2/3 Book Challenge: In Praise of Slowness

Dear Dharma and Julia,

In this first installation of the A2BCDE (A2 Book Club, Digital Edition), let’s talk about In Praise of Slowness: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed, which we’ve each independently read, but about which we have had no preliminary discussion.

The author takes on the following Slow topics:
The Age of Rage and Do Everything Faster situate the Slow movement in opposition to our increasingly mechanized, routinized, and optimized lives. He points the finger at Ford and Taylor for pushing us in the direction of ‘time sickness’, and quotes Milan Kundera: “Our period is obsessed with the desire to forget, and it is to fulfill that desire that it gives over to the demon of speed; it picks up the pace to show us that it no longer wishes to be remembered, that it is tired of itself, sick of itself; that it wants to blow out that tiny trembling flame of memory.”

Slow Is Beautiful then introduces the Slow movement and its proponents: individuals, groups, and societies that are exploring different ways of living, finding precedents in the Romantics, the Transcendentalists, and the Arts & Crafts movement, among other, more contemporary examples. I think it was around this point – 50 pages in – when the capitalization of Slow started to wear on me.

Food: Turning the Tables on Speed: A lot of knowing nods while reading this chapter. We all lived in Ann Arbor, the Portlandia of the Midwest. We knew about or were involved with SELMA. We went to the farmers’ market. We had or dreamt of having gardens. We prayed at the great altar of good food. We know and value this stuff, but I’m willing to bet you rolled your eyes at least once.

Cities: Blending Old and New: In lieu of discussing this chapter on new approaches to urban planning that favor pedestrians, mixed use spaces, and the ever popular ‘third place’, I present a Talking Heads interlude:

Mind/Body: Mens Sana In Corpore Sano: meditation, yoga, SuperSlow weight lifting, and other physical activities that join mind and body in deliberate, slow motion. I read this chapter while completely zoned out after 90 minutes of aggressive exfoliation and massage at King Spa. My mind and body were totally disconnected, and I couldn’t have been happier, though had I put this book down at this point, I might have, in fact, been happier in the long run.

Medicine: Doctors and Patients: anyone who has spent any time utilizing the American health system could have written at least half of this chapter. Every week for the last two months, I have spent three hours at the orthopedist’s office. Of those 180 minutes, 5 each were spent with the x-ray technician, the nurse practitioner who took my vitals, and the doctor who told me that everything was basically the same as the previous week. Slightly more time was spent with the person who applied and removed my cast(s). And this doesn’t reflect the amount of time spent on the phone with the incompetent practice of my primary care doctor, as each visit to the approved specialist requires a separate referral. When you’re working with a system built on billable hours, usual and customary charges, and enormous malpractice premiums, it’s hard to see any other way out. Also homeopathy and alternative medicine are cool.

Sex: A Lover with a Slow Hand: did you know that Sting is into Tantric sex? And that you can have better sex if you actually communicate with your partner and try to understand his/her body and desires? And I quote, “It was a revelation. I really had no idea that there was another approach to sex that was about giving time to each other, about bringing your head and your heart completely into the sexual relationship.” Whaaaaat.

Work:The Benefits of Working Less Hard: After decrying the recommendations of Taylor etc, the author then advocates working smarter, not harder, and more efficient rather than longer hours. Hmm. I’m also reading Timothy Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek, which makes the same, albeit considerably more self-satisfied, argument.

Leisure: The Importance of Being at Rest: we work too hard, and we play even harder. I’m guilty of the latter, if not always the former. Slow activities like knitting and gardening and reading books can help. I was fascinated by the part about how contemporary performers play classical music too quickly, but it quickly devolved from there into high-art Slow Music concepts. Moving on.

Children:Raising an Unhurried Child: None of us currently have children, and I don’t know if any of us are planning to procreate, so our responses to this chapter will likely be more smug than those of actual parents – however, I agree that like adults, kids today are too damned busy. However, childhood is a relatively ahistorical phenomenon, so while we may have fond memories of endless summer days riding bikes with our friends instead of studying languages and being ferried to volunteer gigs to build our college application profiles, it really isn’t that long ago that we would’ve all been working in the factory or on the family farm. So what’s the happy medium?

There’s a lot to be said for the Slow movement. I feel like this summer has been a constant, unrelenting reminder to slow down, to be intentional, to make connections, to live simply. But the people who need that advice probably aren’t going to indulge in 300-or-so self-satisfied pages of case studies of couples who have slowed down – and those who don’t probably don’t also need another reason to pat themselves on the collective back.

