I had a gratitude journal once. It was a great way to end my day on a positive note. Before bed each night, I would write down three or five things that happened during the day for which I was grateful. At first, it was a tedious exercise because I found myself writing silly things that, in truth, highlighted just how unhappy I was. But, once the habit took hold, I began to search for those moments that deserved gratitude, and then I quickly discovered the abundance of blessings that each day offered.
Slowing down isn’t something I do well. My husband and I are life hackers, people who employ techniques that allow them to accomplish more in less time with the ultimate goal to live life more efficiently. We actively seek tools and gadgets to help us manage our lives– both at home and at work–so that we have more “downtime”. Before we had kids, it was to organize our life so we had more time for traveling and gaming. (I mean, who hasn’t missed a few days from work because they were up until the wee hours of the morning raiding with their guild?) But now, it’s about maximizing those two precious hours after the kids have gone to bed. In that time, I write a scene or two in my novel, my husband works on his virtual world, then we catch-up and attempt to binge watch the latest TV show, of which we may (or may not) complete a full episode. We lie on our bed fighting sleep like children, never admitting that maybe we’d be less tired if we stopped trying to be so efficient all the time.
When I force myself to slow down, I’m able to fully appreciate all that I take for granted. I allow myself to be present in the moment and stop my thoughts from drifting to the next activity. This slower pace broadens my perspective, which impacts my reaction to things. I become able to see my husband’s nagging comments that I do too much as concerns from a loving partner. A text from a friend is a reminder that even though I am not always present, I am still loved. An impromptu visit isn’t an interruption, but an opportunity to help someone through a difficult time in their lives.
Slowing down allows me to be… better at being me.
My husband and I have decided to give this “slowing down” thing a try. I mean, I still write (that’s as natural to me as walking) and my husband is now tinkering with his Oculus Rift, but we’re having fun with it. I’m writing for the first time without a deadline and he’s playing with new technology instead of expanding it. Saturday afternoons are for dating–without the kids! And Sundays are our lazy days where we give ourselves the freedom to do nothing but watch TV, read, play with the iPads, and eat pizza if we want.
Aging is a lot like gaming. Getting from levels 1-40 doesn’t take a lot of time and is largely about learning the strengths and weaknesses of your character. But as you progress to the higher levels, each quest requires more care and attention, and so it becomes more about how you play (the specs you give your character and the armor you invest in) as this will have a significant impact on your gaming experience. And equally important are the members of your guild–your community. Regardless of the frequency of your comments in the various streams of conversations that perpetually go on, your guild is always there, willing to offer advice, listen, and help when they can.
My children have forced me to slow down and for a long while I didn’t like this slower pace. But the more “filled” my life becomes, the more important it is for me to pause and spend time reflecting at the end of each day. It’s easier to count your blessings when you’re not rushing or constantly focusing on what’s next. There is so much for which to be grateful. I just need to remember to look up every now and again.