Slow: month one

Before we talk about all things SLOW, we must first talk about my new FAST idea: speed friend-making! Just like speed dating- you gather a bunch of local moms who want new friends and put them all in a room. Half of you sit at chairs and the other half walk around the room and chat for 5 minutes with each mom. Then all of you get to choose who you would like to have a mommy-date with! No harm, no foul, no bad feelings! I think it could be big!


Okay, on to the SLOW project.

I'm pretty smart really, for picking an easy New Year project for myself: just focus on SLOW. Laundry didn't get done? I'm being SLOW. Dinner isn't ready on time? Yay! I'm SLOW. Took me almost a week to write this blog post on my first month of being SLOW? SUCCESS.

But, as I mentioned, I actually have a very hard time doing most anything slowly. Eating, walking, cooking, putting clothes away: I do everything quickly, often to the detriment of doing things WELL.

So in my first month of trying to be slow, I found myself often discouraged by how little actually gets done when one is being slow but pleasantly surprised by how WELL they get done.

When I put clothes away slowly, they actually-GASP- stay folded instead of getting put away in a rumpled tangle. But it does take about 10 minutes longer. When I cook dinner slowly, I actually- almost- enjoy the process instead of feeling rushed and frantic and spazzy. But then the meal doesn't make it to the table at the normal time or I have to allot more time to make dinner, which at the kids witching hour is a bit hard to manage.

As some of you noted, doing things slowly is really about finding ways to be more present in the here and now. It's hard to do things slowly and not find myself hearing my own breath, feeling more relaxed and more calm and more aware of what is.

As you can probably tell, I have always been attracted to pop Buddhist "Wherever you wind up, there you be"-type stuff. I don't know much for sure (Oprah moment!) but I do know that if there is only this now, I don't want to miss it because I was racing along to the next moment. I want to make this now AWESOME and I want to be aware of it when it's happening.

This month, I focused on reading slowly, which is new to me. In elementary school, I was taught to speed read, which is a great skill for school but a major handicap when reading for enjoyment or meaningful retention. I just finished "Olive Kitteridge" and WOW if that book isn't worth reading slowly, I don't know what book is. I savored it. I read and REREAD some chapters to allow them to sweep over me and sink in rather than doing my usual racing ahead to the next plot point. It helps, of course, that this book is so well written, so full of characters and shading and depth, all of which would be lost if raced through. I learned that I can choose to read slowly and actually enjoy the process and save my speed reading for the newspaper and People magazine. Next up, I'm reading this book about Buddhism for mothers of young children. And boy howdy is it a good wake up call. Lots of underlining in my copy already. Allowing myself to read it slowly is a joy.

The biggest realization for me this month was that even though my life often requires a speedy response from me, I ALWAYS benefit from taking a moment to breathe and slow down even- ESPECIALLY- when it seems least possible. I tend to panic and spin my wheels when called upon to think and act quickly. But when I take a moment to breathe and let my shoulders sink an inch or five, my response to most every situation is more calm, more caring, more true to my best self. SLOW can just be about an internal feeling, if only for a moment, it doesn't have to be an constant, outward state of being.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that there was a moment when I thought this whole SLOW project would go belly up. I have been working on cooking slowly and mostly, it's been a success. But early on in January, I wanted to start introducing meats to E and I decided homemade chicken broth to mix into her veggie purees was the way to go. In order to make that, of course, I decided to roast a whole chicken for dinner. A basic cooking endeavour but one that I'd actually never done before. So rather than start an hour before dinnertime and wind up racing around the kitchen like a spaz, I started out in the morning, reading several recipes, assembling all the implements, preparing the ingredients. And I roasted a lovely, organic chicken. Working on it all day, letting the broth slowly simmer on the stove for hours as I put E and then Z to bed felt good and home-y and SLOW.

Then I realized I needed to put the broth away before I went to bed. I let it cool off for a bit and slowly weighed my options. It was still hot, so I didn't want to throw it into a big plastic tupperware (hot liquids and plastic give me the heebie jeebies). I considered putting the whole pot outside on our screened in porch for the night but I knew it would freeze and I worried it might damage my new, beautiful pot. Normally I would make some snap decision and watch it blow up in my face but NOT THIS TIME! I was THINKING THINGS THROUGH! Slowly!

