Eyes wide, surprisingly silent, predictably slimy, with a cone-shaped head full of curly hair. Three weeks late, after 40 hours of labor, I pushed my way into a fall morning.
Apparently, I was in no rush to leave the womb. And soon I set about exploring the world with the gift of my perfect pace. Family lore has it that, as a toddler, I'd spend days unwrapping Christmas presents. Tiny hands patted, held up, and shook, the wrapped boxes before sliding or tossing them as if toys themselves. When finally revealed, each gift was given ample attention and playtime. As the holiday expanded into multiple days, I couldn't be persuaded to hurry.
When it was time, instead of going right into first grade, my wise parents enrolled me in an interim year, a program aptly named Transition. The focus was on connection and play and creativity. I've attended nearly two decades of school since then, and Transition is the year from which I have the most vivid recall. Shout out to Ma & Pa Kittle for their foresight.
But from that point, I struggle to find memories of delight when taking my time. Our culture taught me quickly that slow doesn't fly. So rushing became my default. Even thinking about it now brings that familiar sensation.
A rumble of anxiety in my gut, as my heart pounds an ache between my shoulder blades. Inside and behind my nose, a tingle. The precursor to tears as the lump in my throat tries to make its way into words. My shoulders scrunched up to my ears, my chin craning forward. Muscling through to make things happen.
At some point, years ago, my body and soul said no more. It doesn't have to be like this. It can't be... it hurts too much. So, I searched for support; and discovered a gaggle of wise and kind humans who helped me change my approach.
Then I left my job, followed my heart, stretched, and grew.
Then an unplanned uprooting, unspeakable fear, sickness, isolation, and death.
Then an oozing of a return, but not to the same place or people I knew; a confusing mix of grief and relief, glimpses of connection amidst the separation.
Then the opening, like a crack in a door to light and movement and hope, quickly followed by an echo of business (busyness) as usual. Instead of a gentle transition from the stillness of solitude, I felt a jarring jump back into the rushing stream of doing.
Then, just before Christmas, I went to visit my dad. We're recipients of the artifacts from two lives lost in 2020. Each year we hope the boxes will magically get lighter, but that hasn't been the case. So we roll up our sleeves and rifle through remnants; stuff these ancestors deemed important enough to keep. Things that linger even after their owners have moved on. It's a process I'm aware might last beyond my dad’s time on this planet. That thought makes me terribly sad, so I tell him this with a lumpy throat, and our eyes get wet. We sit together, surrounded by evidence of our history, leafing through old letters and cards and newspapers, and appreciate this bittersweet exercise. A meandering start-and-stop race that has no finish line but the grave.
At a glance, I recognize my mother's script and my jaw goes slack as I open the card. It's the announcement of my own birth. In a box with a million other small things that at one time felt so important. A little farther down, in the same box, is a typed, photocopied, folded family newsletter. It starts like this:
Greetings from New Hampshire! Yes, we are still alive and well up here in the "not-yet-frozen north." Each year we expect things to get simpler and more organized, when in fact the older we get the busier and more complicated our lives become.
As I read on there are a few cute anecdotes about each of us, but always this echoing refrain of busyness.
I have kept very busy...
It's been hard to find time, with all of our commitments here...
A heavy course load and working...
We are too busy but doing fine...
And I start to get that feeling. The rumble in my belly, the heart racing...
Holy ancestral archaeology! The culture of busyness is alive and well and it is within us! And not just the Kittles circa 1995. All of us. Resolutions and intentions and programs and commitments and priorities, most outwardly facing, in service of a world that will continue to ask more and more and more of us unless we slow the #@!$ down and find our own value/s.
Which is why I must remember the gift of my birth. The ways of being which are uniquely me. The importance of the lessons in how I've moved through life. It's no wonder that I'm coming into the new year with a resistance to the clamor of doing and a renewed sense of how important it is to incorporate the speed of slow into my repertoire.
This stormy, dark, new year is calling me back to slow; asking me to resist the obligation (and struggle) of doing things in old ways and urging me to find ways to honor the gift of my slowness.
A bit more listening before leaping.
I share all this because maybe you can relate. Send a note and let me know. It feels good to learn we might be exploring this together.
Where in your life are you being asked to slow down right now?
How do you resist slowness?
What story do you tell about what it means to be slow?
Can you remember a time when you enjoyed a slower pace?
Where were you?
What was happening around you?
Who were you with?
How did your body feel?
What happened as a result?
What would today or tomorrow look like if you shifted your autopilot to a slower setting?
Oh, and play. I’d like to insert more play into the spaces made by slowing down. Let's start with next month's STORY, shall we?