It’s starting to feel like summer here in Kansas City.
The long June days, sticky without reprieve, taper into comfortable nights. I step out into them religiously. Unwinding from the day, I reflect on life while catching glimpses of the sun setting behind tall maple trees.
One evening last week, I had a realization that didn’t sit well: life was moving too fast again. It has a sneaky tendency to do that if I’m not careful.
It didn’t seem right—weren’t the slow days of summer upon us?
They certainly had the potential to be. But with the recent loosening of COVID-related restrictions, I sensed our schedule picking up speed.
It felt as though some unseen force was pulling us forward, propelling us into activities and commitments in an attempt to fill any voids caused by 2020.
This “life-is-moving-too-fast” sensation was familiar. And it’s one I’ve learned to push back hard against to reclaim a slower pace.
See, slow living is a paradox. The more activities we fill our lives with, the less depth our lives achieve. Hyperliving—skimming along the surface of life—is real. Too much busyness on the outside can soon feel empty on the inside. Stopping allows our soul to catch up and pausing permits our full presence.
As the season changes, I’m choosing to dig in my heels, keeping both feet firmly planted. I’m grounding myself in the present moment, determined to live these fleeting summer days more deeply.
I could dive into a list of points offering guidance on how to slow down, but I’ve already done that here and here. Instead, I’ll illustrate what this slow-living journey looks like in my life these days.
My husband and I stand side by side, surveying the foundation of what will become our new home this September. “I wonder if it will be built in the time they’ve promised,” I say, thinking out loud. Soon, I’m thinking about the benefits of living in a small space—even with a growing family—and feel glad that the size of our new home only slightly surpasses that of our current apartment.
Our 11-month-old son squirms in my arms. We turn, backs facing our lot, and smile as our oldest daughter plays photographer, snapping photo after photo on my iPhone. I take the phone back and notice a new voice message. I immediately begin to listen and my husband shoots me a questioning glance. I dig in my heels. “Ugh, habit,” I say, and bury the phone deep at the bottom of my backpack.
I recenter on the moment, tuning back into my husband’s words. He tells me about his plans for a small gym in the garage. I take in the details. In my heart, I hope I’m never too busy to really listen.
It’s a Saturday evening and I have a rare moment alone with our seven-year-old. What is left of my ceviche-making project lays scattered about the kitchen countertops. I feel propelled to tidy. I dig my heels in. “Let’s read,” I say. I grab Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Farmer Boy” and head to the couch. She grabs a bowl of plantain chips and follows my lead.
My voice forms a rhythm, unveiling stories of bitterly cold New York nights, farm chores at daybreak, and frigid walks to a one-room schoolhouse. She snuggles in close, attentively crunching plantains. The chapter finishes and our agreement that Midwest summers trump New England winters is unanimous.
I intentionally don’t say more. We sit in silence together, observers of the world outside our window. I wonder if the silence and stillness bother her. Soon, I can tell they don’t. We begin to notice, to become more aware. To simply be. The slowness of the moment is soul-filling. And in my heart, I make a wish for her: that she’ll always value rest and quiet moments.
Our three-year-old sits alone on our back patio, earthworm dangling in her hand. My “to-do” list runs through my mind. I dig in my heels. I step through the rickety screen door and sit down beside her. She grins. “This is Lisa,” she says, holding up the lively earthworm writhing between her dirt-caked fingers. “Nice to meet you, Lisa,” I say.
Sunlight hits her blonde hair. Her blue eyes sparkle with delight as she inspects her new friend. I breathe in the moment. A mix of dirt and leaves sends up an earthy, grounding scent.
I soon wonder about the fate of the earthworm and coax her to return her companion to its home. We watch as Lisa twists, working her way through the damp dirt. My little daughter looks up, squinting, and smiles again at me. And in my heart, I hope that, throughout her life, she’ll always remember to pause and see the world with wonder.
It’s a Wednesday morning and our girls are out with a sitter for a couple of hours. “I’m gonna answer some emails Buddy,” I say to our 11-month-old playing near my feet. The clicking of MacBook keys echoes through the still apartment. He grabs a nearby baseball and emphatically says “ba!” I dig my heels in.
I slide down to the floor, sitting beside him. “Thank you,” I say, holding out my hand in playful anticipation. His animation is instant. Grinning and giggling he stumbles toward me with unsteady steps, ball in hand. He falls twice, preserving, he places the ball in my open palm. His eye contact speaks love. And then he places his cheek next to mine to prove it. In my heart, I hope he always keeps on standing again after failure.
Slowing down is a practice. And one I certainly don’t have perfected. But what I do know, is when I step into the rushing current of life with both feet, weighing down the moments with my presence, that’s when life becomes more meaningful.
Slowing my pace allows me to narrow my focus on what matters most, which to me is the people I’m blessed to be doing life with.
Why not take a look at your life today, and ask yourself, where could I dig in my heels?
Then do it.
When we slow down, our souls fill. And we enter deeply into the gift that is our lives.
And that’s the paradox of slow: less becomes a catalyst for more. Less hurry and less busyness lead to a lifetime of moments more fully lived.
About the Author: Julia Ubbenga is a freelance journalist whose teachings on minimalism, simplicity, and intentional living have reached thousands of people worldwide through her blog richinwhatmatters.com. Julia practices what she preaches in her Kansas City apartment home with her husband and two extremely lively young daughters.