“I’m telling you this for your own good,” my friend says, “You need to slow down.”
He leans back in his chair, takes a deep breath. My chest expands and releases in rhythm with his. Slow breaths, I remind myself. Slow breaths.
We’re sitting at my kitchen table; him on the side by the door and me facing the window, where I can be distracted by the setting sun peeking over the outer edge of my apartment building and the cars gently descending from the top of the hill.
I know his words speak truth. I know that he’s here, sitting with me because he cares, because our friendship matters, because this is what friends do—they tell one another the things they might not want to hear—but I can’t shake the feeling I’ve had for years, anytime someone has tried to tell me to soften the wild beating of my heart. I can’t stop the frustration from bubbling up from my chest. This is how I am, I want to cry indignantly.
But this time I hold my tongue.
This time I don’t say anything. I nod, I look out the window, I watch the parrots with their green bellies take flight across the Southern California sky. I will myself to understand. I accept that there are parts of me that will not change, and that’s okay. But I also accept the truth in his words—I don’t always have to be so rushed.
It’s moments like these where I am grounded. Where I stop for a second, and realize how my life appears to the rest of the world. It’s moments like these when I hear from people who love me, and see that they aren’t trying to drown out my light, but inspire me to conserve some of my energy so I don’t burn out.
I’ve always been a person who likes to be busy, who is driven by the number of items on her to-do list, who finds passion in the rush and who loves, beyond a doubt, to have things to do and self-created expectations to rise to. I flourish under self-inflicted pressure, when I can create scenarios for myself that are far complicated than normal life—it’s almost like a game, an obstacle course—where I have to learn how to navigate the craziness to get to the end result.
When I’m busy, I’m productive. I’m micro-managing my schedule, I’m making sure to check every email, every notification, every commitment on my calendar. I’m constantly in motion—and for me, motion is good.
But I’ve had so many people who love me say the same thing, “You need to take a break, Marisa.” “You can’t be everything to everyone.” “You need to get some sleep, some rest.” “You have to slow down.”
The problem, truthfully, is that I’ve always seen ‘slowing down’ as a bad thing. To meet it feels like stagnancy, like I’m stopping or standing still in a world that’s in constant motion. When I’m not thinking about, or planning for the next thing, I already feel behind. And I’ve always loved being ahead of the game as much as possible—why wouldn’t I desire that? Isn’t that human nature?
But there’s value in resting sometimes. This I’m forever trying to remind myself of. Sometimes I’ll be literally half-closing my eyes at a stoplight and realize I haven’t slept more than four hours in the past three nights, or I’ll wake up to my alarm so tired that I can’t see the time, or I’ll start daydreaming about coffee just to get me through the next hour.
Sometimes I’ll be sitting at my kitchen table, recounting the absolute chaos of the prior week to my good friend and stop in the middle of my rant at the expression on his face—a mix of worry and horror—and realize that maybe I do need to chill out for a minute.
Maybe as much as I think I’m ‘doing’ I’m also creating imbalance between what my desires are, and how my goals are manifesting themselves in the day-to-day. Maybe there’s a little more craziness than ‘centeredness,’ a little more busyness than intentionality.
And as much as I want to praise the constant rush, being less-than-present in my daily life isn’t worth getting a few more things done.
My friend speaks with calm and care. He put his arms around my shoulders and says, simply, “I’m proud of you.” And those four words speak peace to my heart. I’ve always struggled with finding a happy medium between the wild desires in my mind and the natural ebb and flow of this life, but this moment is just one of the many reminders.
Perhaps it’s not about rushing through this life in the sense that you’re so quick to get, to gain, to fix, to do, but not about becoming still either. Perhaps it’s about running until you’re forced to walk, walking until you can’t help but run—a cycle, a balance between the chaos and the calm—finding a way to still be all that I am, but to find solace in letting myself, be too.
Hurry up and slow down.
Featured Image Credit: Anthony Tran