By Rory Scher, LMFT
Perhaps you have heard of the book “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry,” by Neil deGrasse Tyson. If not, I recommend it. It’s really good. I love his title because it conveys that while astrophysics is clearly so complex and vast in what it encompasses (ie, only the universe and beyond, and apparently there is a beyond), the book is for people who don’t have much time but want to add to the conversation of astrophysics when it inevitably comes up in conversation.
The author accurately captures in his title a value of our society, that of being in a hurry. We prioritize speed and constantly being busy, heralding these things as a reflection of one’s worth. And that is when I began to feel sad. This sadness was cataloging all the beautiful and important things we miss out on by not slowing down long enough to really invest. We miss out on getting to know deeper and valuable aspects of ourselves, our relationships, our kids, life as a whole, society, and yes, even astrophysics.
I was sitting on my porch the other morning, coffee in hand, enjoying the sunshine. I hadn’t been sitting for longer than five minutes before my anxiety showed up and had a thing or two to say about how I was spending my morning. “Nice mornings are fine and all, Rory, but you’ve got stuff on that to-do list and there is only so much time in a day. Stop being lazy. It doesn’t matter if you’ve only been waiting six months for a morning warm and sunny enough to sit outside and enjoy. You will never reach your goals if you are sitting around every sunny morning. There will be plenty more of those.”
But somehow that last thought awoke another voice inside me, one that tries to remind me of who I really am and what I really want. “Here I am, having so much inner conflict about how I want to spend my one hour this morning. Here I am, acknowledging I have been waiting for a morning exactly like this one, and I’m about to give it up so easily. What is the point of all this accomplishing if I don’t slow down and enjoy what I’ve worked for?” Isn’t that what we do though? We spend years “searching for the one” but so easily let such things as work, house projects, and stress keep us from continuing to invest in that relationship. We let our anxiety keep us from putting aside our phone long enough to play with our kids or dog or invest in a hobby. I realized it’s counterproductive. All this hurrying is actually diminishing our hard work, taking what we worked so hard to finally acquire and keeping us from really enjoying it. How much have I already missed out on knowing about myself and the important people around me by not slowing down long enough to find out?
After this inner dialogue, I chose to sit in my chair on the porch, sip my coffee and just observe. Observe the flowers in the garden, the birds and squirrels busy roaming around, my dog sprawled out in the sun, and that inner voice saying, “Yes, finally. You love being outside and connecting with nature. You love being in the sun, soaking up its affection and making space to feel and process.”
Slowing down that morning, I learned a bit more about myself. I push myself to achieve what I perceive are all the things I need to do to feel accomplished so I can give myself permission to relax. But I’ve created a habit of not taking time to relax and instead fill those moments too. I’ve let the expectations around me pull me away from investing in what I really enjoy. I also came to a second realization that day. There is a bumble bee’s nest right outside my front door! That could have been painful if I had stepped off the porch bare foot one day and not known it was there.
It’s in the slowing down that we are able to discover more of what is happening within us and around us. So while I am thankful for the crash course in astrophysics, that isn’t the type of relationship I want to have with myself or the people around me. And for that, I will need to set aside my anxiety’s urge to keep doing and instead, slow down and listen. My anxiety measures my life’s worth based off of how much I do. But I know the unhurried me is okay with a little less doing and a little more investing because only in the slowing down do I really feel connected.
I don’t intend to read any more books on astrophysics. My crash course should be sufficient for conversation. Maybe Pluto really is a planet! I do, however, plan to make more space to sit longer with the people I love and care about, to really listen and go deeper with them, really get to know them, and invest more than I do when I am in a hurry. Connection with others and myself is too valuable to trade for the illusion of accomplishment by maintaining a hurried schedule. I hope you attempt the same. And see for yourself what you discover about yourself, your relationships, and where the bumble bees are nesting at your house.