One of my kids told me the other night, in a moment of raw authenticity, “I just want to know what I’m good at and do it.”
The kid was longing to land.
The kid was already tired of the race.
Tired of the race that seems endless, getting him nowhere but to places that require him to do more – and more – and more, just to keep up.
A teenager, worn out. Saying out loud words I sometimes feel … Don’t we all feel? The bars for which we are encouraged to reach seem to move just about the time we get there. The kid longed out loud for the wheels to stop spinning and to land on solid ground.
Having been born in a day and age where acting/doing/being can be done 24/7 and seen 24/7 – be it on youtube, instagram, Twitter, Facebook, xBox, Playstation, the slightly suspect snapchat and more – it’s highly likely that very few days in the kid’s life have been lived without performance pressure on steroids. The version of truth that tells us we need to be someone, to be seen and to be pretty all day every day relentlessly pursues people with a vengeance. We can even get Selfie Help, “everything that’s needed to make you look like a better, glowier version of yourself,” so we can be new and improved – at least not in person.
No wonder the kid wants to land. Solid ground seems scarce.
The vice grips tighten as the world shrinks, pushing to the side any secret hiding places of serenity. We can’t even serve in the Congo incognito. With our handy handheld devices connecting us to thousands at any moment of time, everyone knows and is known.
No more slow. Gone are the days of the camera where we captured the moment then waited. Waited to get back home. Waited to remember to take the roll of film to the developer. Waited for the film to be pictures. Waited in line to get the pictures. Then looked through the pictures, excited about a few, sad to have wasted the film on others. And at the end of it all, we might show a couple folks. Rarely would we display our pictures in an effort to angle or self promote because the photographer was never in the pictures.
Yeah, that little story about developing film would yet again make my kids roll their eyes in complete embarrassment at how archaic their mother is. But the more I think about it – the slow part – and how the slow actually encouraged thoughtful processing, I miss it. I think it helped in grounding.
Slow is good. Slow can bring perspective and focus when the heat of the moment spotlights irregularities. Slow simmers rather than combusts. Sure, slow can drive us crazy when we’re waiting for something we want. But slow sure is palatable when we’re on the receiving end of someone else’s patience. Slow can take what feels like a whirlwind and dial it back a few notches.
I’m sad at our kids’ intimacy with instant. I’m sad that instant steels some of the savoring from their plates.
I was reminded of slow last week as I began a task I signed up to do at a mother’s coffee in September. I signed up to do the invitation for a Senior function hosted by the Jrs. And since the number of invitations was relatively small, I decided to put together a real, sent in snail mail, invitation.
With the invention of super-speedy/easy Evite and Paperless Post, it has been years since I’ve done a real invitation. I like the convenience of instant. The on-line features make life so simple. But some of the savory slow gets lost in instant. Slow things like joys of going through the mail and finding something other than a mailer. Like opening a bright colored, hand-adressed envelope, hand addressed. Like the way holding a fun invitation can make the recipient feel special. Things like an RSVP phone call that connects a guest with the host who cared enough to plan an event to begin with.
So, off I went to the Dollar Tree to see what Luau-y thing I could find to make the invitation special – a tribute of sorts – to each kid. There I found these little beach bags that would fit perfectly in a 10X12 envelope. I added a fake flower, printed an invite (thank you cute clipart) on my computer and voila.
I had such fun. I thought about each addressee as I made them and I hoped the goofy little bag would make every family feel special and loved. Because they are. Because those kids have hit a milestone worth celebrating. Slow was good.
I had forgotten.
So much of life is slow – regardless of technology’s need for speed. And maybe that’s why my kid feels unsettled. Maybe he thinks he needs to arrive now. But the truth is …. he won’t arrive for years. The real truth is … he may never arrive. Because it doesn’t seem that life is as much about arriving as it is about the journey.
Here’s to bringing back some slow. Developing film. Going to the Post Office. Making invitations. Adding some snail into all the instant as a reminder that most things worth waiting for require a wait. A wait that often brings with it wisdom and perspective and appreciation.
Thanks for walking the road with me.