Dr. Jeff Kane: Slow down, then rest
I often find myself driving behind the slowest car in the county. At the same time, the maniac behind me is leaning on his horn while nudging my bumper.
To some extent, we’re all fast movers, but I hadn’t registered that till I slowed down. If I putter along at a steady 55 on the freeway, other drivers curse me for holding up traffic, and I worry that a cop will stop me for going only the speed limit.
Fast is everywhere. Fast food, instant coffee, instant replay, instant loan approval, Instagram, the ten-minute news cycle. When’s the last movie preview you saw that featured scenes longer than two seconds? We even prize the double-timing we call multitasking.
We’re a rushed culture. We learn early to hit the road running. Deliberately planning for speed, we routinely pack too much in. The most common cell phone message is, “I’m running a little late, Honey.”
An alien anthropologist might diagnose us with Hurry Disease. Imagine a billboard depicting people sweatily overwrought, and captioned “HD, the silent killer. Won’t you contribute to vanquish this scourge?”
But really, it’s less a disease than a choice. We hurry because we unconsciously choose to act that way, conforming to the social tempo we inherited.
Yet we know obsessive speed isn’t healthy. Doctors daily advise patients that they need to slow down because their rate of life is slowly killing them, generating high blood pressure and other disorders. How many traffic tragedies come from excessive speed? Most of my own injuries result from moving to my next project prematurely.
Fortunately, nature has a cheap and harmless remedy for HD. At a certain age you notice that your body’s stiffened a bit, so it can’t move quickly anymore. That can feel like a dark cloud, but it has a silver lining. I’ve learned, for example, that going slowly means I see more. Instead of driving through our town, whipping scenery past my eyes, I walk more, taking my sweet time. Heading nowhere, I sit on every bench. I greet passing friends and visitors, and learn something from each one. I notice subtle changes in surroundings, appreciate details anew, and enjoy more thinking time.
And I wonder: what did all my prior velocity achieve? Did I want to get everything done ASAP so I could finally relax? If so, why didn’t I simply relax then? When I ask people that kind of question, many reply, “Yeah, I know I should slow down, but I just can’t.” Of course we can’t— until we get determined, and then we can.
Jeff Kane is a physician and writer in Nevada City.
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