Slowing down

Take a lesson from the Captiva tortoise, who lives on island time. January 2013

Take a lesson from the Captiva tortoise, who lives on island time. January 2013

“…in a day when doing something as soon as possible is the standard response to perceived problems, slowing down may be the best way to move ahead.”Mark A. Noll

Sometimes, action is urgently needed and haste is imperative.  However, I suspect that most of the urgency we feel about everyday stresses and conflicts is unnecessary, even unwise.

There was a time, not so long ago, when few people other than physicians on emergency call wore beepers.  And just a couple of decades before that, even physicians were not available at the touch of a few buttons.  Now everybody is on call, all the time, to whomever has their cell phone number.  How did life become so frantic?

In his illuminating book Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt speculates that the few minutes saved by chronic lane-changers will most likely take more time than that off the end of the hectic, rushed life.  The same could be said about many other forms of rushing around. At some point, perhaps we should stop to ask what we are gaining by putting so much pressure on ourselves.

I’m not saying that deadlines don’t matter (in fact, I’m dealing with several big ones related to school, as I take a few minutes to write this).  I’m only admitting that I almost never help myself when I try to go too quickly.  Maybe it’s because the weather has finally turned hot, or maybe it’s age or exhaustion. But more and more, I find myself simply unable to speed through life.

That’s a good thing, I think.  I like to take my time and enjoy the view. How about you?  Take a few minutes to send me a description of some everyday sight you might not notice if you were hurrying to somewhere else.  I’ll keep the tea warm for us to share.  On second thought, maybe iced would be better about now?




  1. Renee West

    Yes Julia perhaps it’s my age. But I believe to appreciate life’s gifts we must sometimes just be still. I say to myself ‘Shut it down.’ Hearing from my Higher Power is then clearer. I begin my day with motivational readings-usually the Bible, write in my journal, meditate on thankfulness, & sip my coffee in the beautiful warm sun. Thanks Julia for continuing to encourage us!

    • Renee, I’m going to have to remember that– when I’m totally panicky I will hear your voice in my head saying, SHUT IT DOWN, GIRLFRIEND! 😀 😀 😀 Then I’ll imagine I’m there with you as you write, meditate and read. I’ll be sipping tea and trying not to chatter too much. ❤ Hope to see you Sunday.

  2. Love this. You are right! Rushing never makes things get done sooner. I was running late one day and felt the pressure build up in me. It’s not a good feeling for the body. So I said to myself, time will expand or contract according to my need. And sure enough, as I relaxed, I found myself where I needed to be with time to spare. It’s a tough lesson I learned along the way. I used to rush my daughter as a child. Some mornings she would leave the house with her shoes in hand because she just didn’t move fast enough to get ready for school on time. It made me crazy. Now I’m trying to be more like her. She always gets where she needs to be when she needs to be there. I even painted a turtle plaque for her. 🙂 Found it this weekend and going to hang on the driveway wall. 🙂 It makes me smile. Thanks for the reminder. Question… School??? I’ve heard you mention this several times and not sure about the reference.

    • Marlene, I’ve been asking myself that same question…School??? As in “Have I lost my mind?” Seriously, I had applied to this PhD program in communications many months ago and was accepted before we had any idea about Jeff’s brain tumor. Just the application process took several months, so I hated to bail out on it without at least giving it a shot. Jeff really wanted me to go; I think he wants me to have a distraction now and something to keep me going later. He remembers how therapeutic school was for me while we lived in Hawaii. But the PhD level is another planet altogether. Almost everyone in my cohort already teaches at the university level, and I’m like, uh, hmmm, let’s see: well, I know how to read a picture book upside down, and what to say to whichever end of the political spectrum is trying to censor books this week. Not the skill set in demand here. I feel as if I’ve been tossed into the ocean where I’ll sink or swim, but thankfully, I know it’s not life or death. The past three years have given me a certain perspective, that’s for sure! Giant teleological hugs!

      • Well, that’s wonderful to hear. We will be calling you Dr.Julia soon enough. Your Jeff is right to encourage you. A good distraction indeed but no one can take the education away from you. Nothing you learn is ever wasted. If you don’t give it all you have, you may have missed out on the opportunity of a lifetime. I personally see you as a very strong swimmer. Do it for yourself and you’ll never regret it.

        • Thank you, Marlene. I really need and appreciate the encouragement!

  3. Carolyn

    Hello Julia, I plan to go slow today. Right now tea on the porch would be nice, but later bring on the ice, suppose to hit 91. Since we have been home from our vacation, we have been on the run with apts. time to rest. I will be on the porch enjoying my hydrangeas. They have big blue mop heads on they, beautiful. We are growing them from a cutting I got off of my grandmothers years ago. I will try to get a picture for you. Better go before it gets to hot for the porch. Hope things are going smooth for you all. Love and hugs,.

    • Carolyn, bring on the iced tea! It was SO HOT today. It’s such a switch from the cool weather we had 2 weeks ago, my plants are in shock. Hey, do your hydrangeas get any sun, and if so, is it morning or afternoon sun? I just put another one in a sunnier spot that our others that quit blooming; we thought they must not be getting enough sun. But now the one in the sunny spot is looking like it’s too hot. I’m glad yours are blooming! Our neighbors’ hydrangeas are lovely too. Love and hugs to you too – Happy Sunday tomorrow!

