Most of my days are made up of minutes crowding out minutes; seconds squeezed up against each other like matchsticks in a box. The days fly by and the routine is rote, but comforting. School, work, exercise, cook, play, sleep. Repeat.
As often as we can manage, we celebrate do-nothing days, which means that nothing is planned and anything is possible.
One day a few years ago when my son was three, we stayed in our pajamas until I decided to stick my head out of the back door and see how cold the wind was blowing. My son requested a walk, and on a do-nothing day, I try my best to say "yes" more than "no." You want to play trucks? Yes. You want to play basketball in the house? Yes. You want cookies for a snack? Yes.
We finally donned our "real clothes" -- jeans, fleece jackets, down vests and hats -- and walked out the door. The day was quiet, and no one else was on the sidewalk. Hand in hand, we walked down the hill and played "I spy" with leafy wreaths on front doors, bright red berries on landscaped bushes and chirping birds in the trees. Every time we'd get to a cross street, he would hold up his little arms and say, "Pick you up, Mama."
We walked past some tennis courts at the end of the street and picked up a tennis ball, and the sound of his laughter as he threw it over the net pealed like music to my ears. When he tripped and fell, I hugged him and dried his tears, and when I made a show of telling the tennis court to stop being so mean, his tears turned to giggles.
He tired out in the middle of our mini-journey, and I picked him up and carried him halfway home, my back protesting the 34-pound addition to our walk back uphill. I nuzzled his tiny nose and pressed my cheek to his, savoring these moments. Time was moving slowly and the seconds yawned and stretched, defying their constraints.
By the time we returned home, we had our fill of fresh air and exercise, and we had the rare opportunity to pause time, just for a few moments. There are too many days of too much busy time. We rush by in a hurry to get to the next milestone:
If I can just get through this work day.
If I can just get through this week.
If I can get through this month it will be calmer.
The truth is, slowing down takes more effort.
It's easy to roll downhill and pick up speed; it's much harder to actively say no, dig your heels into the dirt and stop the momentum. The pressure to move and be "productive" is high; sometimes, adjusting the definition of success is all it takes for a new speed setting. Sometimes, being happy with being in the moment is exactly what I need.
At bedtime every night, time slows down again. After bath, books and brushing teeth, I turn out the light and we snuggle in the glow of the nightlight. We whisper our prayers and I make up stories and he tells me about school. On very special nights, he falls asleep in my arms as our conversation drifts.
I stopped making annual resolutions many years ago, but if I were to make one, it would be this:
Continue to slow down. Enjoy more do-nothing days.
The do-nothing days make me so much happier than the do-too-much days.
Kristin Shaw is a freelance writer, 2014 and 2015 BlogHer Voice of the Year, and co-producer of the Listen to Your Mother show in Austin, where she is the mother of a mini Texan. You can reach her via Twitter @AustinKVS, Facebook, or her blog http://www.twocannoli.com, where she writes about relationships, motherhood and love.
Photo credit: Jennifer Rustgi photography