Living slowly in America is difficult. As a culture, we have embraced a lifestyle of rushing from one thing to another. Productivity is our god.
We feel guilty when we have an afternoon free, and there is an internal battle over what we should do to fill it. No doubt, there is something on our to-do list to accomplish or an errand to run. Something.
We tend to look at subcultures here in the United States as lazy. You know the ones. Those cultures that will sit out on their front porch visiting for hours. Gasp, do they ever work? In most cultures, relationships are far more important than events. We would do well to learn from them.
As a child growing up in France, one thing I knew was that if we were having dinner in a French home, you could expect to be sitting there for hours. I remember well sitting outside in someone’s yard on a summer evening. Dinner is never rushed. Why would it be? We are here to visit. While I have become accustomed to life here in the U.S. and unfortunately have fallen into the trap of busyness myself, I still find myself somewhat surprised at the speed with which people eat. Dinner with friends is usually eat and go. Lingering for hours at the dinner table is just not something we do.
I have read quite a few productivity and time management books, and the striking thing about all of them is that they emphasize the necessity of taking breaks. We must slow down. Our lives cannot be consumed with work and busyness. In fact, there is remarkable evidence that the most productive people in business are also the ones that take significant time off of work. Seventy hour work weeks? Most highly productive people are not even coming close to that.
In the home, this surprisingly does not look very different. Sure, our job description changes, but ultimately it is all the same. We are tied to our to-do lists, and we are guilt-ridden about what we can “show” for our day. We chauffeur our children from one event to another in an effort to give them enriching activities. We need a smartphone just to keep up with the family’s regularly scheduled events. “Can you come for coffee?” “Well, let me see if I can fit it in.”
None of these activities are bad in and of themselves. It is in filling our lives up to the point of exhaustion that we soon realize we are missing out on life. We are so busy doing, that we have missed out on living.
Laziness is not good, to be sure. But spending your life checking things off a to-do list is not good either. It is a sad culture we live in when neighbors don’t even know each other by name, because they are hardly home long enough to wave a hello, let alone chat in the yard.
There is beauty that is missed when we spend more time running to and fro than we do having an impromptu coffee and play date with another mom, watching the kids skip on rocks at the creek, or visiting with friends.
Enjoy your weekend, friends. Axe a few things off the list. Go on a leisure walk with no agenda. Have an impromptu coffee date with a friend. Linger over dinner.
Productivity is good. People are more important.
What are you doing this weekend to slow down and live?