Hurry Up, Then Slow Down

The day after Thanksgiving is like a long, slow exhale. I’m sitting in the quiet of my kitchen, watching dogs and their owners walk along the path right outside my backyard and it feels strange. It feels like I’m supposed to be doing something, like there’s something on the list I’ve forgotten to do. But really I know it’s nothing—just stillness, just here, just me and the dog and the airplanes floating lazily by.

I’m not good at stillness. Now that the kitchen’s cleaned up, I can’t help but want to put the remaining dishes away, sweep the floor, mop the entryway. Now that the guests are gone, I can’t help but want to organize the fridge, wipe down the countertops, do something—even when nothing needs to be done—just to keep myself busy.

Last night, after everyone left, I started scrubbing pots and sorting Tupperware because I felt sad. Sad that everyone had left, sad that life would return back to ‘normal,’ sad that there wouldn’t be wine and food and another long day of no commitments.

My boyfriend put his arms around my middle, tried to gently pull me to the couch. But I felt like I needed to do something, keep my mind occupied. Because as soon as everyone left, the quietness of the post-holiday set in. And I’m still not sure how to rest unless I’m pushed to do so. Unless it’s a holiday and that’s my job once all the bellies are full—to sit, to relax, to slow down. Unless there’s finally nothing to do and I can just stop for a moment—a little pause before the next thing.

When we were cleaning dishes last night, before everyone had left, my boyfriend’s aunt smiled at me, handing me a glass container to maneuver into the puzzle that was the refrigerator. “Isn’t it funny,” she said, a hint of a smile on her face, “That you prepare and hurry hurry hurry, just to eat and be done in thirty minutes?”

She had a knowing look on her face, wise after many years of hosting her own holiday parties. My boyfriend’s mother, standing next to her at the kitchen sink, nodded knowingly. Being married forty years, and having turkey dinners at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, she knew this story very well. I fell silent next to them, washing and drying in rhythm. Hurry up and slow down.

I am always fascinated by the rush of life, how so many people live in fast motion, always hurrying to the next thing. I’m one of them—Midwest roots, an excitable heart—always wanting to finish one thing to get to the next, always running full speed and grabbing all that I can.

I’ve wrestled with this, thought low of myself and then equally praised myself for the work ethic. There are some moments I’m thankful for the person I am, for the way I keep going and never stop, knowing full well that life is too short.

And then I see people like my father, like my boyfriend, like my sister, like others I love and admire who are content with just being where they are. Who aren’t always rushing to the next thing, but can put their bags down, their feet up, and stay awhile.

My peace ebbs and flows. I find myself to be completely relaxed when I can sit and write, but because my writing has become my work, sometimes I can’t find the same solace in it. Sometimes I love the mornings when I don’t have to answer emails, but there are days those same mornings give me anxiety because I know there’s always something else, something more I could be doing.

Today, post-holiday, I feel that anxiousness in my heart. There are so many things, too many things, and not enough time. I need to hurry up, I need to quit taking so long.

But I need to slow down.

Hurry up and slow down. I think of my boyfriend’s aunt, of her smile, of the cigarette delicately balanced between her fingers as she sat on the patio last night, watching the sun go down. I think of my boyfriend’s mother, finally not the one cooking and cleaning but being forced into stillness and warmth on the couch. I think of my own family, of the balance between our moments of rest and running around. I think of how it’s always been hard for me to create that distance between peace and productivity.

Maybe all the rush and running leads to something beautiful—and I can stay, for a minute—thankful for everything that brought me here in the first place.

But maybe a person enjoys the slowing down when he or she has that rush beforehand. Maybe, like Thanksgiving dinner, it’s a lot of hurry hurry hurry just to relish in those beautiful thirty minutes where no one speaks because everyone’s mouths are full.

Maybe all the rush and running leads to something beautiful—and I can stay, for a minute—thankful for everything that brought me here in the first place.

Maybe, now, I’m sitting in the quiet of my house wrestling with my thoughts—and this will be battle I face forever—but the way I will grow the most. Maybe I will continue to hurry, but be present in the slowing down.

And maybe the kitchen floor will stay dirty, the dishes will be piled up next to the sink. Maybe I’ll go lay in the hammock with the dog by my side and leave the emails unanswered for a while. Maybe it’s not bad to be a person, to be a human and not a robot moving at the pace of a machine.

Maybe I will forever be living in fast motion, yes, but I will pause, too, and stay right where I am from time to time. Thankful, present, and still.
 

Featured Image Credit: Pamela Lima