My latest short story "The Night the Lights Came On"

Friday, June 26, 2009

Take the Time To Slow Down

If you're like me, your life is really busy, and at times a bit stressful. Do you feel like you're constantly going, or even constantly in a rush? I wanted to hit on how helpful it can be to take little breaks in your life to chill out and let yourself wind down. I've got a few ways to do this that don't include drinking alcohol, or anything else like that! So I hope they are helpful to you, and can in some way enrich your life, and help you to slow down every once in a while. A word my brother came up with that I think describes this well, is chillax. For the writers, try these when you get writers block.

To the guys reading this, you may call me metro, but I dare you to try this first one out, then come back and leave a comment and tell me what you thought. I learned this one from my wife, trust me, the candle really helps. Take a good half hour or so from your evening, kids are in bed, the house is quiet. Draw a bath, and also put a candle somewhere in the bathroom. When is the last time you actually took a bath? If you’re like me it’s been years; I'm a shower man myself. Seriously, draw a hot bath, light a candle, turn off the lights in your bathroom, close the door, and soak in the tub. Let the hot water and flickering flame melt away all of your thoughts towards things you need to do, problems in the story you're writing, or situations that are stressing you out. Try it, and I bet you'll feel unwound and relaxed afterword. I bet you'll even have more energy to go deal with those things that were bothering you.

Here is another great one. If there is a thunderstorm going on, and you have a space outside which is covered, take your wife, or go yourself if you're single, and sit under that space watching the storm. Don't let it go by while you sit inside surfing the web or watching TV, go outside. My wife and I were able to do this recently, we sat next to eachother, enjoying the sights, sounds, and eachother's company. We didn't even talk much as we watched the sky light up, and listened to the thunder rumble. We sat on our porch together, which is very small, but it was really fun. It almost felt like we were camping together, or on a date, and we were just sitting on our porch. I highly recommend this one, though you must rely on the weather for it, so you can't really go out and try it at anytime.

Another thing you can do, is purposefully take the long way round. Like me, you may feel as though you're constantly racing from one thing or place to the next. Sometimes it's nice to force yourself to slow down and relax. Take a different way, one that offers a better view. Or drive down the main roads, avoiding all those hairpin shortcuts you usually take. Use the time to enjoy the ride, music, and/or company you are with.

Here is one I know will be hard, because I've never done it myself. A friend told me that while in the grocery store, he will sometimes choose the longest line to stand in. He does this to remind himself to slow down in this very busy life. Perhaps someday I'll give this one a shot; if I ever find myself not in a hurry to get somewhere.

This one, I know you can do. Watch a movie that moves at a slow deliberate pace. I'm not talking about a boring movie, but one that's done with purpose, so that you'll pay more attention to the subtle things in the film. I recommend Capote, with Philip Seymour Hoffman. If you listen to the commentary, they say that the opening shots were designed to slow down the audience, from their busy lives. It's a shot of wheat blowing in the wind, and a train rolling down some tracks. The shots last much longer than you would expect them to, see if it doesn't slow you down a bit. 7 Pounds, K-pax, and Doubt are also good movies for this.

Finally, one of my favorites! Find a place where you can sit around a fire with friends, or even alone. You'll tend to watch the flames dance, and hear the wood crack as it burns. It a very soothing event for me. I bet you'll have much deeper conversations with your friends than you're used to. You will also probably remember that night, and keep it as a fond memory.

Personally I like the thunderstorm, sitting around a fire, movie, and bath things the most. Even though I still find the shortest grocery line, while waiting I sometimes think of the guy who stands in the longest one and am reminded to enjoy the small break, and use it as an opportunity to mentally chillax and realize that life is good, and I should take the time to enjoy it. For the writers reading this, lots of story ideas can come to your brain while you let it slow down; which is much better than getting all of those ideas at 3 in the morning, trust me!

I hope this is helpful, thanks for reading it. I will relish any comments you leave.

P.S. Listen to this sermon on sleep by C.J. Mahaney, it's really good.

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