Image by DS Williams via Flickr
That old Simon & Garfunkel song keeps running through my head. I make it all the way to the “feelin’ groovy” line and shake myself free of its melodic grip.
Although I find myself saying this to the 15-year-old with the driver’s permit frequently, that’s not what’s triggered the jukebox in my brain. Nor is it the sense of time whipping past me out of control as my children leap into adulthood, pictures remind me that my husband is now mostly bald, and I find new gray hair in places I never expected to see gray hair.
No, this chorus is on repeat for me as a subtle reminder from my heavenly Father that I need to stop rushing through the minor details of everyday life.
I tend to do everything fast. I read fast, I walk fast, I eat fast. I’ve figured out how to turn vacuuming into an aerobic activity. I multitask my way through breakfast (read Bible, read devotional, take vitamins, drink coffee, eat oatmeal, pray, and check e-mail, all at the same time), and then move on to the day’s demands like a jackrabbit on speed. I tried Tai Chi once, and literally could not make myself move that slowly without dissolving into a pile of anxious giggles. Thank goodness I was doing it at home to a video and not in a class of Tai Chi devotees!
But by mid-afternoon I hit a slump. The day has gotten away from me, and though I’ve been rushing since my feet hit the floor, I rarely feel I’ve accomplished anything. “Where did the day go?” and “Where did this week go?” and “My goodness, it’s August already?” are frequent questions.
Writing fiction pinpointed the problem. When I offered chapters of my WIP to my critique partners, if that chapter was hurried, the comments returned were things like, “Where are your details? Use all five senses to show, not tell, what’s going on.” Show and tell? Tell or show? I’ve since learned this is a major problem for writers, the ability to show a reader what’s taking place in the scene through the eyes of the character, without simply stating facts. You don’t want to bore the reader with mindless drivel, but you don’t want to rush them through a plot timeline void of emotion and feeling. I was frustrated with the process, not sure where to begin.
Getting ready in the morning seems like a terrible waste of time to me, but I’m too vain to skip it. It’s hard to read while you brush your teeth, or put contacts in while typing, so I generally let my brain work overtime while I’m going through the motions of daily hygiene. Sometimes I get great ideas for stories, or bits of dialog. I occasionally even remember them after the hair dryer turns off!
Other times God interrupts my frenetic mental pace with revelation, or a gentle correction, or a reminder. As I fretted over my lack of detail and telling problem, I heard His still, small voice whisper from within my spirit, “Slow down. You move too fast.”
Now, I don’t THINK the Holy Spirit serenaded me with Simon & Garfunkel, but I wouldn’t put it past Him. In any case, that’s the way my brain processed it. I knew the Lord was trying to show me something, not just about writing, but about living my life.
We’re all in such a hurry, and so busy, our lives have become a bad case of “telling.” Look at Facebook and MySpace and Twitter and Tumblr: we’re telling the world the stories of our lives in soundbytes, thumbnails, and notes. Can you imagine your autobiography written solely from your status messages? Texting is even worse. Talk about cutting out all the details! We eliminate half the alphabet in our text communiques.
Back to the Holy Ghost and his Simon & Garfunkel rendition. I picked up my brush again and started working on my hair one more time, this time forcing myself to move purposefully, to be aware of muscle contractions in my hand and fingers and forearm. I consciously took note of the texture and color of my hair, the temperature of the flat iron in my hand. I smelled the fragrance of my so-called “unscented” hairspray and tasted, actually tasted, my toothpaste. Do you know how long it’s been since you really tasted your toothpaste?
Throughout the day, I made an effort to move more slowly, to be aware of all my senses and to mentally record my surroundings. These are the things that make memories: the smell of a newborn baby’s fuzzy head, fresh from a bath; the visual overload of a new 64-count box of Crayola crayons; the fragile feel of your elderly neighbor’s hand in your own; the way your husband or wife’s voice sounds in the dark as they tell you goodnight; the contrasting flavor and texture of a caramel-covered apple on a warm fall afternoon …
Sadly, these are the very things we lose as we “go through the motions” of living. No wonder we so often feel vaguely dissatisfied with life. But instead of slowing down and really living, we just run on to the next thing the way children rip open one Christmas present, glance at its contents, toss it aside and reach for the next one without even removing all the plastic packaging and twist-ties holding the toy in the box!
The Psalms are filled with the word “selah.” It literally means, “stop and think about that!” The principle of Sabbath was intended to bring about an enforced rest at least once a week for a people who were driven to keep on keeping on with the business of living. You’ll notice the first thing Adam and Eve did after they realized they were naked was to start being busy doing something for themselves. It’s like God says to us, “stop DOING, and just BE. Think about the things I’ve given you, focus on them, enjoy them with all the human and spiritual senses you have right now on earth. Feast on Me, and on My creation, and let your soul be satisfied with my goodness.”
It’s amazing how much more fulfilling my writing is when I take the time to let my mind drift fully into a scene through my character’s point of view, experiencing that imaginary world with all the senses. It’s not just fulfilling to the reader, it’s fulfilling for me as a writer. Daily life — no matter how humdrum — is no different. When I slow down, use sight and sound and smell and touch and taste, to be aware of my surroundings and the animate and inanimate objects in them, my life is more fulfilling, and isn’t that what Jesus said He came to give us, what He wants us to have?
“A thief comes [only] to steal and kill and destroy, but I came to give life [that they might have life]–life in all its fullness [abundance.]”(John 10:10, The [expanded] Bible. Thomas Nelson Pub.)
Slow down today. You won’t lose out on anything, in fact, you’ll probably gain a great deal of the joy of living you thought passed you by.
Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy.
Ba da, Ba da, Ba da, Ba da…Feelin’ Groovy.
What cha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’.
Ain’t cha got no rhymes for me?
I’ve got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy.Simon & Garfunkel, 59th Street Bridge Song