Learning to Slow Down
For me, holidays are difficult. So is summer. Which makes me feel bad because I know that I should be enjoying summer and holidays. (Or summer holidays . . . But summer is a season, too, so . . .) I should be reveling in the now, and out having fun. I should be spending time with the family and making great memories. But my impatient nature and perpetual focus on the future sometimes gets in the way.
During the holidays, not much is happening in the publishing world. People are on vacation. Turnaround times, often already slow, become a crawl. And yet here I am checking my email obsessively in the hopes of news only to be disappointed.
I’ve said before in my essay on happiness that expectation is the root of dissatisfaction. In fact, I’d say that to want is to suffer. Is that a Buddhist principle? But here is what I’ve discovered: the more I want something, the more painful my life becomes. The narrower my focus, the less I’m able to see other things around me that might bring me joy. Sure, there is something to be said for going after your goals, but at the same time, there is more to be said for being happy with what you have and staying open to other opportunities and outcomes.
Yesterday my 10-year-old son was frustrated and upset over things he wanted but didn’t get. I explained this principle to him. He asked, “But if you don’t really desire anything, how do you choose something if you have more than one option?” I told him that you will feel a pull toward the correct option, and that if you do not feel that pull, you should not choose anything. “Never choose just for the sake of choosing. Only choose when it is right in your heart.”
Yeah, I’m totally turning into a Buddhist.
So then my son asked, “But if the thing you want is right there, and you know one hundred percent that you’re going to get it, is it okay to desire it in that moment?” To which I answered, “It’s better to wait that one more second until you have it, and then be grateful you got it.”
Being grateful will always make us happier than wanting. That is what I’ve learned as a writer, as a human in general.
And that’s what I’m trying to apply to my life during holidays and summer. Yesterday we went as a family out to Columbia, California. And for a whole day, I was present and enjoying my life instead of fixating on when my book cover was going to be ready or whether I’ll ever get my WIP done. Because I want to be there for my family, making happy memories with them. I don’t want them to remember me as always closeted in my office, unavailable. I don’t want to look back on my life and have it be me sitting at the computer all the time. Writing gives me pleasure, but it can’t be everything. I can’t always be looking on to the next thing, else I’ll never see what is around me here and now.
I’ve got to slow down and love the now.