What happens when you unwittingly stop and smell the roses?
Not surprisingly, the classic Type A, high achiever mould fitted me like a glove. This conditioning was even more deeply ingrained as I pounded the corporate treadmill, juggling single parenthood, peak hour traffic and never enough hours in the day.
A good day was one where I ‘got lots done’, preferably ahead of relentless deadlines, until recently…
As a big fan of the ‘brisk daily walk’ it came as a sad realisation that Sherry, my 17 year old Soft Coated Wheaten was struggling to keep up.
From puppyhood to middle-age she’d always possessed way more energy than me and was still raring to go, long after I’d collapsed in an exhausted heap!
Our daily goal used to be to knock minutes or even seconds off the walk and get home quickly, a challenge she relished as much as me.
Gradually, over the last six months, my beautiful Sherry has been forced to slow down. Now showing all the signs of doggie dementia (a bit like the ‘7 signs of ageing’), she’s very deaf, nearly blind and increasingly forgets to tell me when she needs to go out!
Yet she’s still happy following me around, tail wagging as she waits patiently near the coat rack to have her leader put on.
But the cold, damp morning that greeted us as we ventured out this morning, seeped into her old joints, rendering us virtually stationary as we pottered around our neighbourhood.
Our excruciatingly slow pace reminded me of a childhood game called Dolly Steps where rather than rushing to the finish line, the aim was to take tiny… slow… short-strided steps.
If you stopped completely, you were ‘out’ and the winner was the last to arrive. As an eager 7 year old, it was a game that infuriated me and seemed rather futile.
Yet rather than being infuriated, our enforced slowness has uncoverd delights I’ve never noticed before.
First we stopped to watch a pink, wriggling worm inch slowly across the footpath. Given the distance such a small creature had to travel, I have a new found respect for its focus and determination to reach its destination, no matter how far away it must have seemed.
A little further along I noticed that one of my neighbours had planted some new and colourful shrubs in his front garden. He was about to hop in his car to go to work. Waiting for Sherry to catch up, I called out, “Your garden looks great!”
He smiled in acknowledgement and wandered over to tell me what he’d planted. We’d never had time to stop and chat before.
Seemingly out of nowhere, I heard a cacophony of birds competing to see who had the best call. Their chorus rang out over the street as if they were making some important announcement.
I stopped to listen, identified at least 5 different birdsongs and realised I’d never really taken any notice of them before.
Rounding the corner, a bunch of tradesmen were ready to start their day’s work on a new build.
Although I’d noticed the old house being demolished and the block cleared some months before, we usually hurry past to avoid the trucks, vans and muddy footpath.
Today we stopped for a chat with a couple of plumbers, leaning on their shovels, drinking coffee, waiting for their foreman to arrive.
They bemoaned the soaking rain that had held them up for the last week and yet, when they leaned down to pat Sherry’s soft head, their weather beaten faces softened into a smile. “She’s pretty good for an old dog. We notice you going past every day no matter what the weather and reckon that’s what keeps her going,” said the older of the two.
Sensing that we’re on the ‘home stretch’, Sherry’s pace picked up to a trot and as we turned into our drive she abruptly stopped.
An irresistable smell near the letterbox grabbed her attention and she was determined to investigate. Looking down I noticed an envelope wedged between the letterbox and a thick shrub next to it. Disappointingly for Sherry, it wasn’t full of dog treats, but I wonder if I’d even have seen it on my usual mail box dash.
Spring bulbs are peeping through in the front garden and while Sherry sniffed and pottered, I wandered around pulling out a few stray weeds, marveling at how the number of bulbs have doubled with no help from me.
Our daily walks used to take us 15 minutes – today it had taken nearly 40 and I didn’t begrudge a single one of them. I’ve lived in this street for 14 years and yet today the deliciousness of going slow brought a raft of new delights and a calming sense of peace.
Curiously, I’ve achieved a lot this morning at work, even though I’d been late getting started.
Who knew that ‘going slow’ could actually increase productivity!
Have you ever consciously slowed down? If so, what did you notice that in the usual mad rush of life, you’d not otherwise have experienced?
Leave a comment below about the ‘delicious delights’ of going slow you’ve discovered.
After all, the moral of this story could be, ‘don’t wait until you’re old to slow down – you never know what you might be missing.’