I’ve been thinking about running a lot lately – daydreaming about it, wishing I could throw my hair up, tie my shoelaces and hit the pavement. I miss the adrenaline that kicks in after running 5K (3.1 miles) and realizing your body can keep going; more than can, it wants to. The feeling you get when you recognize that your joints and lungs are so in-sync you never want to stop; it’s indescribable. Lately, I’ve been daydreaming about all of that, and the runner’s high that sweeps over you when you finally do slow down and stop, signalling a job well done.
I can’t run, right now. I haven’t been able to run for more than 10 minutes since July 2013, and late last year I was told to stop trying. My hip isn’t going to get better with high-impact exercises. I can walk, swim, use the elliptical or a standalone bike… but I can’t run, right now.
My life changed in July 2013, because someone else was in a hurry. I drove through a green light, while another driver drove past a stop sign and hit me in the intersection. My car did a 180 and ended up in another lane of traffic facing the opposite direction I’d been travelling. For the first 5 months that followed, I could barely sit upright for more than a few hours, let alone run or workout.
Over the past 20 months, I’ve done physio, had cold laser therapy, tried dry needling, and had freezing injected into my back and glutes. I do exercises in the morning and exercises before bed, and it’s all gotten me to a point where I can now workout 3-4 days/week, using low-impact exercises and some weights. But I’m still in pain, I still limp, I still can’t run and my MRI results say it’s time to talk to a surgeon.
Some days, my life feels like it’s on pause. Things might look good to an outsider, but when you’re not allowed to do something you really want to – like run – it’s so hard not to feel stuck. I can’t help but compare it to how restricted I felt when I was paying down my debt. I wanted to go out more, travel with friends and just not have to worry about money… but I couldn’t. I had to wait.
I’ve learned a lot about myself, including who I am and what I want my life to look like, as a result of the car accident. The greatest lesson I’ve learned so far, though, is the importance of slowing down.
There are so many things we need to tackle in a day. We have to work, cook meals, tidy up, run errands, pay bills and plan ahead. We also want to spend time with others and do something for ourselves. I have a bad habit of thinking I can multi-task all of that, so you’ll often find me boiling water to make coffee, while making the bed, texting a friend and picking out a new book to read. Single-tasking – where you focus on doing one thing at a time – is something I really want to work on this year, and it starts with slowing down.
In life, we can practice this and see benefits by:
- eating slower, so we enjoy the flavours of our food (and often eat less)
- disconnecting or working less, so we take time for ourselves or give full attention to people we’re with
- thinking before we speak, so we communicate more clearly and don’t say things we might regret
- single-tasking, so we make fewer silly mistakes and feel more fulfilled when a task is done
- giving ourselves more time, so we’re not rushing to get places and can arrive less stressed
And the list goes on and on.
These small actions involve being aware of our surroundings and the people in them, finding joy in the simple things and practicing gratitude. In short, they require us to slow down and live in the present.
When it comes to our finances, slowing down could stop us from making almost every bad decision imaginable. If we paused before buying an item on sale, we could ask ourselves if we truly needed it or if it would just satisfy a want. If we took a few minutes to calculate how much the interest on a debt would be, we could decide if it was worth being held back for years to pay for it. And if we waited to buy something, delayed gratification would teach us to be grateful for it, when it finally came into our possession.
By not slowing down, before making a financial decision, you can quickly find yourself in the position I was once in: mindlessly consuming and racking up debt, until I was totally maxed out. I traded all my available credit for time – 24 months, to be exact, which is how long it took me to pay off every last cent. All the impulse purchases I’d made accumulated to two years of not being able to live the life I wanted, while I had to pay off my debt. Whatever I put on my credit cards, back then, wasn’t worth it… and if I’d slowed down, before swiping for it all, I could’ve made better decisions.
People keep asking how I’ve been able to avoid shopping for the past 8.5 months, and the truth is: all I’ve done is slow down my rate of consumption. It is delayed gratification to the max; just one great big long pause, or an everlasting set of deep breaths. When I feel the urge to shop, I slow down and try to figure out where it’s coming from. Is it a habit? An impulse? A need or a want? I’ve had more than a few moments of weakness, where I’ve added things to an online shopping cart and almost hit “Submit Order”. When it gets to that point, I pause, take a deep breath, think about how I got there then close the tab in my browser.
Having to give up two years of my life to pay off a lifestyle I couldn’t afford to begin with is proof of what can happen when you don’t slow down before making financial decisions. In that same light, the yearlong shopping ban is proof of how quickly you can turn your financial situation around, simply by slowing down your rate of consumption and being aware of your goals.
I’m now inching close to the two-year anniversary of my accident, which was a result of someone else not slowing down and paying attention. I couldn’t have prevented what happened, but I have to believe all my efforts to get better will be worth it. Some days, my life feels like it’s on pause, but hopefully this is just one set of deep breaths, so I’m ready for whatever is next.
In the same way I wouldn’t rack up more debt while I was trying to pay it down, I’m not going to try to run while I’m injured. I need to go through the motions, have the surgery and work through recovery. Whether I like it or not, I have to wait. Until then, I’ll continue to workout at the gym and be grateful I can at least do that. And if it all works out, I’ll smile with every stride I take, when I can finally hit the pavement again.
Is there something you’ve been anxious to do but can’t yet? Have you learned anything from having to wait?