My sister and nephew used to live in Italy and I had the pleasure of visiting them for several weeks at a time in my late 20s. Positioned just a few miles from the center of Pisa and only a five minute walk to the Italian Mediterranean coast, they lived in a huge and comfortable house in Livorno. But the first time I went, it took me about four full days to totally mentally disconnect from my cell phone, my voicemail, the internet and cable TV. I literally had to detox from the mechanics of my very modern life and fall helplessly into a pattern of living that seemed unusually slow. I thought the situation was disquieting, but I realized that I was approaching a quiet way of life that my soul desperately longed for.
When the plumber came to the house one day, he checked the pipes in a leisurely way and my sister had told me very specifically not to let him leave until the leak had been fixed. I thought it was funny she was so adamant about it, but when he turned to me and said “domani, domani” I knew he meant tomorrow or the next day and I had to block him from leaving. He laughed and found another way out, lighting a cigarette and gliding without a care in the world down my sister’s driveway. Though he did come back two days later, I realized that the leak was not so bad that it couldn’t wait and all was really OK.
That sort of attitude reminded me of my college years in many ways. Yes, I am old enough to say that the internet didn’t exist when I was in college. We did not have e-mail and absurdly cheap long distance plans. I didn’t even have a TV most of the time I was in college, and when I did it was basically furniture and a place to put my books. Like Italy, days and nights were for reading, walking, eating and being with friends. I profoundly enjoyed this sort of slow living which, in many repects, was not slow at all. It was colorful and rich, brimming with new conversations, experiences and people. You floated along in life with a wondrous sense that anything could happen at any moment. And life was meant to unfold and be discovered rather than worked to death and made into something else.
Now that I am a mother, I want to instill this sense of slow living into my son’s reality. Though Mom and Dad are crazy busy, there are several hours in the day that can be devoted to being with my son in a fun, conscious and totally random way. “So… what do you want to do?” I ask my little guy. Sometimes it is “park” or “store” or “walk in the woods” or just “play trains” and that’s what we do. Now I am understanding how life can be free again. How the wonder and randomness of life can be reignited at any moment through creativity, play and just setting the intention to have more joy in one’s life.
This is why I absolutely love the ladies at www.slowfamilyliving.com. They not only understand the deep need to live presently, but they’ve made a movement out of empowering families and individuals to take regular stock of the emotional life they’ve created. Just slow down. Be, you know, more European and student-y about it all. Know that this, right now, is your life happening right before your eyes. Savor it.