      • Carolyn

        Mine do better when they get morning sun only. When it is so hot they all look bad. I have some that get morning and afternoon sun, do not look good by late afternoon. Good luck with yours.

        • Thanks, Carolyn. I am glad to know that the afternoon droop does not mean impending doom for the plants. However, I’m a bit worried when they look desiccated in June, especially after such a mild May. Jeff and I were thinking maybe the cool, wet May set them up for a bigger shock when the hot weather arrived in earnest. They have been doing better lately, and we got a good rainstorm this week, so we’ll hope that helps.

  4. Amy

    I will have mine hot with some of those super thin cookies if you have any. 🙂 I was out shopping for a baby shower the other day and saw a bear. A BEAR IN MANASSAS! I made a u turn as soon as I was able and went off on some tiny little side roads to find him again. Sure enough I did. What amazed me was that I seemed to be the only person who even noticed. There was no one else pulled over or slowing down. I was thinking, “Really, do you see bears every day on this road?” No of course not but they just didn’t have time or weren’t curious enough I guess. He was a little bear but I was thrilled. I have some very fuzzy photos on my phone to show you next time we are together. Hope you can take a minute to catch your breath with your school work. Love you.

    • WHOA a baby bear? I would have been tempted to get out, but then BIG MAMA might have gotten me. That does sound freaky, a baby bear in Manassas. Maybe you should call the County Extension Service and ask about it. I hope it wasn’t one of those exotic pets that somebody just dumps, I hate it when that happens. If you find out they are living in your neck of the woods, that’s one more reason to visit! I am catching my breath right now– but JUST BEARLY, hee-hee.

  5. Amy

    Sorry should have said this in the first post. Another way I slow down is because of something Matt shared with me. I listen to the Writer’s Almanac everyday even if it is late at night. I always think of Matt and the time he was here keeping my house even and quiet. We listened to Garrison Keillor and to classical music because of him and we learned so much. I try to do some of that every day now. I am always thankful to him for sharing that with me, with my family. I thought of you the other day, June 7, because the words of Louise Erdich reminded me of you and how discussions we have had regarding books and other things. Check it out when you have a minute. Give my love to Matt.

    • Amy, thanks for your kind words about Matt. Yes, the Writer’s Almanac is a much-loved fixture of our days, especially now that one can hear it on demand from Alexa (the Echo) anytime. In fact, I think the whole archive is on there, or at least a good bit of it. In July 2005, my once and future literary summer, I awakened to the sound of it each morning. Matt was away at camp for a month, an unprecedented occurrence that has never been repeated (mostly because the distance is just too far) and I wrote a novel and several poems. Later when life was back to the usual ongoing demands, I still listened to it, but never had the leisure to lie in bed amid the quiet and really contemplate what it was saying. I highly recommend trying it sometime if you can wake up for the 6:00 am version. LOVED the quotes from Erdrich. Do you know about her personal trials as a mother? She has known great sorrows, that’s for sure. I loved what she said about writing and motherhood, but I’m not sure that made it into the broadcast (the written versions are longer). Thanks for letting me know about that one. Look for some of the quotes, coming soon to a blog near you. ❤

      • Amy

        Yes I do read the post about the featured people. There is a LOT more detail and lots of history so it’s really fun for us to read. I will set me alarm what a great time to be listening. I did contact the county and they had been contacted by the home owners there. It is a mother bear and her cub, about a year old. They have taken us residence in the Lake Jackson area along the little branch of the Potomac near us. It’s sort of cool but the other night I walked the garbage out to the street and made as much noise as possible just in case. I think the county keeps good tabs on them. Too bad Matt hasn’t been able to get to camp for that long again. When does he go to camp this year. I am happy to ride with you to take or pick up if you like or if you need me to do the transportation I can arrange that too. Take care my friend. So proud of your school endeavors. Keep up the good work. Love you.

        • Wow, how cool that you can count a bear and her cub among your already huge number of animal neighbors. Maybe I’ll be able to catch a glimpse of them soon. Matt is scheduled for two different weeks of camp this year (really only 5 days each, not a week), so I hope we can manage to eke out some fun time in one or the other, or both. I’m still waiting to watch a movie in your home theater. Maybe we can plan a flick and then go “out” (to the next room) for ice cream afterward. I’ll check Jeff’s calendar and get in touch with some possible dates. If I forget to do that, you can remind me. 🙂

  6. “Vex not thy spirit at the course of things; they heed not thy vexation.” – Marcus Aurelius

    • Alan, isn’t that the truth? 🙂 Hope you are having a nice weekend. It’s HOT here.

      • Here we just had rain. It is very windy, but cooler. For how long? Any guess is good.
        Stay cool, Julia.

        • Thank you, Alan. It was refreshingly cool last night after some really hot days. But I’m keeping the iced tea at hand! 🙂

    • Boy hoo boy, they sure don’t! Thanks for sharing that gem, Alan.

