I turn the handle 90 degrees to the right, relishing the slight resistance offered by the oiled metallic housing.
Next comes the knob; it’s more art than science. Too little and the gas won’t come on, but too far and it won’t be enough to light. I gently twist it into the correct position with the ease of constant practice.
I pull the small box down from the shelf, noting the trio of ducks on the front and giving them a wink. My index finger slides the main compartment from the outer shell and I reach in to pull out one small match; a red-headed gift from Prometheus.
The match is lit. I know that if I go with my gut and rush the flame down toward the gaseous plume below, the fire will go out before making contact with the invisible fuel. I ease my hand toward the stove.
A quick puff of breath is enough to put out the match and the blackened stump is set on the granite counter top long enough to make sure the last of the fiery heat has died down.
The scene has been set. From here I can make pasta. Or some tea. Or heat up a veggie burger.
The world is my oyster.
Fear of Sloth
Lighting my gas stove is an activity I’ve come to appreciate because it is a delightfully slow process. It only takes fifteen seconds or so, but that’s a lifetime compared to the instantaneous results of an electric range.
This is a big deal because it’s never been easy for me to slow down. Even when I know, rationally, that taking a smooth, structured approach to some problems will yield better results, it’s usually all I can do to stop and think things over before rushing into a solution, going with my first response and fixing things if they go wrong along the way.
It’s a trained response. I’ve always been able to reason my way through problems without taking the time to check references or make sure all the ducks are in a row. My study skills are shot for the same reason — no practice, no skills.
I do know (from all the books I’ve read and advice I’ve been given) that slowing down and taking the time to think, be inspired, and stay sane is important and I’ve made it part of my project to take more time to do things, stop and smell the roses, and see if positivity ensues.
Thus far it’s been a mixed bag.
I have been able to retain information better by slowing down and taking the time to consciously identify relationships between new things I learn and the knowledge I already possess.
I’ve also taken the time to really get to know people and convert more colleagues into friends, rather than allowing them to languish in that social Purgatory of colleaguedom.
On the other hand, I’ve been going nearly insane trying to figure out what to do when I’m trying not to do so much. I’ll find myself sitting on my bed, laptop closed but close by; a bewildered expression on my face.
What else is there?
That’s what I intend to find out. I have no problem taking my 20 minutes of awesome every day, and anything that has an identifiable goal is easy to work into my system, but to just move more slowly or do nothing at all goes against my wiring. It makes me feel very uncomfortable.
Most people that have recommended that I slow down have done so with the hope that I will become less stressed and more in touch with myself.
What I’ve noted, however, is that I get MORE stressed trying to fit myself to that mold than when I’m happily moving along with some project or another, reading a book or talking to someone new about what they do and how they live. These activities have more meat to them than what most self-help gurus would want in a relaxation exercise, but I’ve come to realize that my needs are different.
That being said, I’m very glad I tried.
So glad, in fact, that I feel I’ll be even less stressed doing what I do because I know I’m not missing out on what’s on the other side of the fence. The grass over there sure is green, but I’ve always preferred pavement anyway and I’ve got a beautiful parking lot on my side.
And this doesn’t mean that I can’t plant small patches of grass where necessary. Where the slow down tactic works without negatively impacting my mentality, I’ll embrace it wholeheartedly. Where the trade off is not worth it, I’ll continue to look for better ways to find balance.
It’s good to question your first impressions and responses, but once you have, go with what works.
You can hold yourself up to others and compare all day, but you will not become your best by simply emulating those who have done what you want to do. You have to find your own path because we are all very different people.
I want to further emphasize my sense of inner peace and I’m sure as hell not going to do it by slowing down. There’s no reason I should be ashamed of this, even though most religions, minimalists and shrinks would tell me differently.
Watch out world: my conscience is clear and I’m ready to get down to business.
Update: November 25, 2016
It’s interesting looking back at periods like this, because today, I self-identify as someone who takes to new projects and things I want to learn somewhat ponderously. This is the consequence of having had all the time in the world, for all intents and purposes, for many years. I’ve come to realize that although I can still leap when needs warrant doing so, I’m typically far better off working intently rather than intensely, and iteratively rather than trying to make every day into some kind of revolution.