In leading a life with multiple moving parts, I often prize myself on how I can fit those pieces together in the most sensible manner possible. If I wake up at 5:30, I can work out, make breakfast/school snacks and lunches and shower before waking the kids up. If I wake up at 5 am, I can add in meditation and journal writing. If I drop the kids off by 8:30, I can make it in time to grab a cup of coffee before my first patient of the day. And so on and so forth. A constantly shifting haze of puzzle pieces, arranging and rearranging, based on the tasks and available time.
This leads to a life where I prize efficiency. But I am starting to become more and more disenchanted with efficiency as time goes on. A puzzle piece life that fits together just so, also feels like it will fall apart with a careless touch. I want fewer pieces and more time…more freedom, more bandwidth.
I don’t know exactly what this could look like, but I have some ideas. Certain words and images come to my mind when I dream of a life that is more free flowing, and less precise. I would like to linger a little more. When was the last time I lingered? Lingered in bed, lingered over a book, lingered over tea with a friend? I would like to wander a little more. Get lost on purpose, or explore a new trail, or even wander around the mall without my carefully crafted list in hand. I would like to be more spontaneous. Go get ice cream after school because we can and we feel like it, or take a last minute weekend road trip up the California coast.
I know this sounds fanciful and perhaps completely unrealistic, but these are the images that my heart has been calling forth lately. There is a palpable need within me to slow down and blur the edges a little bit, so that life doesn’t feel like I am balanced on the blade of keeping it all together. Yet I don’t have a magic weapon for creating more time, and I can’t automatically delete many of the mom and physician responsibilities that require this delicate balancing act of me.
What I can do, what I have been trying to do, is be conscious of what I choose to bring into my life, and allow it to be in service of this dreamy part of me. I am also making choices to be purposefully slow, rather than purposefully efficient. I am doodling in notebooks, reading for a few minutes before bed, and holding my kids a little longer than necessary. I am walking slower rather than my usual hurried steps. I am leading with the feeling part of my heart, rather than the thinking part of my brain, which I don’t know if I have ever truly done before.
Every morning over these last few weeks, I sit down and tear two pieces of paper out of my journal. In the emerging light of day, I write a little love note to my kids, by hand. I admire the jagged edges of the paper, how the paper feels and smells, and the tactile and most amazing process of seeing my thoughts and emotions emerge in ink. And then I fold them up, just like I used to fold notes for my friends in high school, small squares with a corner tucked in, with their names scrawled across the top. Into their lunch boxes they go. Sometimes I write words of encouragement, sometimes I challenge them to be extra kind or helpful, or sometimes I write about something funny that our dogs have been doing. But I love imagining them at lunch, discovering something that they can hold, something concrete, something to unfold, that connects us somehow across space and time.
Handwritten love letters are obviously much less efficient than a text message, filled with typed characters and emojis and exclamation points, but that is why I love them. These days, I am embracing opportunity for the analog, the connection, slowing down, and being inefficient, if it means I get to live with my heart wide open. As impractical as it may be, for now, it is what the deeper parts of me need.
So today, and in the week ahead, I invite you to join me in slowing down and being less efficient, rather than more efficient. What do you notice?
With gratitude, Monisha