What’s The Rush?
It’s 5:15 a.m. on Friday morning. Technically my article for the Connection was due yesterday, but I am usually granted a reprieve until Friday afternoon. Initially I took advantage of this grace period on that rare occasion when my week had been too busy to find a quiet, protracted period to write. Now my tardiness is the norm, as are the busy weeks.
I was lamenting to a colleague the other day how the pace of our work and our lives continues to ramp up, and asked how as a leader of this organization and community I can help us begin to shift our culture. She pointed out the irony that Waldorf education is a human education – a healing education – and yet we seem to have forgotten that as adults, we too, are in need of human connection and restorative, therapeutic time. Around the office we joke that we need two months to get through May; in reality every month can feel like this. My colleague shared that she is listening to an audio book while driving (multi-tasking, of course!) titled Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. The gist of the book is that much of what occupies our time is non-essential. Author Greg McKeown proposes that If we can discipline ourselves to discern what is absolutely essential, and eliminate everything that is not, we can make the highest possible contribution toward the things that really matter.
I found myself thinking back to April, when I spent five days on the Oregon coast alone, without my computer and with my phone off for much of the time. (I told my children to text me only if in the ER!) I had long anticipated this solitary respite, and knew the biggest challenge to finding the renewal I desperately needed would be me. Could I really allow myself to be still, and sink into the stillness of the beach, beginning each day with an empty to-do list?
Well, not only did I give myself permission to do nothing, I did a darn good job at it! I read books, walked on the beach, took naps and simply sat quietly, enjoying the sound of the waves and the beauty of a pair of eagles circling above. One book I read was a short but powerful exploration by Pico Ayer titled The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere. A world traveler, Ayer reflects on the distraction and demands of today’s world, largely created by our insistent technology beeping and calling us 24/7. He offers that the tonic we are seeking is slowing down, taking stock, and discovering the simple, cathartic thrill of stillness. Ayer writes, “In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still. You can go on vacation to Paris or Hawaii or New Orleans three months from now, and you’ll have a tremendous time, I’m sure. But if you want to come back feeling new – alive and full of fresh hope and in love with the world – I think the place to visit may be Nowhere.” This was certainly my experience.
But here I am, six weeks later, feeling as ragged and pressed for time as ever. Spring break seems like years ago. Clearly we need something other than the annual summer vacation or occasional three-day weekend. According to McKeown, we need a “a whole new way of doing things. It’s about doing less, but better, in every area of our lives.” I could not agree more – our current pace, and I’ll speak for the community here – is not healthy or sustainable. Most important, it’s not what we want for our children. When we reflect on our year as a faculty during Review Days, and move forward with our planning for next year, I will ask that we hold the question of “is this essential?” front and center. And perhaps parents and families can do this as well.
My copy of Essentialism arrived on my doorstep yesterday. Now to find time to read it…
Wishing you a wonderful, leisurely weekend filled with opportunities to be still,
Published in the Connection from 5.27.16