I left my office in a hurry the other day, attempting to drop a few envelopes in the box before the mailman’s 5pm pickup. Spotting an older man walking his bike up the sidewalk in front of me, I stepped into the street to move around him. As I passed, I turned to greet him with a quick hello. He nodded in return and I continued on my mission.
“If you walk a little slower, you will live longer!” he yelled at my back.
Surprised, I turned around. Clearly, the mailbox would have to wait.
“I like to walk quickly,” I answered, a little defensively. This is true. I’ve always enjoyed keeping a brisk pace.
“Look at me. I’m a slow walker and I’m very old!” the man said.
I paused to assess my elderly suitor. He appeared fit, well-dressed, content and entirely stress free, his plaid cap sitting jauntily above his smiling eyes. Might there be something to his cautionary words?
Since my unexpected encounter with the sidewalk stranger, I’ve been thinking about our interchange. Why did the man feel the need to slow me down? What kinds of signals was I giving off as I passed him on the sidewalk? What is wrong with walking fast? Am I reading too much into his warning?
I may never find out his real motivation for calling me out, but I’ll admit that he touched a nerve with his unsolicited comments. I pride myself on my efficiency and precision. I get things done, sparing no expense to myself. Even when I’m not walking for fitness, I tend to move quickly throughout my day, buzzing from task to task, staying occupied from early morning to bedtime. Unless I’m on my acupuncturist’s table, pinned down by needles, under the weather or sleeping, I have a hard time slowing down. It’s incredible that he could assess me so accurately in a single second.
Maybe my fast-paced tendencies stem from the reality of my dual roles as a parent and a professional person. Caring for my family, home, and workplace every day are big and challenging jobs. Experience has taught me to use every minute to keep it all together.
At the very least, the old man on the sidewalk has helped me to become more aware of my behavior. Displaying such a rushed aura may convey productivity to some, but could be off-putting to others who are not wired like I am. I recognize the need to gauge my workload and my stress level, allowing myself to let a few things slide occasionally in favor of staying healthy over the long haul. Seeking a new, slower pace won’t be easy for me. I’ll add it to my to-do list…when I have the time.
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