About a decade ago, a doctor told me I needed to slow down.
I didn’t even know what he meant.
Indeed, I was pretty sure he had it backwards. What I *really* needed was doublespeed. What I really needed was to figure out how to do the things I needed to do in such a way that I was more efficient and effective. *That* is what would make me better.
So, I ignored him.
Well, it wasn’t really ignoring because, as I said, I really had no idea what he meant. I had two small children, two startup companies, a house in the midst of renovation and all this potential. I could taste my own potential, and seemingly no matter how hard I tried, I could not realize it.
So, a couple of years later my shoulders stopped working. Just for a few days, and it wasn’t painful. I simply couldn’t move my shoulders. I could use my elbows and hands so the inconvenience was minor. Then it happened a couple of months later. Then a month later.
Then, I got a filling. You know, at the dentist. Never thought a thing of it. [You can just feel the foreshadowing here, can’t you? This will be a post in the future, but for now we will just say, “Choose your dentist wisely. Oral wellness is surprisingly important.”]
In July of 2010 my hands stopped working. It was weird. My nephew’s wife was expecting a baby and I was knitting a cool little Buddhist monk-style romper. I thought maybe I had “knit too hard” or some such rot. The next day it was worse.
By August, I was in real trouble. I had tried to meditate it away (surely, if I was spiritual enough, I could overcome any condition). I tried energy healers. I tried all sorts of different things. By the time I finally went to the doctor, I was in significant pain every day. My joints bilaterally failed in a cascading sequence up and down my body randomly – each joint set had a 5 day cycle, peaking with agony and immobility on day 3, the next set having its Day One on that day 3. It was awful.
Plus, I had a 3 year old who was a cuddler. I couldn’t cuddle, and most of the time when he tried I would scream in pain, catch my breath, apologize, cry and just wallow in sadness. Not the best time for me. It went on until late October, when I had my first agony-free day.
But here we are with the benefit of retrospect, and I know that because I didn’t slow down when I didn’t know what it meant, my body decided to stop me cold.
I’d had a little experience with this: About 5 years before, I realized my shoulders were almost always up around my ears and I almost always squinched my toes when standing. I resolved to relax my body more, but by this point, even with 5 years of “every time I noticed” relaxing, I was still tense about 80% of the time. I am a slow learner.
So, this was the start of my mandatory class in Slowing Down. It has been extremely difficult on every level, but also the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I am still learning what slowing down even means, and it has required a pretty significant rewrite on who I thought I needed to/wanted to be in this life. I am grateful for this rewrite in every way, and this transition is really what this writing is all about.