What happened when I stopped rushing – and discovered the joy of slowing down? | Joan Bakewell
In our new series, Why I Quit, writers, activists and celebrities talk about something they swept out of their lives, for better or for worse.
I blame the White Rabbit: “Oh my God! Oh dear! I will be too late! Pocket watch in hand, glasses perched on my nose, the anguish of the furry one reinforced the authority figures of my daily life – parents, teachers – whose control over my young years convinced me that being late was a crime. , a sin, a failure, a fault . The only sure way for a child to incur the wrath of adults. And it could also have unpleasant consequences: a detention or a canceled outing. So “hurry up, hurry up” has always been the mantra driving my way of life, making sure I don’t miss the train, the curtain raiser, the keynote speech – life itself.
Later, I realized that I didn’t have to obey this inner drive. What made the difference? As I cautiously ventured down the subway in the weeks following hip surgery, I found everyone rushing. Moreover, they were all rushing at exactly the same pace, keeping a steady pace, eager to get there, wherever there was. Someone like me, walking slowly and resolutely, was simply an obstruction. People swerving and shoving me around: angry, rude, rushing to their train, rushing through life. Not me. I am now the person who takes the elevator in stations, who defers to people in a hurry who line up in queues. I arrive early for trains and flights, just so I don’t have to rush. I enjoy walking through the lobby, surveying the magazine stand, checking departure times.
The Welsh poet W. H. Davies nailed the issue: “What is this life so, full of care, / We have no time to stand and watch?” Yes, a lot of care and not enough time, that’s the truth.
How is it that so many of us burden our lives with worries? Is it by choice or by necessity? In my case, I admit both: I can hardly pick up a magazine or watch a TV show without wanting to try this recipe, visit this seaside, rearrange the furniture. I rush to buy these ingredients, reserve the train and mix the cushions. None of this is necessary. So it must be a choice. But it doesn’t feel like that. It must be intrinsic to my nature, unplanned and unnecessary, but a choice that responds in one way or another to a deep will. Hurry there, hurry up!
As for necessity, well, look around you. City life is hardly possible without rushing to fulfill everything that needs to be done. Washing, dressing, eating, washing dishes, tidying up, cleaning, shopping, gardening, washing – and we haven’t started earning a living yet. So hurry up! Falling into the world, there’s all that travelling, arriving, greeting, briefing, ordering, writing, meeting, agreeing, disagreeing (it takes longer). Add the fun element: greeting (this time different people) online, on Twitter, eating, visiting, enjoying, sharing… when will it end? Sleep is a blessing.
Lately, I formulated some rules to limit haste. Is it seriously possible to do less of everything? Cut out some things completely and do the essential things more superficially. Who needs to iron clothes or dry dishes? These are the fetishes of a disciplined childhood. Indeed, a large part of urban life is organized to help you: online shopping, bulk purchases, bulk cooking and freezing, drop-by-drop fabrics, Deliveroo. But that brings me to an inescapable truth.
Somewhere deep inside me, I’m probably enjoying all the rush. I even like to complain about it. I suspect it makes me feel needed, wanted, fulfilled. I could, after all, move to the countryside and live the simple life of a piece of land and a few chickens. How quiet it could be. Following the seasons, looking at the stars, measuring every moment in nature’s cycles – buds opening, leaves falling.
But wait! Why not plant vegetables, keep a sheep or two, pick hedgerow fruit, make jam. And if I hurry, I can take the only bus a day to the local town, have tea and scones with these new friends, and stay to catch the choir singing in the cathedral.
Yes, I’m afraid it’s a rushed life wherever I am.