I've been rushing... well since before Thanksgiving, but particularly since the beginning of December.
It's all self-imposed - I'm trying to get as much of the mundane Christmas stuff done before daughter and older son are both home (we go to pick daughter up this weekend). This is older son's senior year of college so this is the last December we'll all have these weeks together.
If you've been reading my blog, you can imagine what kind of pressure I put on myself as a result of that last sentence!
I got almost all of the things done that I wanted, and I'm trying to start slowing down now (and even blog again!) so that I'm not in such a frazzled state by the time we go to get daughter.
Lots of people like to run around a lot and fill up all their time. I'm not one of them. It's not natural for me, and strange things start happening.
Last week, I realized that I was running so fast that I couldn't even listen to a whole, three minute song on the radio anymore while driving around. I would switch to another station and another song halfway through - even if I liked the song I was switching from. I was done with it; time to move on.
Since being able to focus and concentrate are some of my bigger strengths, this is very strange.
Younger son noticed how much I was rushing. One afternoon, a week ago, he told me to go sit in a chair in the living room and just breathe slowly while he finished making my lunch.
I've got a pretty cool 13 year old.
I've been having muscle knotting problems for the last year so, even as expensive as it is, I've been getting occasional massages since June. Yesterday, I went for the first one in a month.
I talked very rapidly, and told the massage therapist about my radio story. She starts the massage by telling me to breathe deeply and slowly. Usually we don't talk during the massage, but she had to tell me twice to come back from wherever I was, breathe deeply, and focus on the massage. I realized that I was back to organizing in my mind and that I was breathing shallowly.
When I did focus on the massage and got little swirly pictures in my mind, angular grey boxes would come and bump the swirls or cover them up. Later, younger son said that those were the boxes that I was shutting myself in - and that there were rainbows and beautiful green fields outside of it that I couldn't see.
Have I mentioned what a cool 13 year old I have?!
Usually, if I can't slow down during a massage, I'll picture walking through some of my favorite places in the mountains and focusing on the scenery.
First, I tried Broyhill Lake in Blowing Rock. I started walking around in my head, and then I started thinking about whether or not we had what we needed for dinner at the house we're (fictionally) renting and if we needed to stop at the Food Lion in Blowing Rock.
Then I tried hiking up Mount Pisgah in my mind, like we did with daughter at the end of her fall break last October. Immediately, I went on to, "What time is it? Are we going to get her back to Asheville in time?"
I was even trying to organize in my mental pictures!
That was rather extreme.
I finally did slow down by the end of the massage. I love the first few hours after one because I so slowed down that I notice lots of things - the feel of the curves in the road as I drive, the feeling of plateau-i-ness on the part of the drive home after the curves and the uphill, the bass as it swells in the Mary Chapin Carpenter song, the interactions of the instruments, the way the words gradually unfold, the beauty of the leaves on the grass, the dried leaves as they hang from the trees, etc. I always bring some of the most beautiful music along to listen to on the way back from a massage because I hear so much of it then.
Particularly during this hectic time of year - end of the semester in schools, end of the year in businesses, time to prepare for the holidays, etc. - slowing down seems not only lazy, but wrong. Immoral. I know that my blood pressure tracks with my emotions and my stress. Because of my allergic reactions, I can't take what seems to me the easy out of taking a pill to reduce my blood pressure.
During the massage, I realized how much I needed to slow down in general (not just this time of year), not only for me emotionally, but also for my physical health. I started a blog post (which I had to put out of my head). The post opened with: "What do you do when what is healthy for you is wrong?"
In our culture, not only at work, but in daily life, and also at churches, rushing is what everyone does. Not rushing, not filling up every moment, feels wrong. Rushing is virtuous, not rushing is slack or lazy - at least that's the way it seems.
The hypertension specialist, a few weeks ago, referred me to the Duke Center for Integrative Medicine to, along with other non-drug approaches, learn relaxation training.
I realized yesterday that I had this picture in my head of doing 15 minutes of relaxation practice a day and then go back to virtuously rushing around. That probably isn't the way it's going to work.
Is this really time to learn how to live life at the pace I need - for me? When doing things with my kids, particularly homeschooling, I can slow down. I can spend hours wandering around a stream with them or talking about books, etc. I can resist the typical school way of doing things: "Here's 45 minutes for this subject, then we move on to the next subject" for my kids,* but I can't resist that for myself.
When I was at the UNC School of the Arts, I practiced flute for hours at a time.
That's part of why Christmas shopping drives me nuts. I love spending lots of time in a place - learning it backwards and forwards and all the details. Running into a store, checking for a few things, and running to the next one is the opposite of what I do. I had a voice lesson yesterday. Focusing on singing and nothing else for that time felt absolutely wonderful.
Here's the Mary Chapin Carpenter song, On and On It Goes. It just happens to be the one that struck me on the folk CD I was listening to after the massage:
However, the words go along with what I've been thinking about:
River starts with a drop of rain
Somewhere in this world
Light years shape this arc of sky
And sand a precious pearl
And you will light a stranger's life
By letting yours unfurl
And on and on it goes
Sparks upon the wind
Like a July 4th, a crown of stars
And a good time grin
On and on it flies, on a new bird's wing
In a beating heart, the moon that rose
And the gift of spring
You can say that you'll never matter
Lose or win
The world won't care and it's hard to bear
Such a lonely wind
But you can change a stranger's life
By letting yours begin...
Is there a place for those who don't rush? Can you be a moral person without rushing? Can you be a moral woman without rushing? Can you be a Christian if you slow down?
Do those who don't rush have anything to offer anyone?
Hmmm... This post was supposed to just be funny stories about pictures in my mind during a massage, but it kind of ran away with me.
* This drove older son nuts when he was 3 and 4. The two of us could spend all afternoon on a project at home, but at preschool, he had to keep switching from thing to thing. To him, it looked like the teacher wasn't able to focus. He would have been a fish out of water at a traditional school. At the Design School, he's one of many students who will work on a project all night (the studios never sleep). If you want to see what that kind of focus can produce, here's his professional website.