The Great Slowdown

“Even a minute of breathing can reduce stress,” my Apple Watch says, nudging my wrist gently. I dismiss it with a huff. Who even has a minute, right? The one-year-old wants to nurse, the four-year-old wants to build a block tower—no, wait, have a snack—no, wait, turn the TV on—actually, could I get him a different shirt? The one he’s wearing got slightly wet. Or maybe it’s the wrong color. Actually, it just has a loose string…could I cut that? I didn’t cut it close enough, he can still see it. And so on and so on until I collapse into bed at night (next to the one-year-old, because we’ve decided to co-sleep).

So far, the coronavirus has not made my life any more hectic (I realize I’m in the minority here!). I’m a stay-at-home mom, married to a farmer, with two kids who are too young to go to school. My family is used to being around each other, though I’m not sure we’ve fully appreciated that until now.

Lately I’ve been feeling anxious about my new unfinished app, YarnBuddy. I’ve been dying to ship it but I can only work on it a handful of minutes per day, and that’s starting to get frustrating. A couple days ago I paused to consider why I’m in such a rush to get it done. The answer was slightly uncomfortable: I’m hoping it’ll make good money, of course, but even more so I crave the attention I’ll get for releasing an app, and the recognition I’ll attain if it’s actually any good. How silly! (And yet, how human-nature-y!)

I’m giving myself permission to slow down now. I don’t need to release this before WWDC. I don’t need to release it until it’s done. One thing I’ve learned from all of this is that a lot of things can just. freaking. wait.

A high school friend posted two pictures of her calendar on Facebook: one from last month, and one from this month. Her February squares were densely-packed with hand-written appointments and activities for her, her husband, and their three children. I noticed she had scheduled date nights for her and her husband, and a special day for family time. Partway through March, it all just stopped. A sea of blank white squares. Blessed nothingness.

For decades it seems we’ve all been screaming for a slowdown. Time flies, we say wistfully. Our children grow too fast. They don’t get enough time to just be kids, instead spending their precious childhood years rushing from one activity to the next. We’re all too busy. We need more time to spend with our loved ones. We need more time.

And now it seems the world has hit the pause button. Things are frightening, and uncertain, but also quiet. Slow. Many of us, all over the world, have been given the gift of time. You don’t have to do anything monumental. Sit on your butt, if you can. Relax, if you can. Parents, did you know that people who homeschool their kids usually only spend 2-3 hours a day on schoolwork? You don’t need to schedule every minute until the 3:15 bell rings. Play with your kids, hug them, enjoy them. Read, play games, dance.

Listen to your watch when it tells you to breathe. You have the time.