The slower I go, the faster I get there. This is true for me even though it seems to run counter to the theory of relativity. Part of Einstein’s great discovery involved space travel at near-light speeds and boiled down to: “The faster I go, the older everybody else gets, relatively speaking.” What I thought Albert meant was that by rocketing around my universe, taking care of business, I’d make the rest of the world look old and pathetic. I’d get the best promotion, the nicest car, and the biggest spacestation (and you wouldn’t). But that has never worked for me; when I go faster and faster, trying to get more and more done, the opposite happens. I begin to feel tension, stress, and that gassy, bloated feeling that often ends in bad smells. I don’t sleep well, and soon everybody around me begins acting concerned that their decrepit, rapidly aging cohort might keel over, and they’ll be forced to cut short their coffee break in order to call an ambulance to haul my carcass away.
Something else that happens when I try to go faster is that I start making stupid mistakes. I forget simple but important steps. For example, I zoom to the supermarket at nearly the speed of the lights, rampage up and down the aisle, filling the cart with enough supplies to last for eons, cut off two carts of mothers piloting screaming cargo right at the final turn, and breeze to the checkout line in first place. But when I reach into my pocket I realize I left my Star Bank moneycard back on the kitchen table.
On the other hand if I move slowly, and carefully consider each move before I make it, I suddenly become weightless, and my life becomes effortless. Before I even make it out the door to shop, the phone will ring and I’ll be informed that my business card was drawn from the fishbowl and I just won dinner for four at the Galaxy Diner. I don’t need to go to the store at all!
Now it’s summer, the official season to give up on trying to get things done. All my life the lesson of summer has been to slow down, and enjoy the long sunshiny days and sultry evenings, but for years I’ve been rushing around, resisting. Instead summer has meant long days of toil and sweat, digging up acres of gardens, or painting and remodeling every nook and cranny of any building I had a key to. While I’d be racing to the hardware store, trying to finish one more project before dark, I’d gaze enviously at all the slackers, sitting at outdoor cafes, sipping on cold drinks. How dare they idle away when there was work to be done! Didn’t they have an engine to rebuild, or a bathtub to regrout? I’d be busily installing a skylight, while they were uselessly staring up at the moonlit sky.
Now I’ve finally given in to my own natural tendencies, and my education. I went to school for sixteen years and don’t remember much about hydroxyl radicals or ethnomusicology, but I do remember one thing very well: They always gave us the summer off! None of our teachers every expected us to get anything done in the summer, so why should we expect ourselves to?
I’ve misplaced my Palm Pilot and thrown out my calendar. If there’s anything that needs to be taken care of, it’ll have to wait until later. Right now I’m busy enjoying my life. And the best way to enjoy anything isn’t to rush mindlessly through it. It’s to take it nice and slow.