I’m feeling the need to dive deeper into slow living after the last letter and given the current state of our world, so I dusted off this essay I originally wrote in 2018 about my perspective on Slow Living. ;)
I just love the way that sounds. But what is it exactly?
I know I’m not the first to talk about a slower way of life, but I think it’s something we don’t talk about nearly enough. Think of slow cooking, putting fabulous ingredients into a crockpot or dutch oven and letting them simmer, for hours. Until the deliciousness slowly seeps into every fiber of the ingredients. Simple. Deliberate. Delicious. And Slow.
Now, apply that to everything. Every part of your day. Taking your time to start your day with a cup of coffee and a walk with your dog. Slowly driving to your work or recreation without channeling your inner Earnhardt. Taking a few hours in the morning to do some writing because inspiration struck while your puppers were staring you down wanting to chase squirrels.
Now, I’m not talking about laziness here. I’m talking about slowing things down and not rushing for anything. Ever. I can hear many of you rebutting this concept immediately– I have a job, I have a demanding boss, my clients are unyielding, I have to check email 45 times a day, my Instagram feed needs to be fed with polished pictures of my rushed life, I have kids and they are playing 3 sports each, my husband needs his clothes dry cleaned… and on and on it goes.
I get it. Actually, I don’t. I’m not judging here and I’m not asking you to either. I’m just asking is all that stuff really necessary. Do your 8 year olds really need to play 3 sports at once– maybe they just want to come home from school and hang from tree limbs and play in the sandbox? Does your husband’s wardrobe really need dry cleaning or can you maybe purchase clothes you can wash at home? Do your clients really need you to be on call 24/7 or do you need to feel needed and haven’t set proper boundaries? (Again, not a judgment– that’s what I used to do with my clients, that’s how I know). Can you maybe negotiate one day a week of remote work and make your dining room table your cubicle for the day?
It’s not easy to embrace slow living. And I’ve been doing it for 2 decades. Especially when social media feeds a perpetual dopamine addiction and an ever-present FOMO effect. Let’s face it, our modern life is chaos– and the powers that be want it to stay that way.
Think about it, our economic system is based solely on our consumption habits. We, as a country, produce nothing. We consume. That’s it. Late stage capitalism is driven solely by the need for the masses to buy, buy, buy. I mean, the courts just had to rule that people are allowed to FIX their own digital devices without fear of breaking the law! WTF?
If you study early 1900 economic theories, you’ll find that many speculated that once efficiency and automation were at full scale, people wouldn’t have to work that much. Which poses a problem on many levels. But mostly, corporations need us to keep working and keep consuming so the economy can keep moving forward.
What a shit show.
What if we opt out? What if we say, “no thanks” and run in the opposite direction? What if we begin to transform our lives so that we have TIME again. Transform our lives so that we can place what we value most– time with our family or time creating art or time gardening– on the top of our To Do list. Hell, what if we collectively ditch the To Do list completely and simply live our lives. Slowly. Deliberately. Deliciously.
It is possible, don’t think it’s not. I hear you judging. I hear your fear. I feel your discomfort. I get it. When I’m on the East Coast, I feel it too. I am in a perpetual states of discomfort because my slow life doesn’t fit here. I can’t drive the speed limit in my town and enjoy the drive without some asshole cutting me off so he can whip across 3 lanes of traffic to get to Dunkin Donuts. I feel this underlying energy to go to work, login to my computer, do something productive– now and all the time. I feel this need to fill my day with busy shit because that’s what most of the people around me are doing.
But I don’t feel productive. I feel empty. I feel as though my day is not my own– it’s someone else’s. And I berate myself for easing into my day with my walks and coffee because everyone around me is clocking in at 9am and clocking out at 5pm. I make myself feel guilty because I’m NOT rushing around being “productive”. What kinda screwed up shit is that?
Now, when I’m out West, that disappears. As soon as I get west of the Mississippi River (St. Louis– I see your Arch and I love you for it!). Everything moves slower in the West. People are doing their thing– whatever that thing may be. They want to be left alone to do their thing and they move slower because of it. It’s peaceful. No chaos.
Just last month, we had to evacuate for Hurricane Florence. This was a massive storm and we were going to be unable to access our home for at least a week once we left– if we even had a home to return to. So, I decided to drive my mother and our two dogs to her best friend’s house in rural South Dakota. I know, who evacuates to South Dakota– this gal!!
It was a stressful journey, but when we got to the little, sleepy mountain town, we could breath again. It was just what my soul needed. I’d walk into town during the day and wander about. While other people were doing their thing. We went to the rock shop and chatted with the owner about his stones. We ate ice cream in the middle of the afternoon on the street corner– because we could. It was simple. And it was slow. It felt divine.
A week or so after we got home, Mom said, “I miss South Dakota. It was so peaceful. It’s too chaotic here.” I was tickled. Now she finally understood why I always talked about the East and West as two completely different worlds– and why I am a much happier person in the West.
And that’s just it. We can adjust our lives to make them slower. And we can migrate to areas that embrace this slower pace. We can find the slow life here in the East (we may have to look a little harder to find it) or we can simply move to a place that has slow living baked into its bones. Or, we can be nomads and do both.
The point is, we can’t embrace Slow Living until we identify that we aren’t living slow. Once we point out the fact that we’re slaves to the chaos and begin to become aware of the impacts this chaos has on our health, our mindset, our loved ones and our ability to feel abundance throughout the day, we can begin to change it.
We can make subtle changes to our schedules. Take a few items off our ToDo lists. Downsize our belongings so there’s not so much clutter. Take the time to sip that coffee and walk the dog each morning.
We can slow things down once we realize that life is whizzing by us and we’re missing it.
We can embrace Slow Living. I know we can.