What did you think?

This is the ninth of at least 15 books that I plan to read in the next year for my friend Mark’s 2/3 Challenge.

A Short List Of Things I Want To Do When My Cast Comes Off

  1. Wash my hair with two hands. Apply product, put it in rollers, and then pin up the curls.
  2. Jump in the lake. Or any body of water where I can be submerged over my head. Repeat until my toes look like raisins.
  3. Go to yoga. My balance will be totally off. There’s no way I’ll be able to do the things I was starting to be able to do two months ago. But push back into down dog or pull back into bow and feel my whole body extend in ways that are simply impossible right now.
  4. Give lots of tight, strong, two-armed hugs.
  5. Take an effing beach vacation. Or a vacation near the beach. Or a vacation involving me jumping off a sailboat or a dock or a pier.
  6. Eat ph? or some other noodle/soup dish that requires two hands.
  7. Wear jewelry. And my new, amazing vintage stockings. And dresses that I can’t currently put on over the cast or that I’m too afraid to snag with the cast.

“Gather all around the things that you love, I thought, and prepare to lose them.”

My horoscope for this week suggests that I take maximum advantage of the big opportunity that’s ahead for you, Capricorn: an enhancement of your senses. That’s right. For the foreseeable future, you not only have the potential to experience extra vivid and memorable perceptions. You could also wangle an upgrade in the acuity and profundity of your senses, so that your sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch will forevermore gather in richer data. For best results, set aside what you believe about the world, and just drink in the pure impressions. In other words, focus less on the thoughts rumbling around inside your mind and simply notice what’s going on around you.

And maybe that’s what this broken arm is for: finally getting me to slow down and notice, appreciate, invest, and give back in ways that I’ve been too busy and distracted and heartsore to do these last few months.

Last night a new friend came by after work – I’d stayed home after a painful casting appointment and a couple of nights of bad sleep – and we took a long walk around my neighborhood. We stopped to look at statues in a park I’d never noticed. We were roped into a game of tag by a bunch of kids playing on the sidewalk. We walked by a new bike repair place and peered through the windows of a soon-to-be coffee shop. We kept an eye out for “my” ice cream truck after hearing a snippet of its signature music. I wouldn’t have taken that walk had I been able to ride, and we wouldn’t have had that visit if I hadn’t had my accident.

On Friday, a friend cut through my stubbornness and kidnapped me for the day. She and her 5 year old made me a futon nest, plied me with margaritas and The Muppet Show, and generally forced me to be still and engaged and present. It was a great day, pain and cast notwithstanding, and it wouldn’t have happened without my accident.

This has been a physically and emotionally difficult week, and will likely be a physically and emotionally difficult summer. There have been and will likely continue to be nights where I’ve cried myself to sleep out of anxiety, frustration, pain, and loneliness. I also know that my physical and emotional pain are so minimal in the grand scheme of things.

But that doesn’t diminish what I’m feeling right now: profoundly grateful for everyone who has reached out, expressed their concern, offered a shoulder to cry on, sent flowers or funny mail, gotten me out of my house or back in it, and generally reminded me that love isn’t binary, that family isn’t defined by blood, that community isn’t bounded by physical space, and that what you put out into the world will be repaid tenfold if only you’re brave enough to let it.

Oh hey, broken arm!

(Let’s see if I can do this without hitting any weird key sequences. I’ll leave whatever random things I come up with as is.)

1am

Yesterday started out as a really ideal city 4th, and ended up as a pretty miserable one. I had the day off, as did most of the city, so I headed to the beach with a friend, as did most of the city. I loaded my bag up with “margaritas”, snacks, sunscreen, and trashy historical fiction and biked up to Montrose Harbor, where Karen and her friends met me for a few hours of sand and sun and cold cold lake. We had a delicious cocktail, sought out emergency hydration, met up with other friends for dinner in Lakeview, and generally made the most of a lovely, if overly hot day, parting ways happy and sun-tired around 6:30.

I headed back to the Lakefront path for my 9-10 mile ride home. It was cooler by the lake, and even with all of the pedestrian traffic for the fireworks, I expected it to be an easier ride than the stop and start and potholes and radiant heat of the city streets. And it was exactly what I expected: †otally packed in some places, totally fine in others. Lots of people not paying attention.

