Slowing down

26 May, 2014

It’s a simple Newtonian law that explains why the faster you’re travelling before a crash, the slower your life becomes after it. When I was cut up on my bike by an SUV two weeks ago I hit the side of the car with just the right momentum to fracture and displace my collarbone by an inch. And, true to our physicist friend’s theory, my pace of life has been considerably slower since then. I have to do most things with my left (non-dominant) hand, being physically unable to lift my right arm from the shoulder and keeping it strapped to my body most of the time. I can’t walk at my usual clip because the bone bulging out of my shoulder tears at the skin if I do. I can’t ride my bike, I can’t take the subway and I can’t cook.

This has given me some fresh perspectives. The most prevalent perspective is a burning hatred of SUV drivers, but after channelling my inner Pollyanna and looking for the positives, I can also see how a slower pace of life has its benefits. Perhaps it’s ironic that only after leaving an imprint of myself in the side of a car do I see the importance of slowing down in life, but it is a valuable revelation nonetheless: in slowing down, life can be enjoyed more thoroughly. The pressure of being 25 years old in New York City and having to do every imaginable activity right this instant disappears, and with it disappears the tunnel vision that obscures what is available to be enjoyed simply by looking around and enjoying the moment.

Taking life slowly gives me more time to think about what I’m doing. The ‘next thing’, be it another social event or task in a project is placed just far enough out of reach that it gives the present moment more time and space to receive the attention it deserves.

Even writing this, I’m typing so slowly that I have plenty of time to form a complete sentence in my head long before I reach for the full stop key. The same has gone for coding. Normally my monitor is a frenzy of windows fighting for the foreground and code and commands spilling into my text editor before my brain has had a chance to think about what I’m even trying to achieve. Slowing down gives me that bit of extra time to think and do the job properly.

Of course having a broken bone comes with many frustrations, but it also comes with the perfect excuse to simplify. Perhaps there’s something wrong with me that I need do major bodily harm to myself in order to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, but I don’t think I’m the only one. We’re very good at filling our lives with so much stuff that we’re forced to operate at breakneck speed just to keep up. Much of the time we do this simply because the opposite is scary. We fear the void of an empty calendar and having no company but ourselves. The reality is that life has just as much to offer when you’re out for a stroll as it does when you’re sprinting.