One of the worst times of day for me is 8.55am when I am trying to get the children out the door on time for the school run. In the morning there always seems so much to do: breakfast, hair brushing, teeth brushing, uniforms to put on, musical instruments to practise… I have to get the baby dressed, and there’s usually some sort of potty-related incident to deal with (yesterday: contents thrown across the room…). School dinners to pay for, notes to the teacher, and don’t forget your clarinet today…! Get those shoes on, hats, gloves, coats and NO you can’t have a chocolate biscuit at half past eight in the morning! And finally, we get to 8.55, time to go, and… the toddler has completely undressed himself. A classic.
We all have to get places on time, whatever our lives are like. Doctor’s appointments, work, school, music lessons– we promise other people we will be somewhere at a particular hour and they expect us to follow through. To be late would be rude, and sometimes there are penalties: we have to forfeit the appointment, we get a letter from the head teacher, we cause inconvenience for other people…. It’s hard not to get stressed about being on time. And it’s this stress that usually makes me ill-tempered and cross, which means that I easily snap at my children and pass on my stress. I get angry, I shout, I stamp around the house. It’s not pleasant.
So at the moment I am pondering the value of slow. For Christmas my mother and father bought me a yogurt maker. It takes absolutely ages to make yogurt. You have to put a little spoonful of your previous batch into several glass jars. You have to heat some milk to just below scalding then allow it to cool to 30 degrees. Then you pour the milk into each little jar, put the lid on, shake it up and put into the yogurt maker (basically a heated device) and wait for hours. And hours. And hours… The result? Delicious, thick, creamy, homemade and totally inexpensive yogurt. My point? It took a long time, but it’s worth it.
Here’s another example: bread. It takes quite a while to make a nice loaf. If you’re really committed to a nice sourdough taste, you might have started off making a sourdough yeast starter. If not, you can miss that stage and still make a delicious though fairly time-intensive loaf. Mix the ingredients, add some elbow-grease in the form of kneading, wait an hour or two. Thump down the ball of dough, shape it and wait yet another hour or two. Then bake, cool and eat. Oh, it’s delicious. Oh, it takes an eternity! But, yes, you guessed it: that bag of Hovis or Wonderbread from your local supermarket isn’t a patch on a good homemade loaf of bread. It took time, but it’s worth it.
I spend so much of my life rushing from one place to another. When I’m thinking about getting from point A to point B I rarely think about the in between bits. There’s home, and there’s school… the bit in between is a blur… or is it? Lately I have tried to notice the journey. I have tried to look at the sky and notice the clouds. I have looked at the silhouette of bare tree branches against a purple and red winter’s sunset. I have watched birds darting from hedge to tree to grass and back again. I have breathed in the cold winter air until it made my lungs hurt. I have felt the warm pressure of my toddler’s hand in mine as we walk together. I have listened to the musical laughter of my girls as they race up the path.
In the process I have forgotten all about point A and point B. I have immersed myself in the process, the journey between one and the other. I have forgotten all about being on time. I am in this moment. I have arrived just in time to experience my own life.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons