By Lisa Richardson
For the last two years, I’ve been on a mission to Slow the Fuck Down. Now, it’s come to an end. Am I cured of my squeeze-too-much-in, take-too-much-on, work-like-a-maniac ways? No.
The desire to have it all and have it all now is the root cause of being overworked, overprogrammed and overcommitted. And it’s my personality. That’s not going to change.What’s changed is the way I look at things… I finally understand what David Orr said, everything has its own velocity, its own inherent pacing, and it’s own urgency.
I just had to reframe urgency.
Last week, we drove into the city to see Beirut play at the Orpheum. We had a few hours to work with and supplies for an al fresco dinner somewhere before the doors opened.
Then, traffic along the Sea to Sky Highway dropped to a crawl. We lurched forward in first gear, wondering what was going on, how long this would take, whether the road would be shut, and then, suddenly, we were on the scene of the accident.
A motorcycle was laid over in the right lane up ahead. A body was on the ground in the left lane. 2 people were doing CPR, 2 more crouched around. Several cars were parked along the bike lane and near the median. A handful of citizens directed traffic into one lane, around the body, back around the bike.
As we drove through, waved on by those clear-headed people, the first ambulance arrived, and we saw the paramedics in their blue plastic gloves step across the median. Whoa, said my husband. CPR. Holy. And we took a few breaths. I wiped my eyes clear.
All those people who stopped everything to attend to the scene, kept the traffic moving, kept the witnesses on hand, kept the scene under control, kept the blood pumping through someone’s heart chambers with a steady compression, kept an airway clear, kept breath moving through someone’s being, who might just conspire to keep him alive, understood urgency. CPR trumps everything.
Rule #1 of the Velocity Project: Attend to the dying, with all your love and attention.
I used to joke that I was doing a kind of traige. I’d say, “Sorry, I can’t make drinks. Would love to get together, but I’m in triage.” I had to attend to the things that would die if I wasn’t breathing life into them… projects, deadlines, press releases. Stuff that I had decided to bring to life, and therefore, needed to keep alive.
All the while, spilling over into the overcrowded hallway, were the non-emergent things: birthday calls or “how’s the baby?” emails to friends, Christmas cards to cousins, fresh dinners, Tuesday morning yoga sessions or social evening bike rides, other frivolous things like long lunches, reading books, walking, listening.
Look at this bogus ER. No actual lives were at stake. Except mine. And the quality of it was the state of emergency. The question is: what are you trying to breathe life into? Is it really worth it? Is it a human being? Straight to the top of the list.
Is it an ego-driven project? Tread carefully. It’s not as important as you think. Is it a strawberry? Seriously. The season lasts 2 weeks. Don’t mess around. Or you will miss it, entirely, until it comes around again 50 weeks later.
It is summer skinny-dipping? When you live somewhere that summer lasts about 20 days, when it’s warm enough to swim in the lake at the end of your bike ride, even just barely, and there’s no one there, JUMP THE FUCK IN. Before you know it, it will be fall, and that will be 20 or even 30 soul-cleansing, head-clearing, body-delighting baptisms you will have missed.
Is it a weekend? The only way to breathe life into a weekend is to make it sacred. Weekends are time for bike rides and potlucks and dinners and book reading and trail building projects and gardening and adventures. Not for work. Not for one little deadline, just to get it out of the way. (There is ALWAYS another deadline, right behind it. There is always more work, chasing down hard on the last bit. It’s never done. You have to hold the space.) Not for a little bit of innocent surfing online. (What just happened to that 4 hour chunk of your life?)
Cured? No. But I’ve got a new frame around the word that dictated to me for years: urgent. Love. Strawberries. Summer. That’s good enough for now.
Lisa Richardson is a frequent Mountain Life contributor and strawberry lover. She lives in Pemby and writes, a lot.