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In search of Slow Living
Three days ago I turned 50. I have loved my 40s - by far the best decade so far - and I'm hoping to enjoy my 50s even more. But I do notice one thing.
Life starts speeding up a lot as soon as you hit middle age.
Do you find this? Do you find that you start doing something in February and by the time you set it down again it seems to be June. That meeting up with people, or visiting places or even just getting the washing done becomes a blur of motion and you stand there going 'where did all that time go?'. Do you find that you forget that you have already read a particular book? Seen a particular film? Visited somewhere on holiday? Or is it just me?
It made me realise that middle age must the ideal time to really concentrate on slowing down because the illusion is that it is all speeding up, that I am running out of time.
By slowing down I actually don't mean the actual speed of life at all - if I'm honest a 'slow life' sounds like a dull life to me. I love to have projects on the go, I've a grasshopper brain, I'm impatient, I'm a doer, not a perfectionist, a dreamer and schemer. Inside my head is not slow at all. I don't really want to change that.
What I mean by 'slowing down' is actually making an effort to be present - to resist the multi tasking (I got much better with this via my April experiment with quiet) and the filling in of blank time. To sit with being there more.
It isn't something that comes easily to me - it is a muscle I am learning to use. I am hoping that it works along the same lines as the diet gurus who suggest that you should chew your food a lot so that your body knows you have eaten and your stomach can notice it is full.
I hope that slowing down, being aware, deliberately noticing things will make me realise that time is full, that life is so, so full and yet that there is time for everything I want to do.
These are the things I am going to try.
1. Mindful cooking.
Now I am aware that this sounds a bit ridiculous. Cooking is something that I love to do, but 6 nights out of seven it is done in a rush, in that tired period between 5.30 and 6.30. Sometimes even thinking of what to cook is enough to stress me out and I stare inside the fridge looking for something quick and easy to make.
But that one night a week. The night when there is nothing urgent on my to do list - then I am going to slow down, appreciate the ingredients, pay attention to the chopping, the sizzling, the scents, the colours.
Anna Jones writes about this in her cookery book The Modern Cook's Year - in a chapter called 'Cooking with Grace' - describing cooking as a solace, a meditation, an offering. I'm not quite there yet, but I think it is worth a try.
2. Getting bored.
Recently I have been trying to inject a bit of boredom into my life.
It was something I always recommended for my children - I feel so much creativity stems from a bored mooch about - but find that I shy from myself.
I rarely move without my phone, book, knitting - ready to whip one or all out in every gap of the day. A post office queue and I shall be on my phone replying to Instagram comments - a wait for a train and I will have my book out, deep in a plot, sitting in a hospital waiting room I will be measuring time by the rows knitted.
I now wonder what I did before I filled every minute. I hope to find out, and discover whether a bit of people watching and bored listless musing turns into something interesting.
Will allowing myself to become bored stretch time?