But it was getting late and I wanted to go to bed and ENOUGH WITH SLOWNESS. I decided to pour it into a glass storage container, one that is safe for the microwave, so surely it'd be safe for all this hot liquid. (I'm sure you can see where this is going). So there I am, in my pjs, ready for bed, content with the knowledge that all this lovely liquid that I labored so hard for will be waiting for many uses over the next month. I took a breath and slowly, carefully, poured it into the glass container and as it was just about totally full with 8 cups of hot organic COOKING ALL DAY chicken broth, the glass container SHATTERED, pouring hot chicken broth and tiny glass shards all over my counter, the floor, behind the toaster oven/mixer/can-opener/stove/refrigerator.

It even seeped INTO MY DRAWERS, people.

And I dissolved into a puddle on the floor.

I am not sure what the lesson is about that one. I'm pretty sure it's that I should never, ever try to make chicken broth ever again. EVER.


Hillary said...

OK -- You can make chicken broth again. If the broth is really that hot, you can cover the pot and leave it on the stove til morning. It'll still be warm then, but cool enough to store. I do it all the time and we haven't died yet from food poisoning.

Whimsy said...

Oh I would have thrown (what remained of) pot, broth, AND RESOLUTION out the window if that had happened to me.

Marie Green said...

That chicken broth story makes me want to weep. I would have called for my husband to come in and deal with the mess.

Eleanor Q. said...

I would have been seething with annoyance and anger had that happened. Argh, its the worst. But persevere! I served Fussbot pureed chicken soup as one of his first foods and he loved it up until he realized it came in non-pureed forms as well. A little soup goes a long way. Plus when you use the stock for cooking you feel very virtuous.

Swistle said...

Ditto Whimsy.

And I thought of a fret already (speed-fretting!) about speed-friending: "WHAT IF NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON PICKED ME?"

Shelly said...

I LOVED Olive Kitteridge! Seriously, one of my favorite books of all time!

And I like Hillary's idea about the chicken broth.

Grateful Twin Mom said...

Two steps forward, one step back...either way, you're still going in the right direction. Here's another cliche--what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I got a million of 'em.

Rebecca said...

Oh, that is very frustrating about the chicken broth--I can well imagine how a big mess like that would ruin all the mellow, homey feelings that the day had been giving you.

I love your idea of "slow." I think that is one of the best things those of us with small children can do...I have a 14 month old, and whenever I try to do things at my pre-baby speed, I get frustrated. When I focus on being present in the moment, I actually feel better.

I have a suggestion about the chicken broth next time...pour it into a roasting pan with a lid, and stick it in the fridge (or your porch, if it's cold). Most people don't have a fancy roaster, so it doesn't matter if you get it a little grungy. Also, the roaster is metal, so there won't be any bph leaching, which also skeeves me out. Alternatively, I have made chicken broth in the crockpot. That's a nice way, too, because you can throw it in before you go to bed, set the timer to stay on overnight and deal with it all the next morning. ;)

KG said...

Oh, oh, oh! The chicken broth story! Oh, the pain! I don't think there is any message, other the SH*T HAPPENS.

Kudos on the slowness, J. Sounds like a big gift to yo'self!

Astarte said...

Oh, NO!!!! You poor woman!!!

Maybe this will make you feel better - when I tried to make my first chicken pot pie, I did the same thing - thought about recipes, gathered all the ingredients, did everything from scratch with fresh veggies, roasted a chicken the night before so we'd have the meat, made flaky pastry, everything. I used one of those disposable foil-like pie baking pans from the store because our glass one was broken.

When I went to take it out of the oven, the baking tin buckled, and the whole thing flopped over onto the inside of my oven.

Kate said...

Did you know there's a "slow movement" out there in the world? I just heard about it on NPR and thought of you. If life with a baby/small child(ren) isn't the best reason to learn to appreciate the now, I don't know what is. Imagine what we miss when we move toward the next moment instead of being with them (and ourselves) in this one...
I LOVED this post. But I 2nd Swistle on the speed-friending--what if no one picked me?

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