Last week, when I shared my November plan to slow down, your responses surprised me. Many of you said something like this:
I would love to slow down, and I know I need to, but the idea of doing it scares me half to death.
Reading such comments, I was torn between sadness that so many of us share this fear, and relief that I’m not alone.
Slowing down scares me, too.
When I’ve tried to do it in the past, I’ve had to work through some pretty intense anxiety before my mind and body could relax into a slower pace. Those memories don’t help as I face my #NovemberSlowdown kickoff on Saturday. (The fact that I even have a kickoff date for such a thing proves just how desperately I need it.)
What Am I Afraid Of?
If I spent a while pondering this, I’d probably come up with a long list. Here are first fears that come to mind:
1. It will all fall apart. Life has become a juggling act. It takes focus to keep things in the air. I’m afraid that if I relax, even for a moment, everything will come tumbling down.
How can I afford to slow down when my responsibilities require everything I have and more?
2. I’ll disappoint people. This goes hand-in-hand with #1. I’m a pleaser, and it’s hard to say no. This time of year doesn’t make it any easier with holiday parties, traditions, and expectations. People depend on me, and I don’t want to be a grinch.
Is it possible to slow down without letting down my loved ones?
3. I’ll have too much time to think. Newsflash: our family has issues. Okay, I have issues. Even though I’m naturally introspective (if anything I tend to overthink my life), there are some problems even I don’t want to deal with, and questions I don’t want to ask. Busyness is an anesthetic, and media a distraction. Remove those, and I might just have to hold my own gaze in the mirror a little longer than is comfortable. I might have time to not only pray, but listen.
Am I ready for what I might hear?
4. I won’t be able to do it. Maybe this sounds foolish, but with all my fears about slowing down, I’m also afraid of failing to do so. This week alone I’ve been reminded of several November commitments I’d forgotten to put on my calendar. They aren’t frivolous things I can just back out of, either.
Is it possible to slow down without an empty schedule? What if life keeps getting in the way, and I’m just as worn out at the end of the month as I am at the beginning?
Why I’m Not Letting Fear Stop Me
When I look at these fears, I have to remind myself that I already know how to answer them. I forget, sometimes, that I’ve been here before. I’ve been at the point of burnout and failed to slow down. I know what happens when you’ve been running on adrenaline so long, the adrenaline decides to take over.
I still have a hard time writing about those months, back when I lived every day, and especially night, in fear of the next panic attack. When I could barely summon the courage to shower, dress, and feed my kids. I lost a year, at least. I look at photos of that time, many of which I took, and have no memories of the life they portray.
By God’s grace, I won’t go there again. I’m going to slow down even though it scares me, because the alternative scares me far more.
It’s About More Than What I Don’t Want
Fear isn’t the only driving force here. Greater still is my hunger for the abundant life Jesus promised. I haven’t been living it, which means I haven’t been sharing it with my children, my neighborhood, and my community.
I long for a deep, profound sense of purpose. I crave security in who I am and where I’m headed. I want to gain perspective on the Bigger Picture, and with it invest my few minutes of earthly life in eternal pursuits.
Lofty dreams? Maybe. But I believe they’re inextricably woven into every human soul. We just can’t hear their whisper above the noise of our frantic, crowded, urgent lives. If we want to hear them, we need to slow down.
What Does It Look Like to Slow Down?
I’ve spent a lot of time considering how I’m going to slow down. I don’t have a concrete plan, aside from what I mentioned in my previous post. As I said there, I think the posture of my heart is no less significant than the manageability of my schedule. In an effort to address both, in November I’ll experiment with these boundaries:
- Dust off the alarm clock and start charging my iPhone downstairs, where I can’t access it from bed.
- Turn off all iPhone notification sounds, except for texts (which are rare).
- Aside from treadmill workouts and family movie night, no television.
- Keep the car radio off. If driving with kids, make conversation or sing together. If driving alone, pray. Or listen. Or just be quiet.
Somewhere along the way, I began to equate “rest” with “sleep.” The actual definition is: “To cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.”
Yikes. I’m out of practice. This month I’ll “work” on relearning the art of rest in these ways:
- Take advantage of the local library. I’ve always adored reading, and until a few years ago I read every night. As life got more hectic, my evenings filled with the work I didn’t finish during the day, until I found myself going weeks or even months without reading anything. As a writer, this is detrimental to my craft. As a human, it’s just plain sad. I’ve been beefing up my Goodreads list, and plan to make a dent in it this month.
- Devote evenings to restful activities. From the kids’ bedtime (between 7 and 8 p.m.) to mine (10 p.m.), I will rest. I will read, journal, pray, scrapbook, chat with my husband, do a puzzle, play with the dogs, or take a bath. If I’m too tired to do any of those things, I’ll go to bed. What I won’t do is cram more work down my own throat until I’m too worn out to keep my eyes open. (This is a tough one, because it will mean leaving some things unfinished. I’m hoping that by forcing myself to do this, I’ll be better able to identify which things are overwhelming my schedule, and find ways to prune them into manageable form.)
- Spend time in nature. I’m not an outdoorsy person, but there’s something about getting away from the noise of traffic and sirens until all you can hear is wind in the trees. As temps drop, I’ll have to work up motivation to follow through on this, but experience tells me I never regret making myself get out into God’s creation. (Plus, I’ll enjoy my books and tea that much more when I come in from the cold.)
Obviously, these ideas are fluid, and I’m sure I’ll be learning what is and isn’t practical as the month goes on. My #NovemberSlowdown is an experiment, one I hope will help me develop maintainable habits and healthier rhythms for the long haul.
It’s not about hard and fast rules, it’s about exploring an alternative approach to life in twenty-first century American culture. I hope some of you will join me, or at least hang around to see how it goes. I’m not making promises about blogging in November, but I expect I’ll be sharing snapshots of my experience on Facebook or Instagram.
Here’s to Slowvember!
[2017 Update: If you’d like some tips for planning a slowdown of your own, let me know by signing up for my monthly email at the bottom of this post. This week I’ll be sending out some slowdown hacks plus my plan for Slowvember 2017.]
Your turn! Does the idea of slowing down frighten you? How so?