I came up behind one of these groups of people, called out “ON YOUR LEFT”, and just as I went to pass, one of them swerved to her left. Her rear wheel must’ve clipped my front wheel, and we both went down. She got up, asked if I was OK, then rode off with her friends.

I was most definitely not OK. Blood from abrasions dripping from my hand, elbow, and ankle. A suspiciously tender wrist. Ripped grip tape and a wobbly front wheel. A couple of guys saw it all happen and took care of me, calming me down, encouraging me to take off my helmet and Garmin, letting me use their phone, helping me to water, then locking up my bike when I couldn’t manage the lock myself. Shane was going to come get me but I was by Navy Pier, so it would’ve been basically impossible to get to me so close to the beginning of the fireworks. I left my bike downtown and took a cab home – the driver didn’t charge me and offered to wait and take me to the ER as well.

And so I spent four hours in the ER at Rush, taking ridiculous photos on my phone to document the process. I had a tetanus shot and a pregnancy test and at least three rounds of xrays. They hung my arm from the ceiling †o make sure the ligaments were properly aligned before putting it in a splint. I cried when they compressed my wrist to start the splinting, but declined morphine when offered as I had to drive home. I figured that if my sister could give birth without drugs and I could have my cervix dilated without anesthetic, I could do this. I joked that I was red, white, and blue for the holiday. This is the third time I’ve broken my left radius, and the location of the break might require surgery to make sure the joint heals properly.

Untitled

I left the ER sometime after 1, exhausted and in pain, wanting nothing more than ice cream and my bed, preferably in that order. I found the latter and a Vicodin. I took the rest of the week off. Today was spent calling the insurance company, calling the orthopedist, waiting 2.5 hours to get a referral, drowning my sorrows in a sundae at Margie’s, and napping in a drug-induced haze.

So now I’m scraped and bruised from shoulder to ankle, and I’m in this giant stupid splint until I can see the ortho on Tuesday and find out what happens next. I’m devastated that most of the things I’ve loved about summer in the city so far – biking, the lake, biking to the lake, yoga, taking photos – are no longer options, at least for the foreseeable future. I can’t pin up my hair or zip up some of my dresses. I can’t ride from Chicago to Milwaukee, and while I’ll still be able to go tubing on the river in Indiana, it’ll be with a plastic bag on my arm.

And I hate that I’m doing all of this on my own. The last time I broke my arm, I was in a new relationship, and the way he cared for me in the days and weeks following the accident cemented my feelings for him, as well as those of my family. This time I sat in the back of a cab alone. In the ER alone – though friends offered to come join me. In the interminable waiting room at the clinic alone. At home alone. I’ve played the role of caretaker in my relationships – and have taken the reciprocal care for granted – to the extent that I don’t know how to ask for care or to be cared for. The cab driver teased me that I was probably too proud to let him help me, take me to the hospital. He was right.

At least I have vicodin and AC and a long weekend.

Ask me how I really feel

good things

Thanksgiving has come and gone, though it has been much celebrated around these parts. My family’s most unique tradition is Turkey Notes, which are small rhyming poems written on each guest’s placecard. The poems are almost always eye-rollingly silly, but my family loves them, so we continue to do them, year after year. This year mine was about Sid, and Shane’s was about Herky. With my friends, however, we usually go around the table and list the things for which we’re thankful. I haven’t had a chance to share that list yet this year, so here, in no particular order, are a handful of things for which I’m thankful:

  • ShaneB and all the joy and good things he’s brought into my life this year
  • a great job that I love, even if some days are very hard
  • my family and an awesome crew of friends
  • the impending end of the semester
  • Project Runway and Tim Gunn
  • veggie breakfast sausage
  • Basil’s safe return, and the advent of Sid
  • We love Katamari
  • yellowbike (and maybe RAGBRAI in the new year??)
  • my healing arm
  • Bonnaroo

What are you thankful for?

secret!

ShaneB and I are leaving town in a few minutes for a Top Secret Weekend Adventure. I can’t say where we’re going, but I’m hoping we have a lot of fun, a lot of good food, and a lot of down time. We’re not taking work with us. I’m really excited.

In other good news, I got my cast off! I can type with two hands! Now THAT is something to celebrate. 🙂

SB&E B&E

I got a new purple cast today. That, along with my burrito lunch with SB and the chai that I spent too much on have really been the only good things about this day.

Oh, except for when I conspired with two faculty members to break into a locked display case to steal a back issue of Library Trends. If this ends up on the police blotter tomorrow, I swear that I left before anything went down. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.