Updated: Apr 9, 2021
"SLOW YOUR ASS DOWN!" These were the words I heard many years ago, coming from my own Mother's mouth. She is a German Norwegian and, ya you betcha, I have heard her use firm language before, but this was the first time I recall her using such a harsh curse word as 'ass'. Uff-da! Her words still ring in my head to this day. I was nine years old and just learning to drive our big bad Honda 90 motorcycle. Mom was on the back teaching me while we were up in the mountains on one of our many a camping trips. As I experienced, each time you shift, you go faster, and before you know it, I had a need for speed. I didn't see the sharp switch back coming up but boy Mom sure knew it was right around the bend. That's when I heard it... "SLOW YOUR ASS DOWN!", and thank God she yelled that just in time so I could back off the throttle. We came darn close to wiping out by taking the sharp corner at Mach 1 lightening speed. Well okay, it may have only been about 15-20 mph but still, it was too fast for both the road situation and for my ability to handle it. At the time, I was insulted and angry that she was telling me what to do, but secretly, I was so thankful and learned a valuable lesson. Oh, the wisdom of a mother.
When I was 14, my track coach asked me to jump into an open spot to run the mile race. Of course I did! I had just enough time to whip off my sweats and line up where they told me to start. The gun went off and we all jumped forward to begin the race. I was used to shorter distance races like the 100 and 200 yard dash and I never had tried the mile before so this was very exciting to me. Right away, as we rounded the second turn, I was killing it! I admit I was befuddled that the other talented racers were going so slow as I passed one after another. When I pulled up next to Shelly Haney, our team's top distance runner, she calmly said "you should slow down". What? Why? Didn't she want me to win? I ignored her suggestion and stretched my legs out even more. I was about a half lap ahead after two laps, and then it happened... I lost my steam. My legs became a zillion pounds each, my lungs shrunk, my heart was pounding out of my head, and now I had that blood taste in my mouth. It felt like every eye was on me, as one by one, the girls I had once passed began to now pass me. It was then that I understood Shelly was just trying to warn me to pace myself so that I could make it the entire distance. I barely came in third, feeling like I was going to vomit throughout the last miserable lap. In retrospect, I appreciated Shelly's thoughtful guidance and learned another valuable lesson about slowing down. Oh, the wisdom of the experienced.
With the tragic Covid-19 pandemic crisis hitting us all, I am now again hearing these words of wisdom suggesting that slowing down a tad bit is in my best interest, in our world's best interest. We have been forced to retreat to our homes, refraining from the hustle and bustle of our normal everyday activities. Business has slowed down, emails and phone calls have minimized, professional and social events have cancelled or have gone online, and windshield time has greatly decreased. However, with every ying, there is yang. As such, decrease in one area leads to increase in another. During this time, I am finding some positive side effects including an increase in time for family , pets, good friends, home cooking, sleep, reading, writing, hobbies, projects, rest and relaxation, trying something new, ingenuity, creative budgeting, exploring nature, gardening, exercising, prioritizing, and learning among more. Also, hearing about global observations from this temporary shift in world motion suggests that slowing down is also having the positive effect of reduced air and noise pollution. I am not minimizing the scary economic results that this slowdown has produced, but let's think about how our lives have been changing for the better too, why we should be thankful, and how we can learn from the times.
And finally, to bring this message home, as I was currently reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster, the mention of Otium Sanctum, or "holy leisure", was made. It was explained as referring to "a sense of balance in the life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, an ability to rest and take time to enjoy beauty, and ability to pace ourselves". So when the teeter totter begins to shift back towards our normal speed, know that this is the time to consider our own healthy pace with personal practices and take control so we can go the distance according to our wishes, abilities, and priorities. I wish you all health, happiness, and Otium Sanctum.