Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Slow down

I had a particularly pleasant drive home from work yesterday evening.

It was supposed to be an awful commute. The meteorologist on the radio had been warning for days that the dreaded “wintery mix” would kick in during the late afternoon and reach its peak right around 5 p.m. Rush hour would be a mess, he warned, with cars slipping and sliding everywhere.

This alarmed me somewhat. Rick and I took a leap of faith last fall when we bought our second Prius, conceding that we were trading in any possibility of easy winter driving for the enticement of minimal fuel usage. Priuses are terrific vehicles, as we knew from having owned our first one already for eighteen months, but they’re not known for handling the snow.

So I should have continued to feel nervous as I watched the snow begin to fall outside the office window late yesterday afternoon. It appeared that the radio meteorologist had nailed it: wintry mix starting late afternoon, making for an awful commute.

Yet my commute wasn’t awful at all; it was lovely. I simply made a conscious decision before I left the office not to let fear prevail. Yes, it’s snowing, I told myself. But you will be driving home on an interstate highway. It will be well plowed and well lighted. Just drive slowly and chances are good that you’ll be fine. As our minister emeritus likes to say, quoting Jesus, “Be not afraid.”

And I wasn’t afraid. I just decided I’d drive slowly. Other people were doing the same. It felt safe. It felt easy. It felt relaxing. All this despite the wintry mix.

It underscored for me how much of a service we do ourselves to just slow down – sometimes slow down drastically. My dangerous commute in bad weather was fine because I resolved before I started that I would drive as slowly as I wanted to. No one honked at me or seemed annoyed. Those who wanted to go faster pulled into another lane, but plenty of people stayed behind me as well. I guess they wanted to go slowly too.

Two weeks ago I had dental surgery and came home from it with an overwhelming feeling of pleasure in the fact that I’d cleared my schedule for the next two days and could spend the whole afternoon reading. This past weekend I had been planning a trip to Maine that had to be cancelled at the last minute; as a result I was home all weekend having made no plans. I was sorry not to be in Maine, but again, it was a weekend absolutely free of scheduled commitments. I could move as slowly as I wanted from one thing to the next – or not move along at all.

Being in the car during rush hour wasn’t really all that much like being at home with no plans, but all three events reminded me of how good it is to have enforced slowness imposed upon us once in a while. I arrived home safely with not so much as a skid. Or a honk. It’s hard to slow down, but sometimes it’s necessary and sometimes it’s just good. I felt safe and sane for having taken my time, and I was reminded once again that the right time to slow things way down isn’t only on snowy highways, but any time you just need to step out of the fast lane for a little bit.

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