Reader Feature: “Hello Me!” and 6 Life Lessons Learned When an Over-Doer Meets Forced-Downtime

|by | Simple Life

This post was written by an Embracing a Simpler Life reader (and personal friend of mine), Meredith, about her experiences with accepting a slower pace of life through illness. She has spent much of the past year processing and living this reality.

Here is a bit of her story and six lessons she’s learned in this season of slow.

 

hello me_6 life lessons learned when an over-doer meets forced downtime

If you looked up “A-type” in the dictionary, I’m pretty sure mine would be one of the pictures there.

I am, well was, a high school chemistry teacher. I piloted cutting edge techniques in the classroom, created deep thinking projects to foster critical thinking, performed daring feats of chemical prestidigitation to encourage awe and enjoyment . . . you know, all that awesome stuff that every “effective” teacher does. I wore many hats: acting director, ACT coach, Japanese Club moderator and main contributor, along with the less formal roles of Nerdling Leader, life coach, mentor and listening ear.

Despite my love for this life of teaching, it was time to move into the next phase of my life – that of a homemaker and mother.

So I made the very difficult decision to exchange my lab coat for an apron.

The best part was that I had 6 months to enjoy teaching, finish out spring semester and have my great sendoff. . . . . until all of that came crashing down in the form of a mysterious debilitating illness. I was forced into medical leave that would last the duration of that final semester.

At first I was miserable, fought every moment and hated the world and most people in it. But it has been the greatest teaching moment in my life.

Learning to move more slowly is a VERY difficult task, especially if you’re a mile-a-minute gal like me who suddenly got floored by a debilitating mystery (now solved) illness.

Nothing in our world, in our society moves slow. Worse yet, “slow” is an insult, a thing to be fixed, unacceptable! But sometimes, you have to. Maybe it’s an illness, maybe it’s someone else’s illness, maybe it an emotional tough time, maybe it’s a loss you’re having to cope with . . . But I’m learning. . .

While the learning is painful at times, I’ve discovered a wealth of life lessons in this forced time of reflection.

6 Lessons Learned About Living Slow

1. The world goes on without me.

This is both comforting and depressing. In our me-me society, everything’s about me. . . .except that it’s not. The things I have had to decline, the events I’ve had to pass on all continued and happened just as well without me.

2. My going slower allows other people to go slower.

Most of the time they seem grateful.

Just today someone returned an email starting with “I’m so sorry I took so long to respond!” When it had only been maybe a day. There was no rush but we are in a constant state of perceived rush.

3. My home and life are pretty awesome.

Now, this may sound silly, but when was the last time you looked around your house and smiled. Maybe thought to yourself “man my home is great”. Or did you know there are chickadees and red finches singing right now? You can hear them in the trees if you sit still, replacing the electronic device glued to your hand with a cup of tea.

4. A busy life does not equate to a useful or productive person.

It just means a busy one. And in my case, the busier I get, the more I seem to backtrack health wise. But I tell you what, choosing not to be busy is reeeeeeeally hard – remember that “slow is bad” thing?

5. We fill our calendars to feel important.

Or at least that’s what I’ve noticed. We’ve been taught that if we’re not overbooked, we are lazy and worthless. Sometimes we have to go back through and establish what’s really important, and that’s not always easy.

6) Every experience is valid.

–be it less or more intense, difficult, uncomfortable or painful.

I have been overwhelmed by the number of people wishing me well and worrying after me.

However, there have also been many a soul (bless them) who see this as an opportunity to warn me about the terrible pains to come, like childbirth or some more intense surgery. This taught me as much about my own perceptions as theirs.

I did not like what has been (to date) my worse experience with pain and discomfort discounted so quickly, and it made me think of other situations where I compared my worse experience to another’s and perceived theirs as less. Why does that matter? Our first response should always be compassion, not comparison, for the situation at hand.


 

I look forward to the coming months when, as my health improves, I will (God willing) be able to regain my strength and function like a normal person.

The trick will be remembering these hard-learned lessons that God brought to me during this blessing of forced slowness. It has been proof that “all things work for the good of those who love the Lord” (Romans 8:28).

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