We all know the story of the tortoise and the hare: A rabbit challenges a turtle to a race. Having left the slow-moving turtle in his dust, the overconfident rabbit decides to take a nap in the middle of the course, but wakes to find that his slow-but-steady opponent has won the race while he was sleeping.
So what does that have to do with me? Well, lately I’ve been thinking that I’m sort of like a rabbit, but I want to be more like a turtle.
Confused? Let me explain.
Last month, I had the chance to participate in A Soulful Cleanse with Rebecca Mullen.
Instead of overhauling large areas in small amounts of time, Rebecca invited me to focus on one tiny space of clutter under which, she believes, lies patterns and habits and fears and dreams. You might think you’re cleaning out your closet, but what you’re really doing is making peace with your kids getting older and the inexorable march of time.
Sounds deep? It was.
Those of you who have been hanging out here for awhile know that I don’t do so well with tiny. I like grand plans and big, sweeping changes. I’ve undertaken a Happiness Project. I’ve overhauled my family’s eating habits. I’ve started running again. I’ve stopped biting my nails.
And that’s all fine and well at the beginning when I’m energized and committed. Like the rabbit in the fable, I rush out of the starting gates and am efficient and effective. But then I often flounder when an obstacle arises: a sick kid, out-of-town guests, a particularly compelling episode of The Good Wife. Not only do I not bother to stop and think about why I’m making the change in the first place, but I sometimes abandon a goal altogether after the initial “runner’s high” has worn off. But despite this pattern, I continue to believe that being fast and being strong is the way to handle any issue.
And I suspect I’m not alone in this. I wonder how many people – and maybe women especially – are afraid of slowing down, of being gentle to themselves because we’ve been taught that pushing on and powering through are signs of strength.
Awhile ago Rebecca introduced me to the idea of a turtle step: setting a goal so small that it seems laughably easy. And in this class, she encouraged me to pair a turtle step with a reward. So instead of spending an afternoon tearing my closet apart, I decided to spend five minutes a day decluttering my children’s outgrown toys and clothes and then ten minutes treating myself to looking at pictures of my kids.
The five minutes part? I’ve been struggling with making this change, with slowing down and doing mindfully the things that I’ve spent my life plowing through. Because a big part of me still wants to push and dump it all in a bag and drop it off at Goodwill. Wouldn’t that be easier than looking at a tiny onesie my baby girl wore just last year – and to think about how much she’s grown and the fact that she’ll never be a newborn again?
I’m struggling, but I’m trying. And the ten minutes part makes it all worth it. The sitting down with a cup of tea and looking back at a picture of my little one, her buttery thighs sticking out of that very onesie, her hand stretching – stretching - to reach her toe.
Sometimes it’s good to be a turtle.
In honor of (Easter) rabbits, turtles, and all the creatures of spring, I wish a Happy Easter and a Happy Passover to all of my friends celebrating this weekend.
When I talked to Rebecca yesterday, I mentioned that I was going to write a post about my experience in her class and she was good enough to offer Motherese readers a 50% discount in the next session of A Soulful Cleanse. Just let her know I sent you.