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Slowing Down

I’m one of those drivers who moves from point A to point B at a constant speed. Whether traveling down the interstate or meandering around town, I set the cruise control at 5 miles per hour over the speed limit and just go.

It makes me think that perhaps my driving style matches my lifestyle, always doing my best to keep an even emotional keel, never letting myself slow down or speed up when reacting to outside influences. But then I recall moments on the road where someone cuts in front of me, unruly weather dumps a deluge of water on my windshield, or a tractor trailer barrels close to my back bumper. During these times, I am forced to slow down or speed up, against my apparent will, and it irks me. The same is true outside of the driving realm.

Since driving a car is a sort of personal sanctuary for me, it’s easy to sometimes get lost in the moment, allowing myself to feel as though I’m the only person on the road. But it’s times like these that remind me there’s a great big world surrounding us, with other people who have their own sets of challenges, problems, and joys to share.

And that’s when I made a conscious choice to slow down.

Literally, I slowed down. On the 1400-mile return road trip from dropping my son off at school for his sophomore year of college, I didn’t want to leave. Every mile driven was placing a greater distance between him and me, between him and home. It began as a fruitless ploy to keep the inevitable from happening. I set the cruise control exactly at the speed limit instead of 5 miles per hour over it. As the miles stretched farther between us, it became easier to accept the separation, and the slowdown in my driving speed allowed my thoughts to do the same.

I recalled the carefree way in which we moved all his belongings from a storage unit back into his dorm room to begin the semester. Even though the process of moving him out in the spring felt careful and coordinated, there was also a rush to get things done in the name of meeting a hard move-out deadline.

The move-in that occurred a few weeks ago was different, in many ways. A different room meant a change in the configuration of furniture. Things didn’t fit the way they did the previous year. It induced several moments of anxiety before we made the decision to slow down, take a deep breath, and use our combined creative prowess to come up with a solution. It's funny how that experience was a microcosm of daily life and the challenges we face.

It wasn’t until I was on the highway back home, driving slower, that I came to realize this truth. It’s perhaps a reason why drop-off this year was so much different for me. I hadn’t been amped up and anxious about meeting any sort of expectations or deadline. I simply slowed down and enjoyed the process, despite the inevitable challenges that presented themselves along the way.

As cars flew by me on the highway, I must admit there were moments of aggravation that tried to niggle their way into my mind. But as quickly as those vehicles disappeared from view, so did those anxious thoughts.

I peeked at my GPS along the way, noticing how my estimated arrival time kept slipping further into the future, thanks to my slower speed and occasional traffic delays. I ended up arriving at my destination about 15 minutes later than anticipated. But that extra quarter hour, as a result of slowing down, created a peaceful calm that was well worth the delay. It's also something I’m working to incorporate into all aspects of my daily routine.

Slow down to the speed of life. What you discover along the way with that extra time might just surprise you.


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