Saturday, 31 October 2015

Life: In Praise of Being Slow

R slows down and contemplates the speed of life.

Excuse the irony, but I learnt a thing or two about slowing down on my recent trip to New York. Granted, I think this sense of slowing down only occurs in NYC when it’s in contrast to London – but you’d be surprised at how the spacious slowness of NYC can get under your skin.

We were in the big apple for two weeks and during that time it felt as if the city really was our home. We stayed for most of the time in Brooklyn, commuted into Manhattan, did supermarket shopping, cleaned our apartment etc. Once the initial “WE’RE IN NEW YORK AND IT’S TOO EXCITING” subsided we reached a happy routine of seeking out indie coffee shops, hunting down Dough doughnuts, wandering Central Park, visiting galleries and generally not doing anything we weren't exactly inclined to do. Now of course, it’s very easy to slow down when you have nothing to do, but the intricacies of daily life really did start to affect me:

  • The subway is slow. And I mean slow. They arrive every 15-20 minutes and then proceed to crawl around New York at a lackadaisical pace.
  • The subway is big. The trains themselves are tall and wide, meaning there’s less of a struggle to get on or find a seat. Even in rush hour, while you may have to stand, you stand with enough space around you to do your morning sun salutations. 
  • The pavements are huge and straight. This means you can walk hand in hand with your other half without having to dodge anyone, without checking you’re turning the right corner or without running because a businessman is biting at your heels.
These things while small and seemingly meaningless had a huge impact on my day, my mental health and my energy levels. 

I have arrived back in London determined to maintain this sense of slowness. I'm flicking back over 'In Praise of Being Slow' by Carl Honore, being inspired again by his cult of slowness and the benefits of adding breathing space into your day to day. 

Suddenly life seems so unnecessarily fast. Why do I push to get onto the first tube when I'm not running late? Why do I sigh at the sight of a coffee shop queue when my boss couldn't care less if I'm 5 minutes or 15? Why do I repeatedly cook quick noodle based meals when I have the whole evening at my leisure? Why do I rush to bed like an Olympian? Why do I cut nights with friends short to make a head start on cleaning up? What exactly am I rushing towards? 

There is a sickness of speed over me, my family and friends, my colleagues, London and beyond. I often wonder how deep this really goes. For example - the running revival we're enjoying at the moment. Most serious runners have suffered an injury of some sort or are at least vaguely aware of the potentially damaging effect of running long distance a lot. But the thought of giving it up for a slow yoga practice is almost sneer worthy. I think this comes from a genuine love of running, which I understand, but I do wonder whether it's also something bigger than that - a need to satisfy a sense of speed and generate an feeling of progress. Maybe the appeal of quick, fast and speed is just a sense of achievement? 

This is topic that has led me from the rolling avenues of New York to the crowded streets of London and I'm not sure I'm done with it. For now, I just hope my new pause-filled take on life will continue and the frantic lifeness of life won't overtake me too soon. 

R x

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