Recently, among my 5k racing, triathlon training, swing dancing, book making, and lesson teaching, I was challenged to slow down. My boyfriend, Loreto, sent me this link that contained a video from TED all about slowing down. Specifically, the speaker, Carl Honore, talks for 18 minutes (a TED thing) about his book In Praise of Slow and about the Slow Movement.
I am, and have always been, a workaholic/multitasker. I have many a-shameful anecdotes involving taking chemistry books to high school basketball games and Shakespeare to Superbowl parties, but I'll save you the details and myself the embarrassment; you can imagine the levels of nerdome. Despite being aware of my problem, I haven't been able to shake it - even here in the land of jam karet or 'rubber time.' I walk faster, worry more, and simply enjoy less. My Indonesian coworkers notice it: "Mba Jackie always worries," they sigh and shake their heads. They know better. They know everything will work out eventually, so there is no need to stress in the least. I have, in fact, learned from them over the past year and a half that I can accomplish more if I just slow down and listen. There is always a solution waiting to be uncovered just beneath the surface of a casual breakfast conversation or even within a five-minute friendly office chat in place of my usual power walk to the copier and back to my office. Sometimes I just need to fight the urge to buzz in and out to get the projector/speaker/schedule and just sit down and and ask about someone's weekend/lesson plans/children. It is, after all, what Carl Honore goes on about in his presentation: relationships.
He calls our western/American mentality the "Road Runner Culture" - go, go, go forth and be productive. My major problem, if I'm honest, is that I often value time and productivity over relationships. I can show off the fruits of my hard labor and get all the accolades I need to fulfill my life; I cannot get that same affirmation from having deep, solid relationships. I feel my stress levels rise rapidly if I'm out with friends (running, shopping, adventuring) and the hours pass by. My head tells me I could be doing more productive things at home with my computer and speedy wifi. I often blame it on being an introvert, but the truth is that my definition of productive revolves entirely around a tangible product - books, data, results. This is pathetic, not to mention destructive. All of this introspection has been magnified of late when because I have some pretty wonderful people in my life who do value relationships on a level that quite frankly, impresses and surprises me. My brothers (how did they get the gene and not me?), my sister-in-laws (though I promised not to mention their names and ruin their bad-ass image), some of my dearest and closest friends (Mo and Robyn - why they still claim me, I'll never know), and of course my very tolerant boyfriend.
If there is anywhere I can learn to slow down, it should be here in Indonesia. It's true that I can find plenty of work to throw myself into, but I am also surrounded by a collectivist culture that is defined by its deep-seated relationships. I could go into self-analysis for a long while, but instead I'll give you some tales of my latest attempt to slow down and do as Indonesians do...there are more colorful pictures this way.
This past weekend was a long weekend because of the Balinese new year holiday. So, I packed up and headed to the island of Lombok. My one and only goal was to have no goals. I wanted to live 4 unscheduled days on a beach and only invest energy in relationships with two of my American girl friends Tabitha and Jess. Here is what I/we did:
- Got up when I wanted to
- Jogged or walked for the pleasure of jogging or walking - not for training
- Discovered some pristine beaches
- Hung out with some puppies
- Floated in the ocean
- Laid on the beach
- Wrote in a journal
- Used the internet only to write blogs (and do two very short work emails)
- Talked to a lonely shop keeper
- Played scrabble
- Learned how to eat coconut meat straight from a coconut
- Gazed slowly at a magnificent view of palm-tree covered hills
- Ran through palm-tree covered hills and a few rivers
- Chugged some water while a man sang on a bull horn
- Sat on a front porch and sang along with a guitar
- Talked to some giggly girls
- Chatted with an old woman selling coconuts
Not bad for an earnest attempt at being slow. These things take time, after all.