Slow and steady.
Most people have heard the Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare, the moral of which is “Slow and steady wins the race.” As the world around me begins to open up a little more and I can begin to step back out into public spaces again, I feel a bit like I am both the tortoise and hare at the same time.
Parts of me – mostly my hyperactive intellect – are like the hare. My brain is racing, trying to make plans for how I can phase myself back into certain activities as quickly as possible. Like the fable, there’s a finish line in my head. The finish line is getting back to a life like I had before all of this started. I long to get back to my previous “normal” even though I know on some level that’s not going to be possible.
The fast-racing part of my mind, however, then makes allowances for that reality and begins to rush ahead with all sorts of ingenious plans for how to adapt to the given circumstances. But the goal still feels like that finish line of “back to the way it was – or at least as close as possible to that.”
This applies both personally and professionally. For work, I have been on seemingly endless webinars and calls about how to pivot into a hybrid format of ‘live audience’ and ‘live stream.’ There are masses of surveys being conducted about audience intent to return. Experts in every possible facet of the industry are developing practices for how to deal with ticketing, entry, seating, concessions, etc. It’s a cavalcade of information. No, actually a landslide of information that is burying me in data. This is feeding that “hare” part of my brain, what my yoga and meditation teachers call the “monkey brain.”
Personally, my brain races to figure out how to get back to the world where I can go out and review restaurants again. Also, how can I get back to my gym and into my rock climbing routine? When will I be able to jump on a plane and go somewhere other than my apartment for my vacation time? So many “what ifs.”
It’s exhausting – and like Aesop’s fable the “hare” needs to just take a nap.
So now we come to the “tortoise” portion of this extended metaphor. While part of my brain is rushing about and wearing itself out, there’s a quiet yet powerful part of my mind that just keeps on saying, “One moment at a time.” Not even “one day at a time,” but moments instead of days. It’s the part of my brain that practices mindfulness and often stops me in my tracks to breathe, look around, pay attention, refocus, and then push forward again.
This is the part that I am trying so desperately to embrace. This slow, steady, wise part of my mind is truly the only thing that has kept me from flying entirely apart in the past twelve weeks of quarantine. As I think about this metaphor – the tortoise and the hare – I suddenly had a clear vision.
The hare needs to just stop rushing wildly about and sit on the back of the tortoise. That way, they both cross the finish line at the same time and both of them win the race. If I can figure out a way to slow down the impatient thoughts and link them more consciously to my mindfulness practices, then maybe I have a shot at getting through this without wearing myself out.
“Slow and steady” is hard for someone like me who is fundamentally impatient. But at the moment, I think it’s my key to emotional survival.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.