  7. Anon E. Moose

    “I’m in a hurry to get things done, oh I
    Rush and rush until life’s no fun;
    All I really gotta do is live and die,
    But I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.”

    “I took off my watch, and found I had all the time in the world . . .”
    The Association, in the song “Time for Livin'”

    • Thank you, Eric. You probably remember the line from that Association song is a favorite of mine.

  8. Sheila

    Good morning and “Hello Weekend”! ☕️ Slowing down, even for a little while, seems so rewarding. Several mornings this week I’ve extended my walk with Jack, to a little bend in the salt marsh channel, next to the street behind our house. We have stood there enjoying the cool breeze, marsh grasses, and the calm moving currents of that salty stream. I wonder how many thousands and thousands of people MISS IT, even though they may drive right by, in the course of their summer vacation. I’ll think of you when we’re standing there this morning! 💛 Sheila

    • Sheila, thanks for sending me that refreshing virtual mini-vacation! I am there with you and Jack at that salt marsh. I bet he could tell us so much about the area if he could somehow talk about all the things he sniffs on that breeze. I am slowing down for that little while right now, and yes, it is quite rewarding. A sanity-saver, too. Thanks for being here with us, and for keeping me with you in heart and spirit! ❤

  9. Just reading your post made slow down. I have a very stressful job but I’m currently on holiday – at home. I can’t express how good it feels to finally, finally, finally be able to slow down and come to my senses. I had a coffee on my sunny terrace this morning, sat there for another hour drinking a bottle of water, looking at the sky, letting the sun shine in my face and listening to the magpies and blackbirds singing on the rooftop nearby. Haven’t felt that peaceful in a long time. And no, we don’t need to speed up even more. I just want to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n.

    • Hi, and welcome to our comment section! Thanks for being here. And congratulations for doing what many people only dream of — enjoying a relaxing holiday AT HOME. Coffee on your sunny terrace sounds wonderful. Just hearing about it is soothing. Thank you for telling us about it so we can paint a serene mental picture for ourselves. I hope that you will return to your job rejuvenated and find that things are a bit easier than when you left. Meanwhile, happy holiday homecoming!

  10. Good point, Julia. Slowing down is such a welcome part of life. I’m slowing down today after several hectic weeks and if feels wonderful. I finished my current book, I’ve started a project, the laundry is done and I’m enjoying catching up on blogs. Ahhhhh

    • Alys, Ahhhh is right! I think of you often, even though the idea of sitting down and writing a letter seems like a distant fantasy right now. But hopefully soon…Meanwhile, enjoy the serenity doubly for me, and send me some soothing vibes! Joining you in a cup of virtual tea right now and wishing you were here. ❤

      • Well, I’m awfully late to the “table” but sending you soothing vibes anyway.

        • Never too late for this table. Open almost all night and the kettle is always on! 😉

          • Awwww. That’s lovely Julia. Any chance for a Skype in mid-July. Would love to catch up.

            • Alys, yes, it’s a definite possibility, depending on how everyone does. Mama is in the hospital right now having tests run. She was in a lot of pain and finally agreed to go into the hospital where they found a lesion on one of her vertebrae. They are running more tests to see what comes next. Jeff is hanging in there, still taking treatments. We’ll keep you posted. Let me know if you guys come up with a date. I think of all of you so often! Not least because I am surrounded with visible tokens of your friendship.

              • Julia, I hope they can help get your mama comfortable while they investigate further. Back pain is so debilitating. I’m sure she feels lost without your dad after so many years.

                It’s good to hear that Jeff is still hanging in there. I’m continuously amazed at his stamina, and yours. I’m going to be in Edmonton with Kelly July 18 through the 27th so we thought of picking a day during that week. Stay tuned for specifics. I’ll start an email closer to the time and will hope you can join.

                • Hi Alys, I’m really hoping to be there with you all, if only for a brief chat. Though pressed for time as always, I could certainly use some “girl time.” Jeff is amazingly brave and strong. Aside from the occasional serious remarks about his wishes for various arrangements after he’s gone or no longer able to communicate, he maintains a remarkably normal life for Matt and me. I’m just clinging to every hour and every day, and praying this latest round of chemo will have some effect.

                  According to my siblings, Mama is scheduled to go into a rehab facility as soon as one becomes available. The biopsy will be done from there, from what I understand. I talked with her on the phone but she sounded so weak that I didn’t want to wear her out with talking. Jeff really wants me to grab a day or two to go down there, but I don’t want to leave him right now. Thanks for checking in and being with us in spirit.

          • Delightful!

  11. Good morning, Julia! I agree with Natalie Goldberg’s zen teacher that “The more you sit, the more you become who you are.”
    Hustling and bustling about keep us too distracted to get to know ourselves, or so distracted that we don’t know that we’re someone that we should meet!
    I spent some time resting this weekend. Whew!

    • Susan, after the past two weeks in classes all day every day, I have a corollary to Katagiri Roshi’s statement to Goldberg: “The more you sit, the fewer calories you burn.” 😀 I hope to get in some restful walking in the next few weeks. I really do miss walking, almost as much as I miss rest!

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