Slow down, you move too fast
These words are from a song released in 1966 by Simon and Garfunkle “The 59th Street Bridge Song”
Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the morning last.
I don’t suppose there are too many of us, living through this coronavirus pandemic, who are “Feeling Groovy” – which is how the song develops, but there is no doubt most of us who are not front-line workers, are having to slow down.
In a household with children who go to school, the mornings – in more normal circumstances – must be particularly stressful: getting everyone up (especially if they are teenagers and work on a different time clock) and ready; making packed lunches; gathering up homework; sorting out your own work affairs; eating some breakfast – if you are lucky – and getting out the door to deliver everyone on time! This is a logistical feat for two people, never mind if they are single carers. Parents must be exhausted before they have even sat down at their office desk. No wonder they need to start the day with a cup of coffee!
Even if people who are now working at home and managing family life, are finding this demanding, at least they don’t have the pressures of the school day rush around. The children can have a lie in without being nagged, and the parents can wear their pyjamas for a Zoom meeting (well the bottoms at least!)
I stopped working in January of this year. I was giving myself a sabbatical, a kind of emotional and spiritual break after more than 20 years in full-time chaplaincy roles in prisons, a university and a hospice. So, when it came to the lockdown, I had already had some practise of slowing down.
In this period, I have been learning the wonderful art of pottering! If your life and diary is not packed with activities, then you choose what you do more carefully; perhaps you linger over a task which might otherwise barely notice doing, and in doing so find it less of a chore and more of an interest. Perhaps you, like me, have found the yeast at the back of the cupboard, and rediscovered the delights of making bread (that is a process which certainly slows you down.) Perhaps you have begun to notice the sounds in nature, as the sounds of traffic lessens. The songs of the birds can bring great delight.
Slowing down is not a choice but a necessity for most of us when we become ill or when we get older. We cannot always live life in the fast lane, burning the candle at both ends as we might have done in our 20s. So, this enforced slowing down with lockdown, may mirror what older people have to come to terms with as their levels of energy lessens, and what we ourselves might experience at other points in our lives.
Not everyone who is old, minds this different pace. Many people embrace it with grace and dignity. And in many cultures, becoming old is not seen as a great disaster, but an opportunity to gain respect and to share one’s wisdom. I wonder when we began calling older people “the elderly” rather than “our elders”? The one implies a burden to society, the other suggests a meaningful contributor to the community.
Perhaps this is another way we are changing through this experience of lock down. As well as seeing the central importance to our lives of carers, workers in NHS, those involved in the food supply, the refuse collectors, we are looking at older people differently. Perhaps it is our elders who can most effectively teach us the benefits and wisdom of slowing down.