The Tortoises and the Hare
Two friends went on a bicycle ride. They rode through cobbled, brick streets in tree-lined neighborhoods and museums brimming with activity. They meandered down to the river, pausing to watch the ducks and take a drink of water. They talked about the river and the history of their city. The setting sun reflected orange-red in the glass covered buildings downtown. When it was time to head home, they put on their helmets and set off, this time climbing a big, steep hill.
One friend saw the hill and pushed forward with ease, never stopping to assess the hill or consider if she could reach the top. One pedal in front of the other she climbed and climbed and talked while she did. She never lost her breath. She didn’t see the top of the hill. She saw the next piece of road as her only obstacle. Her strong legs carried her up and up until she felt she wasn’t working as hard. She crested the hill without even realizing how steep or tall it was until she looked down at her friend.
Her friend chose a different path. Upon seeing the big hill, she sighed and moaned and wondered aloud if there was a different way, maybe a less steep hill. She decided the steep climb would be over more quickly than trying to circumvent the whole neighborhood. This friend gathered her strength for the big push and sped ahead of her companion. She pushed and pushed and panted and tried to reply to her friend’s conversation over her shoulder. Her legs pumped the pedals and she tried to stand up into the climb. (She was told this would help.) The hill was steep. It was tall. It seemed to go on forever. Every time she looked up to the top it seemed farther and farther away. She was almost at the very tip top, just a few more seconds of pushing and climbing and forcing her body to comply. She was just about there when she gave up, exhausted from exerting so much energy in the beginning. She hopped off the bike, knees buckling, and pushed it the rest of the way.
Both friends reached the top of the hill. One friend took her time and enjoyed the view and relished in the exertion of her body. The other friend was me.
Over the years my friend Erika (whether she realizes it or not) has taught me so much about slowing down. She is a beautiful, thoughtful, compassionate, kind and generous person. She also takes her time about things. She stops to smell the roses. Or the coffee, or the perennials or the garden dirt or the onion and chive cheese she found at the market. She takes her time about walking, talking, making decisions and giving advice. Being the fast person that I am, sometimes my ego gets impatient. I have been known to ask her out to a happy hour and get annoyed when I have to wait another 30 minutes. (But I wanna go RIGHT NOW.) She pushes the limits of restaurant closings, gym class starting times and just about any other appointment she makes. While I’m standing around tapping my feet, she is enjoying each moment as it comes without fear of the future or what will happen if she’s late. Nothing will happen. Nothing ever happens. How many times have I seen her show up late to a Pilates class only to get the best spot in the room? Or arrive at a restaurant just as it closes forcing her to go somewhere else? It seems the second place is always better anyway. (Speaking of restaurants, she eats slowly, too. I shovel it in at warp speed most of the time. And not just because it takes so long to get to dinner like April would say.) She goes to estate sales on the last day, half an hour before it ends and leaves with her car full of new stuff, all half-priced and perfect for her. The rules I think exist don’t apply to her. She chooses not to believe in them and that works.
|Hiking with my slowing down guru.|
Erika notices every beautiful thing. We can be smack in the middle of the most exhausting hike over the biggest hills (I remember specifically Twin Knobs hill in the Ozarks on one blistery cold day in November) and she will stop us to point out a cobweb ten feet up the trunk of a tree behind some moss and under a squirrel. How the hell..? She will have to yell up to me, as I am already 30 feet away on the trail, going full steam ahead, forgetting that I am on a hike to enjoy nature, not just to finish a hike. I will sigh, drop my shoulders and drag my feet over land I’ve already covered (I loathe going back.) When I get there I will see the most wonderful spontaneous creation of nature shining in the sunlight, dewy and fragile, clinging to a tree through the gusts of winter.
I am a stubborn, stubborn, dig-my-heels-in kind of person. I do not like this about myself. I’m trying to let go of the need to hold on, which is all stubbornness is in reality. It takes work. It’s hard to slow down and let go. Erika has been trying to teach me this for a while. I don’t always get my messages as fast as I could (if I was paying better attention.) No fear, the universe loves nothing more than helping us learn our lessons in any way it can. After being friends with Erika for years and years and still struggling with slowing down, the universe cleverly decided to help me out some more.
It gave me another Erika. New Erika (actually, Erica) is also a beautiful, compassionate, kind and loving person. She also takes her time about things. She’s smart and passionate and generous. And slow, slow, slow. Her movements are slow. Her reactions to events are slow. As a very fast, over-reactive person, I find myself being forced into slowness yet again.
I was in the middle of relaying a series of unfortunate events with some customers and my co-worker, Erica, when I heard myself say, “I was just ready to be done and she still had to put on her coat, clock out and….” Whoa, April was getting really, really bitchy. Was I complaining about waiting for someone to put on her coat when it was 30 degrees outside and she had to take a bus home? Yes, yes I was. (Or rather, April was. You know I wouldn’t do that.) It made me laugh. I finally saw what the universe was trying to tell me for the last ten years. I understood all at once that until I learned how to slow down and be patient and enjoy the damn roses, I would get more and more Ericas with varying degrees of slowness tossed into my existence.
I don’t know how they will feel about this. I hope they don’t decide I’m not worth teaching any more lessons. Maybe they’re always complaining about how fast I am and how impatient I am. I don’t think so. They don’t tend to complain much either. I guess there isn’t anything to complain about when you take time to listen to the river or touch the bark of an ancient tree or wonder at life’s little miracles. Food tastes better, too, when you actually chew it.
|Erika appreciating the bamboo in my yard I routinely bitch about.|