"Slow down… you move too fast."


"You gotta make the mornin' last…"

Those of us of "an age" know these words and what follows.  It gets to the song's chorus, which is "feelin' groovy."  What about moving too fast?  I have (maybe you too) tried to cram in (otherwise known as accomplish) as much as humanly possible in every 24 hours…without realizing it…at all.  My grandmother used to call me a "whirling dervish."  Never sure what that was (until I looked it up later), I pictured women spinning teacups and saucers on each hand over their heads.

I was sure I could never pull that off.

The notion of busy has been a conversation that keeps popping up recently online, in social media, or via thoughtful news contributors.  Exploring the cost to this pace has been the gist of the discussion.  Most point to the fact that those living in warp speed have no idea we are.  We have become conditioned to this pace. It seems necessary.  Essential.

Onto the next thing, pronto!

Have we conditioned ourselves to move from one task to the other as quickly as possible?  Do we ramp up our speed when life is difficult?  Does our pace demand so much from us that those pesky things we are trying to avoid (fear, anxiety, grief) have no hold?  Does our pace protect us?

Once we enter the "pace race," it might be very hard to slow down, not only in our behavior but our inner world.  Many times, it manifests in physical illness.  I find it's not a switch that can be turned off.  It's engaged and set to autopilot, spinning, swirling, and racing.  When we over-engage our central nervous system and live in the adrenaline rush of fight, flight, fear, or freeze, some of us become adrenaline junkies.  We drive too fast, lose our tempers too quickly, and soothe our raw nerves in ways that ultimately don't serve us well.  We need that rush of "phew, I barely got that done in time… but I did."

S L O W  D O W N

In my nursing practice at Aberdeen Home Care, I regularly see this "phenomenon" manifestation up close and personal.  Particularly in the field of Hospice and End of Life care, we encourage everyone to slow down.  Saying "take a breath" sounds trite and perhaps silly, but trust me, it works. So go ahead, give it a try: Take a breath.  Take two more.

Entering the final months, weeks, or days of a loved one's life comes with more questions than answers.  How long do we have?  Can she hear me?  Are we sure there is no other option?  I wish she could "just go."  But this waiting is killing ME.

I propose we acknowledge the great value in "the waiting," the abandonment of time, and the being vs. doing.  Can we just "be" with our loved ones?  Can we sit in the silence?  Can we take it as it comes?  Can we "take it down a notch?"  Can we surrender and develop the skill of sitting with things even if they don't resolve, complete with a pretty ribbon?

We're running, but we are not in a sprint. We are in a life-long marathon.

What will we say at the end of our time?  "I exploited every hour of my life to squeeze as much productivity out of it as was possible!"  Yikes.  I think we exploit ourselves and ask too much.  Our inner garden needs tending.  Weeds grow, it gets dry, and sometimes needs pruning.  My inner garden is worth my time and effort.  So is yours. 

Our culture isn't cozy with the idea of not having answers.  "Well, we just don't know" is not an answer we like to hear.  It is, after all, a great mystery.  What if...what if…what if we took it down a notch?  What if we could "be in the moment," more focused, and less distracted?  What would that mean for us?

It's a challenge for me.  I'm hard-wired to go go go, and I've paid the price for that.  I am looking at my wiring to slow it down.  I have a good feeling about this.  

Maybe you will too.

Joanne MacInnis, RN, is the founder and president of Aberdeen Home Care, Inc., of Danvers, a concierge private duty home care agency in business since 2001. With 35 years of nursing practice, management and administration experience focused on home care and hospice, Joanne and her team specialize in advising and supporting families addressing the elders in their lives retain dignity and quality of life.

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