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SMITH: Slowing down to find our wings

“God made time, but man made haste.” — Irish proverb

One day, a brown beetle was slowly making his way down to the river. 

“Out of my way!” screamed Paca, the small, brown rodent. 

Parrot was watching from above and asked Paca why he was so upset. 

“Beetle is way too slow! He’s in everyone’s way, causing a jungle traffic jam! He should yield to me because I am fast and nimble. I could get to the river and back three times before he ever gets his feet wet!”

Parrot was well-acquainted with Paca’s faster is better ideology and suggested a race. “Whoever makes it to the water first gets a coat made from my old feathers.” Parrot’s feathers were prized in the jungle for their beautiful shades of gold and chartreuse, and both Beetle and Paca eagerly agreed.

“What a cinch this race will be to win,” thought Paca to himself. “I am so fast!” 

He sped down the path and was startled to see Beetle resting in the sun by the water’s edge. 

“Fiddlesticks!” Paca cried. “You never told me you could fly!” 

Beetle shrugged, “You never asked. You were too busy speeding by to notice that I had wings. Fast can be useful, but it isn’t all there is to life.” 

And that is why Beetle is no longer brown, but shimmers green and gold in the sun. 

Fast isn’t the only way to get somewhere. 

We’re so like Paca, racing through our lives. We’re too busy cramming more into our day to notice the small but crucial details — like our own wings — that would bring us the contentment and joy we so desperately want. 

2020 has been a long year. We now work and do school from home, with fewer outside trips to help differentiate a Wednesday from a Thursday. 

We do roughly the same thing day after day, so there’s no reason to remember each day specifically. It confuses the brain and makes time seem to crawl in the moment (but speed by in retrospect). 

Quarantine could have been an incredible gift, an opportunity to really slow down and take stock of our lives. But instead, most of us fight back against this contraction of time. 

We see unfilled hours as stressful and scary. But where to go when everything is either closed — school, our offices, the arenas and theatres — or feels dangerous, like our favorite restaurant or bar?

Online of course. No matter what time of day you’re reading this, more than a third of the global population is currently online. Ninety percent of Americans are online at least once every day. Within these numbers, users spend an average of one to three hours a day on social media.

Take a beat and let that fully sink in. Most of us spend an average of one to three hours a day on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. That ends up being as much as 45 days a year we are wasting online, scrolling as fast as Paca runs through the jungle.

We now know that social media distorts our perception of time even further, causing us to vastly underestimate how much time we spend online. 

I can personally attest to this. For the last year, I set my phone to shut down my social accounts after 30 minutes each day, and I’m still surprised how quickly my time is up every day. 

All this to say that social media might help the days fly by, but to what end? 

When you climb into bed at night, are you proud of the way you spent your time and energy most days? It’s like misplacing your car keys. There’s a better chance they are in the kitchen or mud room than outside in the garden. Yet, we keep looking outside for an inside problem. 

Stop outsourcing your attention and energy to social media when real purpose and meaning is found in slowing down and turning inward.

Ready to slow down and wean yourself off your phone? Go to Settings > Screen Time > App Limits and select the apps (or groups of apps) you want to include. Then, set a daily time limit. I suggest 30 minutes for business accounts and 20 for personal accounts. 

Fast can be useful, but when we slow down, we discover that we had wings all along. 

 

Erin Smith is the owner of the OM place in Winchester, the author of “Sensible Wellness” and the online host of the OM channel.