The Speed of Life

The hurrier you go, the behinder you get.* Whether it’s mistakes made when rushing that then need to be fixed, things forgotten while hurried that need to be found, rash decisions that lead to delays, or unrealistic goals that leave us scrambling; going too fast slows us down. We have an optimum speed, like any machinery. As biological machines, we need to honor the time it takes to function well and balance the speed of our motor skills against the rate of our mental processes. We each operate differently so the worst thing we can do is compare ourselves to others. I’m hindered by chronic pain, for example, and it doesn’t just slow me down physically but mentally as well. Spoonies often get stuck in a cycle of all or nothing since it takes so much to do so little and the harder we push, the more we crash. I became the embodiment of “the hurrier, the behinder” when years of pushing through the pain left me bedridden. It’s human nature to push through and it often seems like the only alternative is to give up but we don’t just have an on/off switch.


“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon, as quoted in Beautiful Boy
~ image via Two Places at Once ~

In a world with so much to do, and too much to be done, we default to a setting of ‘busy bee’ and can end up too busy to just be. I found myself rebelling against that busyness this month. I couldn’t keep putting in so much effort for so little return and staged a slowdown. Now I’ve confirmed the more obvious but equally problematic truth that the slower you go, the behinder you stay. The extra reading, bonus TV marathons, and addictive puzzle-solving were good for my brain but became another form of busyness. Whatever we fill our time with will leave us with no time to spare if we don’t pace ourselves. Finding an optimal speed of life gets even trickier when any uptime requires increasingly more downtime and energy is being borrowed against a deficit. The need to prioritize is universal, as are conflicting concerns, and I may be dealing with more than my share of opposing interests but we’re all dealing with something. What we prioritize and how we spend our free time not only decides our days, it affects our happiness and can impact who we are.
“It is not enough to be industrious; so are the ants.
What are you industrious about?”
— Henry David Thoreau
The more we try to do, especially in any given day, the less we’re likely to accomplish. It’s not necessarily our goals that set us up for frustration, if we’re willing to let go of certain ones or postpone things as needed, yet our expectations are often unrealistic. We seldom allow for interruptions or downtime, both of which can provide some of the best moments of our day. Switching up the kind of busyness I focused on for a month proved what I, of course, suspected; all those ongoing endeavors I was avoiding, as important as they are to me, just aren’t that urgent and don’t need daily attention. Better yet, I was reminded how important it is to include a steady supply of escapism – or I’ll need to escape again. It’s time to pick the pace back up, so long as I don’t get in a hurry and I remember happiness is only possible one day at a time. Our days are finite and each one matters so let’s quit measuring them by what we’ve accomplished but instead by whether we enjoyed ourselves in the process: Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.**
“It is only possible to live happily ever after on a daily basis.”
— Margaret Bonanno

*One of the many gems of wisdom my Grandma made sure I knew. **This is commonly misattributed to John Lennon.
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