Life slows down radically when you have a newborn to care for.
She takes her time to eat. She takes her time to be rocked to sleep. When she’s in the mood for playing, her games are slow too – the same funny face or little movement over and over again. Dressing her is slow, as I gently persuade her to “bend this elbow, now straighten that one”.
My own activities decelerate too. Emails are written in stages, taking a couple of days to be completed. I add things to online shopping baskets and finally get around to pressing ‘order’ a week later. Going to the post office waits for the right moment when she’ll be happy taking a trip down the road with me.
I’m not used to this speed of life. I love to be productive. I love to be busy. When I had a job, I always got the most done under a time pressure. Tell me that this campaign brief needed to be written by next week, I’d procrastinate making cups of tea and re-organising the filing. Tell me it was due by the end of the day, I’d have that and about six other tasks done and dusted with time to spare.
Some days, I get so frustrated by this new speed. I want to be doing doing doing, and all this sitting around holding the one toy she likes while she inspects it intently for the hundredth time… Can’t she just learn to grab it already??
I’m currently reading my way through a book called Slow Church. Last week I read a passage where the authors quote from the book Compassion: A Reflection on Christian Life by Henri Nouwen, Donald McNeill and Douglas Morrison. It said this:
“They define impatience as an “inner restlessness… (that is) experiencing the moment as empty, useless, meaningless. It is wanting to escape from the here and now as soon as possible.””
This was one of those moments when the words seem to jump out the page and whack you over the head.
I’ve tended to define patience as long-suffering, which I then redefine as the necessary ability to put up with really annoying people. This definition though, it brings it right into my world today. It brings it down down to that sofa where I sit shaking the owl-shaped rattle in front of my wide-eyed two month old’s face.
Do I really see these moments as meaningless? Recognising that I sometimes do hurts. I don’t want to feel that way about any time I spend with my precious girl. And yet, I’ve become so accustomed to a certain pace of life, a way of defining a moment’s meaning by how much it produces.
The authors of Slow Church went on to write, “If we as God’s people have any hope at all of slowing down and savoring the richness of life and God’s abundant goodness, then we have to address this impatience that lies deep in our hearts.”
I picked up this book because its title appeals to me. I’ve spent time and effort the past couple of years, learning to appreciate the goodness that comes in the slow moments – over long dinners with good friends; in late night conversations with my husband on our balcony; on journeys to new destinations as I became happy to just get lost and see what will find me.
But I’m beginning to recognise that I’ve only been scratching the surface. This richness and abundance of life is available in every moment, not just the ones I manufacture and plan to be that way.
Maybe this is something I’ll start to learn through being a mother to my wee girl. She goes determinedly at her own pace. There’s no trying to speed her up or slow her down. She will choose to dwell in each moment for just as long as she needs to, pulling each fragment of meaning from it, without even realising she does so.
It’s not an easy lesson. I still feel the emptiness of not being productive as I’ve come to define it. But I want to fill up that emptiness with the true abundance there is to be found here.
After all, the first word used to describe love in that most famous passage, is patience.