And now my pace is outstripping my enjoyment of many things. I eat fast, so I haven't learned to savor. I move fast, so I pass by many moments of beauty or intimacy. I think fast, so the span of my ponderings are an inch deep and a mile wide. I react fast, so I easily wound those who are closest to me.
Society values speed and efficiency. Just look at the premium we place on speed for cell phones and internet. If a web page takes longer than 2.3 seconds to load, I groan, complain, move on to the next. I want my devices and technology to move as fast as I do. If you don't believe me, just watch this AT&T commercial:
(I'm not gonna lie, these commercials make me laugh every single time.)
But with all the speed and constant movement, I am starting to feel thin. In the words of Bilbo Baggins, "like butter scraped over too much bread." I am growing to resent my chosen pace of life. Yet, I'm finding that it's not necessarily the pace that wears me thin, but the relentlessness of the pace.
A communications professor I had once said that, in public speaking, a speaker needs to periodically offer his or her audience an oasis. A moment of calm amidst the message for that message to have time to seep in. He gave the examples of anecdotes or jokes that speakers use, not just to add levity and be more engaging, but to allow for the marination of ideas. The mind can only process so much information at once.
My new practice amidst my frenetic pace of life is finding the oasis. Allowing myself to cease striving, take a minute, be still. I have claimed 15 minutes of my morning routine as an oasis. I sit at my desk. I sip coffee. I listen to music. I read blogs. I think.
I found an oasis last Sunday when speaking with a friend. I stopped sprinting from my kids' sunday school classes to the church service to the bathroom to . . . and I sat with her and we laughed. It was a 10 minute oasis.
I found an oasis on Monday when I traveled with a group of students to Washington, D.C. We were in Ford's Theater, wandering around the museum of artifacts and information about the assassination of Lincoln. (I know, of all places for an oasis to surface, right?) I sat down on a bench, alone in front of a TV monitor that displayed a video of all living presidents reading passages of the Gettysburg Address. After a few minutes I stopped listening to the screen and just sat thinking, pondering, musing. I felt a settling in my chest, a calm. It lasted only a few moments, but it was enough.
These pockets of peace, these oases, can be spontaneous or intentional. But those of the spontaneous nature are so easily missed. Yet once you start looking for them, you start to learn their tells, their calling cards, so that next time you can find or create them more easily.
For example, I find an oasis any time I read poetry. Maybe it's the cadence of the words, or the silky sinew of the line, but it brings such calm to me. Now, even when reading a poem amidst a classroom full of squirrelly students, I can still find the oasis (fleeting though it might be).
Have you found an oasis, a pocket of calm in life's whorl? I'd love to hear about it, maybe even be on the lookout for it along with you!
Have a happy Wednesday, friends!