving on these changes. Weight loss is one thing. I'm also working on weaning off my meds. It's exciting, really. And it feels empowering. And I'm doing it slowly. I'm in no rush. I'll get there eventually.

Writing is another thing I'm slow about. I don't write 1,000 words a day most days. I do write often, and I love it, and if I had absolutely nothing else going on, I probably would write more, but I probably would still be going slowly. It's just how I am. I have to let my stories percolate in my head for a long time. Then I write scene by scene, thinking a lot as I go. I get there eventually. But I'm slow.

There's been a lot of press in the last few years about the powerful benefits of living slow. Slow food. Slow lifestyle. Slow everything. I'm on it. I've never been a big fan of instant meals. I do utilize them when I need to, but I would much rather eat real food that took me time to make. Slow. I have never fit into the corporate fast track, preferring instead the slow life of daily diaper changing, writing, weeding, and growing. Even now, as I contemplate going into the full-time workforce, I don't want something fast-paced and go-go-go. I want to teach literature and writing, slowly. I want to delve deeply into a subject. We'll see how well that works out. I know from experience that today's classrooms are all about fast and furious.

Slow is I. (That is, by the way, grammatically correct. Even I typed 'me' originally, though.) I am slow. It's a content way to live. If you can ignore the fast movers around you. Thank goodness the world has Type A folks to get stuff done, NOW. But I think it also needs those like myself, who will take a thoughtful, long view of things. It's about balance.