The biggest lesson I have learned, so far, in my Summer of Slow, so far, is ironically that “I’m not so good at slow.”
When I decided to begin the summer of slow, I did it in part because I felt it is what I needed for my family and my mental health, but also, I wanted to experiment with getting out of my day to day habits and trying new things each week.
So, in an effort to help me better understand the process, instead of just writing what I did, I am writing some questions I had for myself during the process or what I like to call “lessons learned.” If I look at the individual events or decisions as “mistakes” or “failures,” it is much harder to see the gift in them and it is also harder to want to try new things. When I fail, I can keep going, but pushing through this season of slowing down and allowing seems counter-intuitive. At Cents of Style, we encourage lessons learned. If you can frame the experience in terms of what you learned or why you did it, it becomes a growth tool, instead of an event that blocks and ends, or worse a failure that stops all growth forward.
So here are my Lessons Learned from just three weeks into my experiment.
Lesson 1- “Am I just changing the location of working?”
On Week 2 of my Summer of Slow, I asked myself this situational question. After having spent 4 hours in the morning of week 1 catching up on emails, text messages and slack. Then, on week two, I made the mistake of grabbing my phone at 7am and being pulled into the same habits. Then as the very chill person that I am, I worked 9 hours on my Slow Friday of Week 3, because it happened to fall on the day we had scheduled for our Semi-Annual Warehouse sale.
It’s a little humorous, that in my Summer of Slow and specifically on my “day off” I have officially taken “off” about 12 hours in 3 weeks of Fridays. Twelve hours of the 36 hours I intended to take away from the hustle to focus on personal growth. That’s 2/3’s away from my goal.
My normal habit, of seeing this great “failure” of my goal, would be to chastise myself for this. Instead, I’m trying to identify what the lessons are. One lesson for me is that I like to be caught up on my “work” to enjoy my time off. Spending an hour or two catching up on a week of lapsed communications allows me to release my mind from “should” so I can make room for “slow.”
And perhaps if I can create space on a Thursday afternoon to catch up on those communications, I can give myself a little more time, and a little more personal grace, on Friday.
The other side of that is, if I don’t work on Fridays at all, I find that I have to play a little catch up on Saturdays. For me, in the position I am in now, there really is no true “time off.” Work and life blend together, so frequently, and so ambiguously. It is just shifting time and space from my “life” for work. Which is okay. I chose this work and this life. It is just nice to be aware of that sacrificial shift in my mind… and I’m still very much getting used to that shift.
Lesson 2- “Its so easy to go to our phones.”
I am a creature of habit. It is comfortable and easy for me to work on tasks, especially in the same old way. Answer emails. Check in on projects. Check sales. New “work” – tasks I don’t already have habitual behaviors based around, are MUCH harder to get myself going on. It is difficult to sit down and write, because I do not have a habit formed. It is vulnerable to put up an instastory and talk about what I’m learning, because even though its using my phone, it’s using a different piece of my brain, and quite honestly, my soul, to accomplish that task. These tasks that are new are non-habitual and therefore that much harder to squeeze into my “life.”
Additionally, my phone is a habit. It is comfortable to grab my phone. If I am feeling uncomfortable, I grab my phone and look at Instagram or check in on Slack. It is hard to sit with myself and just observe my surroundings or even better, my own feelings. That is much harder work than scrolling Instagram, looking at everyone else’s thoughts about their lives. And I found myself, especially in Week 2 when I challenged myself to go to lunch at an actual restaurant, and not just fitting something in my from my desk, continuing to grab my phone. Which I know I would do work from.
My next challenge will be a Friday without my phone…but not in Week 4, since I have to head to LA for work. I know. I know. Some #summerofslow.
Lesson 3- “Time spent on work or family is worthy, time spent on myself is not.”
Self-care time for me is hard. It feels indulgent. It feels like worthy pursuits of time “should” involve family or work. If I am not working, or with my kids, I feel guilty… Just the awareness alone of not spending time on something I deem as “productive” puts my stomach in knots. I’m not sure this will change…or even if it should. I know that I have a long way to go in both my definition of what “self-care” is for me, and how I allow myself the space and time to accomplish making myself better. I know that me taking that time to improve upon new skills, or lavishly enjoy a haircut every so often, will make me a better wife, mother and CEO. But I struggle. Especially on Fridays, which I have left room for taking time for myself on. Somehow, that time feels best-spent going on a hike with my kids, than practicing yoga by myself. But I am worthy. I am worthy of time to myself, and so are you.
I was even cautious about what photo to use to represent these three weeks of Slow during summer. I knew a photo of myself with my children would connect with you, but when I really boiled down what I’ve learned in these days of intentional slowness, its that there is space for me to just BE. As I am. Without any other titles. Just me. And I believe there it space for you, too. You just have to slow down and find it.