"There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage."
--Martin Luther

Monday, 6 August 2012

Learning to be Slow

Once upon a time, there was a lady who never slowed down. She felt the need to be busy all the time. Between work, church, friendships, and exercise, she fell exhausted into bed most nights, and slept just enough hours to give her the energy to do it all again. One day, she married her Prince Charming who moved her to a new place where her life slowed down... and now she is learning to love the slow.

Of course, this lady is me. When I think about my life over the last few years (okay, probably more like 15 years...), I feel tired. During my time in Ottawa, it was not unusual for me to be busy every evening of the week, and that is after waking up at 6:00am and working a full day. My life was full of Bible studies, youth group, ladies missionary fellowship, girls' nights, etc. Meeting Gil made things even crazier: Now I was up even later talking on the phone with my long distance boyfriend, and going to Toronto on weekends to see him. (We're not even going to talk about how my housework suffered....) And yet, I didn't hesitate to add new things to the mix, like running a half-marathon or taking night-school Mandarin. Many evenings, I prayed to God to “please multiply these few hours of sleep ahead so that they are enough to get me through tomorrow.”

Why did I do it? In truth, I've always liked to be busy. Even in high school, my parents warned me about over-extending myself. In university, I ended up with bronchitis after a particularly difficult semester in which I took an extra class and was involved in marching band, German theatre, and a dance show; when I came down with a bad cold, I refused to take time to rest and just got sicker and sicker. There are probably lots of reasons for the chronic busyness: I have always liked to make the most out of things, so if it comes down to German theatre group or more sleep, I'll choose the theatre, because who knows when I'll get the former opportunity again. (The answer would be never, unfortunately!) In Ottawa, I often kept busy because I hated being home alone in the evenings. I value deep relationships and I wasn't content to have my main personal interactions be in a work context. Of course, then the church dynamic comes into play: If you are a person who serves at church, you will almost certainly be asked to serve in other areas. If you are unmarried and childless, as I was, you often feel like you can't say no to these requests, because it's not like you need “family time”, right? Once in a while, I had glimpses of the insanity of my lifestyle when I would get sick and actually be thankful for the time to rest. After recuperating for a day or two, however, I was ready to jump back into the craziness with no intention to slow down.

Until I got married, I had no idea how exhausted I was from this busy cycle. For the first few weeks, I was sleeping for hours after Gil had left for work. My body needed to catch up on years of bad sleeping habits. At first, I didn't know how I would cope with the slower pace of not working, but it started to come naturally: I could do things that I'd always enjoyed doing, like working out mid-day and studying Mandarin, without feeling guilty. I could enjoy my coffee in the morning without feeling rushed. I could clean the house before it started looking like a disaster area.

Last weekend, I found myself choosing the slow, and not taking on the guilt of being idle. On Sunday, I was supposed to go to a barbecue organized by my Chinese school. My plan was to wake up earlier than usual, attend the first service at my church, and go straight to the park to meet my teacher and co. All the plans went to naught, however, because I woke up way too late to make it to church for 9:15. I was about to give way to guilt, to skip church and head to the barbecue because I had told my teacher I would be there but then it hit me: I have a choice. I can choose to act out of duty, or I can choose to prioritize church and time with my husband. Okay, so I felt a bit bad because I had RSVPed yes, but in the end, choosing the slow day of a late sushi lunch after church and watching Olympics with my husband was the best choice. I'm realizing that these first months/years together will fly by, and one day babies will come and add a new craziness to our lives, so we had best enjoy the slow while we can.