During our walk to Tyler's school, it was really driven home (hah - pun) how fast our general pace of life is.
We rush SO unbelievably much that a fast pace is now considered normal. Our cars go 50, 60, 70 miles an hour. We get upset waiting at a stoplight for over a single minute. Heaven forbid we need to wait more than a few seconds for the internet to respond to a click of the mouse. Cell phones silently ask us to be on call 24/7, packaged foods beg us to eat NOW, media outlets that report breaking news more than a few minutes after it happens are shunned as unreliable. Businesses operate year-round clamoring to be the first to find an answer to a problem (scientific, financial, global) but once it's found are already working on a solution to the next one. Thriving on competition, companies, politicians, countries hurry, rush, push to be the first, the best. Fashion operates one or two seasons ahead, Christmas decorations appear in stores in September, and financial gurus offer advice for decades ahead.
No wonder we suffer from so many stress-related diseases. No wonder we all have trouble even understanding what "living in the moment" means beyond a catch-phrase in yoga class. No wonder we can't fathom life without moving foward and making more. No wonder our bodies, our minds, our earth, and our societies are suffering as a result.
I completely understand that a great deal of the rush is built on the best of intentions. Who wouldn't want to work late hours to find a cure for cancer? Who would judge someone who is trying to give her or his kids a well-rounded, financially stable life and at least get food on the table? Who doesn't like to think ahead and - admit it - at least occasionally gets caught up in that adreneline rush of stress?
But in the midst of it all we have lost ourselves. In our push for more and better and faster and newer we've lost the soul that makes it all worth it. Slowing down and simplifying doesn't even seem possible for most people in today's society. Working fewer hours could mean a loss of a job which is loss of finanical support and health care and even shelter and food. Focusing on self-development could mean sacrificing security. Putting effort into simplifying life seems logically "off" - so no effort is made. Simplifying could mean letting go, at least at first, of material comforts, successes for which we previously strived so hard, and goals which still seem important. It is such a terrifying thought that many don't even consider it an option.
I remember one day when I was out by myself while my husband watched the kids. I realized towards the end of my trip I had forgotten my cell phone. Suddenly I felt very naked. What if something happened to them? What if something happened to me or the car and I needed to get ahold of them? What if someone had called - my mom, for example - and needed something right away? I ended up heading home early. It is a sad admission that I felt so lost without something that even a few decades ago would have been a luxury. Simplify my life by letting go of my precious cell phone? That SCARES the begeebez out of me.
During our walk to Tyler's school, our awareness of what IS was completely heightened. The trash alongside the road (there was a LOT of it), views we'd not been able to notice before, the speed at which drivers travel (40-50 MPH seems almost slow in the car but is frighteningly fast when being passed at that rate), the mindlessness with which most people drive...
(IMPORTANT NOTE: There was one gentleman who actually pulled over on the side of the road and asked if we needed a ride somewhere. We explained to him we were actually walking on purpose -- how kind was that?! And how odd and sad that people WALKING seems out of place.)
I honestly could go on for hours about all of this. I've read books on simplifying life, heard others touting the benefits, but honestly know of no one personally who has been able to completely do so to their satisfaction and very few who even consider it enough of a possibility that they are willing to give it any effort.
Simplifying and slowing down means different things to different people. I value many different definitions but, for me, it so often comes down to remembering and respecting life. It isn't about what we do, per se, but how and why we do it.
I challenge you, my lovely reader, to take just a minute - take a deep breath (yep, right now) and reflect on what it might mean to you. (Don't worry - I won't keep you long.) How does it feel to think about simplifying? Terrifying? A release? Easier or harder to breathe?
As for me, I'm going to simplify this post by ending it now.