I’ve always been told to be a very patient and relaxed person by everyone in my surroundings. Just a few days ago, I was catching up with a friend I haven’t seen for about two years on Facebook. His first comment was, “Hope you’re doing fine and are as relaxed as I knew you.”
So, I believed this to be true about myself… until NOW!
Something happened over the last week that allowed me to discover a dark side, a denied part of myself that I’ve been completely ignoring. I want to tell you about this discovery. But first, let me tell you about how I gained my reputation of being a patient and relaxed person.
I live in Montreal, Canada, a society which is pretty much geared towards moving in a fast pace. People are in a hurry getting from one activity or task to the next. Some are so busy with all the things they have packed in doing in a day that you often hear they say, “I didn’t have time to eat all day.” During rush hour traffic, the minute there’s two feet of distance between cars, someone will instantly sneak into the open space to move faster and constantly change lanes from left to right. People hardly have meaningful free time just to spend with family and friends. As a consequence, allowing a simple conversation to slowly unfold and be fully present with each other makes them uncomfortable. Not only with others but, most people are not able to take just five minutes to be with themselves, enjoy their own company, disconnect from their devices and just BE.
In this world where the response to asking someone ‘How are you?” is “Oh, I’m so busy”, followed by the million and one things they have on their to-do list, I come off as being patient and relaxed.
For years I have coached individuals by looking deep in their heart and soul. I believe this to be the gateway to treating others as a full and complete human being and guiding them to reach their full potential.
On a personal level, I enjoy listening to someone share their grieves and fears, their joys and dreams, their sorrows and laughter. That connection awakens me and reminds me I too am a human being in need of a human touch.
And then, walking in downtown Montreal with so many people walking past me, bumping into me or getting knocked and bruised by a purse, shopping bag or backpack, I sometimes feel I need a full body armor before stepping out the front door. On a few occasions, when walking with someone, I have to take a few skips just to keep up with them. Hearing comments like, “Why are you walking so slow?” Or, having them grab my arm and push me to the side to make the person behind me go ahead of me.
There you have it. The reputation and image that I believed defined me as patient and relaxed. Until…
Walking on the sidewalks in Colombia and encountering what I can only describe as a VERY OVERWHELMING SLOW pace movement of the legs. Their whole body shakes and they seem to waddle from left to right before actually taking a step forward.
For about three weeks, I was faced with the challenge of trying to make my way to get to a 15 minute destination without it taking an hour. I kept dodging them all by sneaking between two people. With all the fruit and avocado stands along the sidewalks, I very often would run into someone who decides to come to a complete stop to buy some fruit. This is where I did my best fancy footwork to retain balance and avoid the collision. I literally hopped from one foot to the next, creating my own personal salsa dance. Yes, I did want to yell out, “Can you just walk!”
Then, last week a neighbor was telling me about a place called, “La Suiza” where you can get the most amazing Tiramisu. I had never noticed it but, apparently it was along the main street where I walked almost everyday.
Now, I had commented on the walking pace in Colombia to her. She had never said anything except smile. On this particular day, she said,
“Tomorrow, don’t worry so much about your destination. Take your time to enjoy the walk and love where you are. You’ll get there but, be happy and peaceful getting there. It’ll be that much more satisfying!”
Slowly, as she spoke, I became conscious of a side deep inside me I never realized before. On some level, I too fell into the busy trap just as much as anyone else. The worst part was admitting that I often am in a hurry for no real reason except to be in a hurry.
- I almost quit my Spanish courses because I wasn’t fluent after two weeks.
- I get impatient standing in line.
- And, I get frustrated when someone is walking slowly in front of me, even when it’s not an emergency.
Yup, I also fell into the trap of believing that if I’m not busy and don’t get things done in a short amount of time, I was unproductive and lazy.
Wow! This was huge for me.
Coming from a society where everything is a rush, where almost every minute of a day is planned, where the busiest person is valued and considered important and successful, living among a very spontaneous cultural, where very little plans are made, one’s first thought would be, “How do these people get anything done in life?”
This raised a very important question for me.
If this is true, why are there so many people suffering from depression, anxiety and burnouts?
Followed by two other questions.
Is it possible to slow down and still get things done?
Do we feel guilty about having free time to just BE?
I don’t have all the answers to these questions. I’m NOT suggesting we give up on our aspirations. From my own experience, I did come to know one thing. The times when I did slow down, relax and savor the moment, were the times I felt fully alive, energetic and got my best work done.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished”
– Lao Tzu
This realization has been both a blessing and liberation.
If you feel your life has become a never ending to-do list, I encourage you to take a step back, consider slowing down and not feel guilty about having free time. It may involve letting go of some projects or tasks in a day. Pick a few that are most important and put your attention on those few. Give yourself time to appreciate and enjoy every moment without rushing through an activity just to get to another one. Most importantly, take time to just be. Enjoy your own company. Give yourself permission to look inside, no matter what you may find, even if it’s a ‘dark’ side. Embrace it, accept it, be with it. The best accomplishments come from learning to confront and work with our ‘dark’ sides. We learn to let go of shame and guilt and makes us feel alive. We unleash our true value and strength and gain courage to live from our fullest true self. We become in control, instead letting our environment control us.
“In today’s rush we all think too much, seek too much, want too much and forget about the joy of just Being.”- Eckhart Tolle
I’d love to hear from you. Why did we end up living such busy lives? Maybe some of your answers can help to inspire us to slow down and enjoy our life’s journey!