The Value of Slow
I’ve spent the majority of my life chasing something.
“Something” is vague, but in truth, it’s always felt vague.
Once I was faster on my runs, once I nailed that juggling trick, once I attained my MFA, once I was published in that magazine, once I could prove to myself that I was worthy — then, and only then, I could rest.
Part of it is comparison — that elusive violence we commit against ourselves — part of it is running from my greatest fear:
that if who I am right now is all I’ll ever be, that simply isn’t good enough.
In the winter of 2013, I began to feel a sharp pain in my lower back. I thought it was a small thing — something I could shake off with rest and more movement. More pushing. More stretching. Take it further. Be tougher.
Five years and thousands of dollars later, I realize how deeply wrong I was.
I’ve been running from myself ever since. I’ve spent every day in pain, every day certain that one day it would end. That this won’t be my life forever. That with enough perseverance and commitment, I could solve this thing. I would feel normal again. I had to, because I wasn’t good enough like this.
This wasn’t my life. I would be a dancer, a runner, a yogi, lift weights, feel good in my body forever and ever.
There’s something to be said for refusing to give up, and I’ll grant myself that resilience.
There’s one looming problem, however: I let this resistance consume me. So much so, that every memory I have of every incredible moment I’ve been granted for five straight years is tainted. All that I remember about it is how angry I was at my pain. Even pure, unfettered joy couldn’t pull me out of my avoidance and bitterness.
This year, I decided that enough was enough. If I couldn’t be honest with myself, what was life even worth?
The Annoying Truth About Worthiness
I’ve posted this on my bathroom wall.
I’ve written it over and over again like schoolchildren repetitively scratching on a chalkboard, “I will not plagiarize. I will not plagiarize…”
Worthiness does not require you to believe in it.
I know what you’re thinking, “Ugh get out of here with that touchy-feely nonsense.”
“Get in here with your touch-feely nonsense. You are welcome here. Take a seat at this table.”
There are two types of exhaustion in this world: The exhaustion you feel from grinding yourself against an unauthentic life. The unproductive conflicts. The repetitiveness of uninspiring work. The internal self-berating for behaviors that are inconsistent with your values.
Then, there is Honest Exhaustion. The exhaustion you feel from showing up as who you are. Knowing the stories you tell yourself, holding yourself and others accountable. Walking into vulnerability with compassion. Leaving space for yourself to grow, to change — leaving that space for others.
When You Show Up for Yourself
You show up for others, too.
And in this quiet, presence space, I have welcomed truth.
If I am not worthy now, I will never be worthy.
Now, I eat slowly.
I communicate slowly and make space for silence between sentences.
I go for walks instead of runs.
I prioritize my goals for the long-game.
I listen to gentle music.
I take the time to understand a problem before trying to solve it.
I allow myself the indulgence in every sensory experience possible — the smell of cinnamon, the warmth of sunlight, the sleek red flesh of tomatoes.
None of these things make me any more worthy than anyone who moves at a different pace. I am inherently worthy, regardless of my choices.
What solidifies this truth is that I am comfortable with my own pace. I know I will get to where I need to be as it makes sense to get there.
The world is committing emotional violence against us at alarming rates. The act of self-love is so far-fetched, it’s almost laughable. But when we decide to choose it anyway — when we risk how we might look to others, how our “cheesy grandeur” might cause some people to run — we are granted the space to stop running.
To take off our shoes.
To spread out our arms in the onion grass.
To hold ourselves accountable for the love we deserve.
All of this work, in truth, is slow. It is painful. It is honestly exhausting.
And this is what gives it the most value — it is only afforded to those willing to stop, breathe, and take a look around them.