14 Jul For the summer holidays: Learning how to slow down.
I went to see my Nan yesterday. Nan is 95 and has lung cancer. She is pleased to know she will soon be leaving this planet and has wanted the Lord to take her for a while. All my friends are dead, she tells us.
Although obviously weakening she is still bright and fairly active. She gets tired more and her eyesight is failing her, but apart from that you still wouldn’t know she was ill unless she told you.
I like to talk to her about her life, and have recorded a number of interviews with her over the last few years. She has told me about her earliest memory, getting in trouble at school, serving with the WAF in the Second World War, meeting my Grandad and settling in Folkestone to raise her children and live a quiet but happy life growing vegetables in her garden and taking long walks by the sea.
She often, regularly… okay, every time I see her, tells me that she is glad she isn’t bringing a child into this world now. She shakes her head, oh no ducky, I’m glad I don’t have to do that. I mean, what are they going to do?
She worries for her 13 (soon to be 14) great-grandchildren. She rolls her eyes about the economy, about immigration, about the state of politics. But her main concern for our little ones growing up here and now, is how busy it is. How noisy. How frantic.
What are they going to do? she asks.
We came to Anglesey yesterday. The kids finished school for the summer. We went home, packed, ate a quick tea and got in the car. By 9pm we were here.
Life here is slower. It refuses to rush.
It is slower than in the city, where demands and requests ping through, where the timetable of Mum’s taxi never gets a break, where homework needs to be in, appointments kept, and the to-do list keeps growing.
If I moved at this slower pace in Liverpool, it would be easy to feel as though life was passing me by. I would feel I was missing out; all the possibilities of how I could be spending my time, how I could be contributing, what I could be accumulating, achieving, producing.
Here, in this quiet corner, those frantic thoughts feels like a lot of hot air.
A ridiculous notion.
It is difficult to transition from the break-neck pace of normal life to this calmer, more measured pace. It feels odd.
It is hard to slow down.
As soon as the kids came into our room this morning they wanted to know what our plan was for the day. Where are we going? What are we doing?
Matt and I were determined today needed to be a slow day, a day of recuperation. This is a difficult concept for children who are constantly on the go, moving through the day from one activity to another with barely a pause.
We had a lazy breakfast and at about 11:30 left for the beach. At the beach we walked and threw a tennis ball between us. The kids bickered and asked how long we would be staying. The sun came out and we got a picnic blanket out of the car and the few snacks we had packed. I took out my book and began to read. Matt lay down and was asleep in moments, the warm sand and the sun on his face better than any herbal sleeping aid. The kids asked when we were leaving. We cajoled them and placated them with ice-creams. We sent them to explore the rocks, to paddle in the sea. We lasted a couple of hours.
When are we leaving? they asked.
If it is difficult for Matt and I to slow down even though we have looked forward to it and read about it and desired it and planned for it, how much harder is it for the kids? They have little understanding this is what they need. We have given them no road map.
And we all need one.
Tomorrow will be slower, we will all have spent a bit longer decompressing from the 24/7 nature of normal life. The conversations will be easier, the pauses and silences longer.
After tea I asked Matt if he wanted to walk down the lane with me. We talked about the jolt your mind and body feel when it suddenly tries to slow down. And the faster you have been moving the harder it is, the greater ‘stopping distance’ you need.
We talked of how good it is when you manage it.
We looked at the wild flowers and the ferns and breathed deeply.
We are learning. We will learn.
We will teach the kids.
My Nan’s words ring in my mind. Life is too busy, too hectic, too noisy.
But I feel hopeful we can change. That we will keep trying.
Maybe this time we won’t pick up the pace quite so quickly when we return to real life. Maybe this slower pace, where it is more possible to be present and to be open to the possibilities of the day, will permeate our lives a little more when we return, and we will all be better for it.