Slowing down. Stillness. Quiet.
Despite the horrors of corona, those are three things touted as benefits of quarantine. Things that we did not do enough of in pre-corona life. Things that are part of the lifestyle we crave. A slower, stiller quieter life means living your best life away from the toxic bustle of modern life.
I will be honest and give my (maybe?) unpopular opinion – I have zero desire for any of those three. I did not ever want to live a quieter, slower, or stiller life. All three make me feel like I want to jump out of my skin. Having more of all three in my life has been anything but joyful.
I am not an angry person overall, but I am a born and bred New Yorker, and when someone walks slowly in front of me, or slows me down by breaking the social etiquette and standing on the left side of the escalator, I am filled with rage – even when I am not in a rush.
I like to walk fast. I like the feeling of moving fast. I feel more meditative, mentally alive, present and at peace. When moving slow, I am only aware that I am moving slow. I feel trapped and held back. Moving fast is just my natural state. My yoga classes are all power flow with music blasting. I am happiest with a packed calendar, a busy mind (not a quiet one), where I run full speed from one appointment to the next. That is how I feel, what people call, “in flow.”
I do get what people mean though when they say they need to slow down. I have seen and experienced unhealthy levels of a fast paced life. My first year out of college working as a fashion stylist assistant, for example. I worked seven days a week, 14 hours each day. It was not healthy and I had no time to take a step back to realize how I felt about anything.
I also grew up in NYC and the cutthroat schools I attended starting at 5 years old left me so tired and drained, I could only function on autopilot. I was always getting sick during that time too. And a lot of companies have taken that lifestyle way too far for their employees, leaving no time for a personal life and making employees work until they are sick and even while they are sick. This actually hurts the company by having people running on empty instead of bringing their best selves and creativity to work.
So, no, I don’t want that. Not that obsessive grind where you lose sense of your body signals and your soul. I want a vibrant, buzzing, and busy life, but one that is balanced with work, personal interests, friends and family. One where I am able to listen to my body, go to a gym class if I need to, sleep when I’m tired, and meet my friends. I want a meditation in the middle of the day to step away from a vibrant, packed life, but I still want my life packed.
Not wanting to “slow down” or “quiet down” has really gotten a bad rap lately. It is assumed you are sucked up into a manic lifestyle, avoiding your problems, traumas, and pain. Afraid to be alone with yourself.
As I have spent time studying and researching energy, I think we all have different energetic frequencies. And excuse the super millennial-esque semi-pretentious phrase, but we fall into “energy shaming” one another. And ourselves. People will say – Those who are running around too busy “can’t quiet their mind” or be alone with themselves. They need to slow down to face whatever it is they are avoiding. Then others will say that those who like to move slowly are lazy and unmotivated. They need to get some ambition. But maybe we just thrive differently.
Thinking one way is better than the other is like the morning bird versus the night owl. Some stories idealize the early riser as the go-getter and the person who sleeps in as lazy. Then in other narratives, the early-to-bed person is the lazy, unambitious one, while the one who can work until 1am (or later) will succeed. Neither is true. Some of us work best early morning while some are filled with energy and ideas late into the night but can barely wake up before noon. So what if we instead followed our own circadian rhythms. That is when we are at our best. And as we progress as a culture maybe schools and companies can find ways to honor that. Same with being introverted vs extroverted. That is just another way we get our energy vs get drained.
Maybe the reason “slowing down” has gotten the lazy rap by some, and speeding up has gotten the “manic, avoiding what you really need” rap by others, is because that is exactly what it is like for those of us who are living in the wrong energetic rhythm for ourselves.
So overall no, I am not happy about the chance to slow down and quiet down. I was never trying to quiet down. And no, I did not feel trapped in my fast-paced life. I think instead of this fetishization of a quiet mind and a slower life, or the fetishization of a manic overpacked life, maybe it would be better to talk about each person finding their own life rhythm whether it is fast, slow, or something in between. And hopefully one of the changes we can incorporate in the world we will be rebuilding when we come out of this pandemic is a respect for everyone’s natural rhythm. Maybe we can grow a society that honors both the fast and the slow, the night owl and the early riser. I for one, have realized that I am totally okay with not wanting to slow down and accepting that is not something I need to do.