“Only when the clock stops does time come to life.” - William Faulkner
Recently, the School of Oriental and African Studies (my university) hosted a TEDx talk which I managed to get a ticket for through a generous friend. In the run up to the talk I spent a majority of my spare time listening to the talks online, quickly getting inspired to learn, understand and question, whilst also undergoing continuous realisations about the way that people, and myself, think. I stumbled across a talk by Carl Honore where he praises slowness. It opened my eyes to the way that I had been living my life, and the reason why I was so uncomfortable and never truly at ease.
Backtrack a few months to when I used to deliberately watch the amount of time it took me to eat something. If I ate too quickly I was being greedy and was losing control, whereas if I monitored the time I would never lose control. In hindsight I can see that I did this because it made food last longer (a sandwich could literally, and sometimes still does, take an hour to eat) and therefore I was able to savour it for longer amount of time. The mistake here is that if I finished eating at a normal time but wasn’t truly satisfied, I should make another or eat some more food, whereas the longer I took to eat, the longer lunch would take and therefore the shorter amount of time to wait for dinner, therefore the less likely I was to be hungry.
Because of my obsession with time control, I began to notice the time it took to do everything. Life became a checklist of things. Everything had to be ticked off a list of social engagements, personal tasks and general chores and necessities. There was suddenly a previously undiscovered obsession with perfection and success. If I didn’t do something I had ‘failed’ and was literally ‘lazy’ – I believe it was due to my reluctance to accept what I’d become; a passionless, uncaring shell that could justify its humanity because she physically did all the things on the ‘humanity life list’. The problem was, nothing was felt.
Thus life was happening but I was no longer part of it. I was stressed because I was forcing myself, and I was incredibly busy. I didn’t know what was right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable to do.
“Alas, time stays, we go.” - Henry Austin Dobson
Why did I feel so absent? So unable to relax and truly be around even my closest friends? Because everything was too fast.
Immediately I thought of the people closest to me and dwelled upon the way they went about their day to day lives. How were they so chilled? How were they not analysing every situation? How could they allow themselves to be late? They clearly had a level of relaxation and self security that I did not. They were chilled and were presumably happy and still successful at university etc.
After watching the TEDx talk, I realised it’s because they took things slowly. They were only tackling one task at a time. They weren’t mentally punishing themselves if they didn’t complete something, or questioning whether they were becoming a social hermit if they didn’t feel like going out with friends – perhaps they were just tired.
It appears that in my effort to keep up with life, the more and more I was drifting away from it. Watching it as an emotionless bystander from behind a glass wall.
The problem with deliberately living life in this way (I say ‘deliberately’ in relation to the lack of outsider influence such as careers or family) is that life has to be obsessively planned to such an acute degree; you have to know what is happening, where, when and how so you can be prepared for and in control of everything. Furthermore, friendships are constructed and thought about. They are unnatural and planned - thus you feel uncomfortable and nervous. They are not real, these people are not seeing you.
“A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time and vaguer than our yours” - John B. Priestly
By stepping back and deciding once and for all to “not give a shit” about anything (to an acceptable and responsible degree) you tangibly feel the oppressive weight lift from your shoulders. You were your own slave this whole time, and you felt out of control, when in reality it was up to you to make the change.
The first time I skipped a lecture out of pure laziness was one of the most liberating act I’ve ever done. It opened the door to a new understanding that it is ok; you have a choice every single day, however reckless it needs to be. It’s about being able to rationalise what decision is right and necessary for your happiness and comfort in the near as well as distant future. The less pressure you feel towards a task, I find, the more likely and happy you will be to do it.
It seems all connected to an individual’s ability to connect with your self as an emotional human being with thoughts, feelings, opinions and desires. Things that are usually repressed to a large extent when suffering from an eating disorder.
As the talk dictates, if you take things slow everything flows better, everything just is better; conversation is natural not nervous, time alone is relaxing and detoxing, tasks are done to a higher standard - they become products of you; you start developing an identity once again as it filters through your actions.
It’s easy to get stuck in doing well and being successful because of the reward, but the happiness that comes from not living a life controlled by cogs and hands is priceless, intangible, sacred.