Every family practises one ritual or another. One of ours comes each Saturday morning. After my wife and I have consumed the weekend newspaper and a few cups of coffee, I take orders from my daughter and son-in-law for their coffee, hot chocolate or decaf preferences. But before I buy the beverages, I hit our local bakery for chocolate donuts. For me? Well, only if after I bring them to the grandkids there are any left. Generally, I have to get our youngest not to wolf them down. And I’m often heard saying:
“Whoa, buddy! Nobody’s going to take your donut away from you. Slow down and enjoy it.”
The same thought strikes me on those days I’m driving those little ones to school, or Taekwondo, or dance class or Saturday morning hockey. With such a precious cargo on board, I’ve become extremely conscious of taking extra care, and, as it turns out, a bit of extra time to get them there. Who cares if they’re a minute or two late? What difference does it make to beat that amber? Or, who’s going to remember whether I got arrived first second or last, as long as I got there?
Maybe it’s a function of age, a greater perception of the dangers of speed, or the recognition of increased responsibility in one’s life, but I try not to put myself in a position of having to be in a hurry anymore. And occasionally, I’ll even catch myself repeating what I said to my donut-gorging grandson. “Slow down!”
I think it’s the same in eating, working, playing, and, well, you can use your imagination here. Some of life’s most pleasurable moments are the ones taken slow and easy. I remember being the MC of an arts awards night many years ago. There was a real dark horse in the competition. Lo and behold her work was recognized for its excellence. Then, on the podium to receive her award, she just stopped.
“What were you thinking about?” I asked her.
“Nothing,” she answered. “I was just taking all this in because it’s never happened before and it might never again.”
I thought about what she’d said for a long time afterward. And I think I learned from her attitude about winning slowly, if you will. I mean there’s lots of room for racing, winning and living up to one’s obligations in a hurry. I believe strongly in deadlines, for example. I’ve lived by them in my broadcasting and journalism careers all my working life. But I think I can honestly say that the pieces of published work or on-air production that I took the greatest time to complete, provided the greatest satisfaction. The best interviews I’ve encountered, for example, were the ones in which I forgot about the time and just let the conversation determine their beginnings and ends. Their reward was found in the doing, not the finishing.
I know all my friends who believe strongly that finishing first is vital to healthy growth and survival in this world, they think I’m nuts. But maybe there’s more to life than speed and winning. Maybe, as others say, there’s as much satisfaction in the journey as there is in arriving at the destination. Which brings me to last weekend.
I sat down to watch some of the Winter Olympics coverage from Pyeongchang, South Korea. Now, generally, global competition is the very antithesis of what I’ve been writing about here. I mean, the Olympic motto says it all. It’s “Faster! Higher! Stronger!” Not slower, lower and weaker, right? But as I watched the climax of the Team Figure Skating event on Sunday night, I was entranced by all of the Canadian performers who put on a clinic in each of their figure skating specialties. Patrick Chan’s triples and quads, Gabrielle Daleman’s interpretation of “Rhapsody in Blue,” and Meagan Duhamel’s and Eric Radford’s powerful pairs aerobatics, kept our household on the edge of the seat all evening long. It was very much about faster, higher, stronger.
Except when Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir glided out there to centre ice to show us their ice-dance routine. Their approach was remarkably different, I thought. As strong as Moir’s lifts were and as sharp and sexy as Virtue’s tangles and turns, to me they were all about enjoying every move, every drawn-out gorgeous second of the experience on skates, in front of the world and in the moment. I didn’t feel any of the tension and anxiety that’s so often associated with Olympic competition. I just watched one of the most exquisite pieces of art and athletics I think ever. Every lift, twirl, spin and embrace seemed as if it were in slow motion.
Yes, I know they’re three-time world champs as well Olympic gold and silver medalists. They’re about competing and winning, for sure. But perhaps the greater pinnacle they’ve reached in their sport and in their lives is an understanding of a real golden rule – to slow down is to savour and truly enjoy.