Let me begin by saying that in a world of images it ought not to so hard to find a graphic that instantly tells you it’s about deceleration — you know — that feeling you get when you’re going fast and you quickly reduce speed and your body wants to keep going at the old speed and you are propelled against your seat belt — or some other object. Grrrr….. Thanks, but no thanks to both Google Images and Bing Images who were absolutely no help.
End of rant.
On a more helpful note…
I’ve been thinking, lately, about the concept of deceleration as a part of the life cycle. From birth until (in my case) my mid thirties life was a constant acceleration. I was learning and picking up speed through childhood and school and even those first few years in the workforce. I was finding my own pathway through life, managing the twists and turns and trying to discover optimal speed.
In my mid thirties I had a conscious awareness of having arrived at my cruising speed. This is what life was going to be. I knew who I was, I had a pretty good sense of how far I might get in the world, and in the things I wanted. I even made some very conscious choices about changing direction when I saw that some of what I was doing was taking me in directions I was no longer interested in going. I was — metaphorically — at my cruising speed. What no one talks about is the effects upon a person, and upon their body — of life’s deceleration. Because at some point we all begin to slow down.
That slowing can take multiple forms. It may mean that children are grown and out of the house and the pace of life slows down there. It may mean that you are reaching retirement age and you begin moving monies around to prepare for retirement; and you begin looking for exit strategies from your workplace. It may mean that you are unexpectedly taken with illness, or your partner is taken with illness and some of what you enjoyed together must be surrendered in the name of sanely assessing your new capacity. We all slow down. At independent rates. But we all do slow down except for those who die suddenly.
This has been on my mind because this last 12 months I have been aware of the fact that for the first time in my life I’m not in a big hurry to travel. Even the saying of those words has been hard for me. It is so “unlike me.” And yet it isn’t. It is who I have become. I never so much felt the sense of decelerating as much as I just arrived there. Oh, I had feelings, but I was attributing them to other causes. and all of a sudden, instead of being on a rapidly moving forward course, I find my self sitting still, looking around wondering why the scenery isn’t moving outside my life. 🙂
If you’ve been following along this year you’ll know that we took the decision to purchase a summer getaway for ourselves and the family — a seasonal, rural, break from the city. If I’m completely honest I have to admit that the process of buying that place took my by surprise. One moment I was just looking around; the next moment we were owners and the deal was done. I’m not sure I was even present for the decision making process — mentally. I mean I called the bank, arranged money transfers, completed purchase forms, you know, all the stuff that goes into a purchase — but I still wasn’t actually aware of what I was doing — not in it’s implications — not in what it meant to my place on the stream of time.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not “buyers remorse.” I am not unhappy about having done a good thing. But I am trying to highlight the fact that deceleration in life does happen, and because it happens closer to the end of life than the beginning the experiences we have had most frequently are those of acceleration, and we may not realize that the feeling in our stomach, the feeling of leaning forward, etc., that we get when we hit the brakes too hard in the car can be mimicked when we make decisions approaching the end of life.
Peg and I made a very conscious choice in the last month to move from the 2nd to the 1st floor — that too was a deceleration. We were aware of it, and we acknowledge it. But we humans aren’t always self-aware, and we humans don’t always recognize what’s happening for what it is.
Recently we have been a TV program called The Secret Life of the Zoo. It’s a lovely program produced by the Chester England Zoo and it focuses on their breeding program and it’s results. It’s quite interesting and informative. But one of the interesting things to me has been realizing that among multitudes of species the whole idea of mating is not something that necessarily comes naturally. Males and females of a great many species sometimes struggle getting it right, or have a hard time even figuring out what they are supposed to be doing. Life isn’t easy, there are not handbooks, and even if there were, the critters can’t read, so they all muck along doing their best in spite of their ignorance. And we humans are a lot like that. We think we have the world by the tail, we think we have everything figured out, and in fact, are are simply another species of critters who have to figure life out as we go. Including the changes that happen to us as we get closer to not being alive, than we are to being born.
So, the two of us are decelerating. We’ve had a great ride. We are still having a great ride. Sometimes the roller coaster slows as we reach the top of one incline and we hope there’s a downhill side to come, but we don’t really know. Do we? But we’ll laugh and scream and giggle and hope we don’t throw up before the ride is over, won’t we! 🙂