We seem to need permission to slow down, it does not come easily or automatically, not even in lockdown.
I am on a Uni break. Its purpose is to restore and refresh ready for the next semester. Instead, these beautifully clear few weeks on my calendar are jammed with things demanding my attention. I decided to revamp my website, finish writing a manuscript, paint new exhibition pieces, reorganise my filing system, oh – and – start a new business. No wonder that rather than sleeping, my mind races with sentences and images and ideas. Then yesterday, a friend released a book on a subject that I am writing about. Oi Vey! I went into overdrive at how I am “behind” schedule … until … I gave myself a stern talking to!
I had to unravel some thinking. Where did I get the idea that not a moment could be ‘wasted’? That lockdowns must be productive? That every idea must be activated? It is not a competition. Repeat after me, it is not a competition. He who ticks the most boxes does not necessarily win. I have been quoted as saying ‘Comparison Kills Creativity’ and yet here I am, measuring my productivity against someone else’s. Heck. I am measuring my productivity against my own unrealistic expectations. We are where we are meant to be on our own journey and eyes fixed on someone else running their race is not beneficial to ours, nor is plotting dense itineraries.
Another friend has had a hard month with a death in the family, a job change, recurring health issues, sibling quarrels, and caught in a border-crossing quarantine. She wanted feedback on her work. Her work showed signs of the turmoil she was living through. It was tired. She was tired. She seemed to need permission to stop, rest, and slow down.
Even though we have been balancing pandemic conditions for 18 months, our brains still want to reset to a regular default position of ‘doing’. Panic reporting keeps us on high alert, while our inboxes are full of the “next great big thing” that we should be doing online. We are being separated from truth.
Slow down! No amount of getting tasks done is going to transform your world. Once your list is ticked, you’ll just make another list. Sounds crazy but I feel affirmed when I tick off my list. It’s addictive. Whose approval are you seeking with your to-do list? The truth is your fulfilment is not in the to-do list. Real achievement exists in a renewed heart and mind, one that is not seeking approval, and a life lived out of a place of peace. Whoa! Big ask. We are hard-wired to be affirmed.
The challenge is to shift our focus from mind to heart, giving our heart spaces to show up. Give yourself permission to leave spaces on your calendar. Put rest, contemplation, and daily moments of focusing on where God is for you on your to-do list. It is okay, truly okay, to put a priority value on slowing down.