Halt The Caffeine Hustle
In many stock photos, you see a mug of coffee with a laptop or a book. Computing, reading, and writing…these require focus of mind. Caffeine is stimulating. Yet the thing that I’m buzzing about now is…calming down.
Over the past weekend, I got to stay home alone while my wife and kids visited family. Being married with five kids means I’m not used to being alone. It’s a strange sense at first, feeling the house so quiet and vacant.
But by the third day, my nerves calmed. My thoughts stilled. I went about daily tasks with no sense of rush. Many times, I just paused between to-dos. Everything was simple, slow, and quiet.
Later, I realized I was pacing myself. Sometimes my pausing in the middle of the day was just because I could. Other times it was intentional. Although I knew the next task I wanted to do, jumping to it right away was unnecessary. I recognized the need to rest in the midst of doing things.
The luxury of time and space was a gift during my mini-staycation. A taste of tranquility. A sense of serenity.
Am I terribly busy right now? No. Nor would I ever want to be. Because that’d be terrible.
This isn’t the first time I felt some slowing down. And it’s not just me who felt this recently. When we all hit the brakes in March to stay home due to Covid-19, extra-curricular and regular activities disappeared. Did you find more free-time than usual?
My weeknights we’re totally free and open. I didn’t have anywhere to go or anything extra to do. And you know what? I really liked it. In fact, I still do. This new slower norm is an extended pause that does us all some good.
In our industrialized society, you and I are busy going to and fro. We’re like machines on an assembly line, constantly doing things. There’s an expectation of maximum performance without hesitation or rest. Everything must be done by yesterday!
Words to describe our busy state are: hectic, frantic, frenetic, frenzied, stressful. Do any of these ring a bell for you? Fueled by espressos in the express lane, our bodies are running in overdrive on overtime.
It gets worse.
In our computerized culture, you and I are always on, multi-processing endless feeds of info. Most of it is noise; we try to find the good singal. If our bodies weren’t busy enough, our minds sure are. When we try to sleep for the night, it’s like we reboot immediately instead of shutting down. Insomnia isn’t uncommon.
Fitting terms are: robotic, hyper, auto-pilot, buzzing, anxious. Sound about right? Our minds are racing. Moving too fast, we start the next thing before we finish the previous thing. Multitasking like a computer is the status quo.
Hasten The Slow Down
So what should we do about this? First, we must realize the crazy-busy lifestyle is ingrained in our culture. Cityscapes and schedules are always moving, going, and doing. Seldom is there time for just being.
With that, we should note our own tendency. Some people thrive on busy-living. For others, the constant straining is draining. So if you’re in the latter camp, it’s vital to note that you and the culture are running on different tracks. This causes a push-pull tension.
But trying to affect societal change sounds like too much work; you would be very busy! There must be a way to do your life at a healthy pace, slower than the culture. I think there is, and you must find it for yourself.
About a week ago, I intentionally changed my daily routine to focus on some things I’d been neglecting. They are a high priority, but I had let distractions take over. And it occurred to me that I really don’t have enough time to do all-the-things.
I can’t do all the things.
This notion was a reality check for me. It’s not a lazy cop-out. It’s accepting a real limitation. Time and energy are scarce resources, but there’s no shortage of things you or I can be doing. It’s easy to overflow your life with too many to-dos.
We’re human beings, not human doings.
This reminder helps me be still at times. Our non-stop pace kicks up much dust, to-dos flying around in a whirlwind of debris. When still, the dust settles. Then you can breath clean air and see clearly. You can focus on your priorities.
Balance that with understanding: sometimes you need to hurry, but that shouldn’t be the norm. I’m not sayin’ we should be lazy instead of busy. But there are moments when you crack the whip because you need to get movin’.
Since our society errs on the side of constant motion and commotion, there is a counter-cultural slow movement growing; I wish it’d get here quicker (irony noted). It kind of overlaps in some places with Minimalism and Homesteading. It also shares some traits of Mindfulness.
If you need help finding ways to catch your breath amidst the rush, check out the Slow Movement. There are many sources of slow-life inspiration online. When you’re not too busy, just do a Google search.
Another good way to slow down is to read a book. Much of my calm weekend, I was absorbed in a good book on my kindle paperwhite. In the past few months of lock-down, I’d spent so much time playing video games; I forgot the simple pleasure of a good read!
Reading something longer than a Tweet or blog post is engaging and engrossing, yet it is such a simple thing to do. It is so quiet and calm! I love the minimalism of my kindle and the act of reading on it. Profound and provocative ideas and worlds come from reading both nonfiction and fiction.
If you’re a slow reader like me, all the better for slowing down.
Dare To Decaf
I dare say, maybe slow down on the coffee. Don’t get me wrong, caffeine addiction is a nice hobby of mine. But I’ve come to rely on it a lot just to keep up with things. Otherwise, the only thing slowing down as I age is my metabolism.
A few weeks ago, I reduced my coffee intake. It was an experiment to see how calm my nerves would get. It worked! Once I survived the sleepy morning stage, I felt more chill than usual. But a few days later, I had a mean headache. I figured since I’m not a crazy person, at least one cup a day isn’t bad.
And one cup a morning. And one cup in the late afternoon.
So I’ve got work to do. Guess I won’t be in too much of a hurry to do it.
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