Changing Pace

I am back in productivity mode. Back in NYC. Counting the hours. Panicking here and there about how fast they are going and how little I've gotten done. In that spirit, here's a post from my cousin Leah Fisch (have mentioned her here before) - Productivity Hacks that seem super-useful to me for anyone, not just entrepreneurs. Let me know what you think.

I just flashed back to a moment in August, 2010, that first year I started this blog, when we came back from one trip and had only a couple days before another and how weird and jaggedly out of place that in-between time felt. 

The blog (my life?) had such a different feel and pace and momentum that summer six years ago. It had a frantic, neurotic feel to me, those posts reflect it, like I had something to prove or something to argument I was jumping in on and trying to make...a lot more people openly following me at least based on the comments...back when I would post on Facebook...a public conversation, a different kind of attention...almost like the story mattered more back then and now the thoughts matter, like they've floated away into some other space. Back I was much more externally-focused, jacked up, hooked up, holding on to outdated networks, and now I feel like I have at least begun to turn inward, which of course is really a return. 

I am so much more accepting of slowness. Not just wanting to join a buzzword or buzzworld of "slow living" or "slow parenting" or minimalist living or whatever scene we might imagine to be out there, but really, truly, accepting of what it means to slow down, to, as my friend Heather says, "de-busy." That doesn't mean that I succeed in it even once a day. But it does mean that I feel a completely different relationship now to "living the question" as Rainer Maria Rilke wrote and I quoted just recently here

Jung, too, writes "The serious problems in life are never fully solved. If ever they should appear to be so it is a sure sign that something has been lost. The meaning and purpose of a problem seem to lie not in its solution, but in our working at it incessantly." I am happy now to work at it incessantly. With or without clear progress. With or without validation.

In 1973, May Sarton wrote about the difficulty of living her dream, solitary and reflective life: "It has harder than it used to be because everything has become speeded up and overcrowded. So everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow cycles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace."

If I have time tonight, I will stop by the garden. I will check on the Cosmos Alex thought was terrible-tasting dill. I'll water the lavender, which grew huge and lush this year, which gave us lovely bouquets Wally brought to grandmother in Massachusetts. I will check on the swiss chard, and see if it's ready to eat before we leave for Seattle on Wednesday. And I will see if the beans have finally started to climb.


  1. So cool that you have grown Swiss chard

  2. "and now I feel like I have at least begun to turn inward, which of course is really a return." Gah!! I love this! And thank you for the Jung and for reminding me of the joy in working incessantly, and how unimportant validation is...I am losing that right now. I hope you found the time in-between the trips to check the garden!!

  3. Did May Sarton write a book about a centaur? Or am I imagining things...her name sounds familiar

  4. If Sarton did, I don't know it! I know her mainly for her personal essays and poetry. Let me know if you find out anything.

    Amie - we did get time to check the garden! And ate all the collard greens before we left.

  5. You know what I think it was...our English teacher had a list of recommended books...there was The Centaur by John Updike and then something by May Sarton next to that...the power of association :)

  6. Are you in Alaska now? I told D you were going there this summer and he said, I think I saw them heading to the airport, they were getting in a cab...

  7. This is a thought-provoking post, and kudos for your green thumb! Hugs...RO

  8. I've come back to read this beautiful post three times while you've been away, and each time I take away something different.

    Lately, I've been thinking a lot about "living the question" and about working incessantly with or without clear progress, with or without validation. I paused to reflect on my progress a few days ago, and while it felt good, it did not feel triumphant, and certainly did not feel final. It was more like, okay good, and now let's keep going, let's get back to work.

    I love the May Sarton quote, "Gardening is an instrument of grace." And the final image, the beans starting to climb.

    I hope your time away has been filled with adventure, relaxation, and fun!

  9. Hi all...funny about the Updike/Sarton switch...totally makes sense...we were in Alaska then, yes. Hilarious D saw us getting in a cab. We took Jersey Transit out to Newark but couldn't even make it the few blocks to Penn Station w/ our stuff so he prob. saw us in a cab panicking to get there Wed morning (the 13th). RO - no green thumb, unfort (and a bit nervous to check out the state of the garden post-trip, although our friend said she has been watering it) but it has been fun.

    Sarah - it's very kind that you came back to re-read the post and that you took the time to think and respond to it. I think an assessment that is not triumphant and certainly not final is the best to have. Realistic and very zen-sounding. In fact, one might welcome an even greater sense of uncertainty about one's path. In Natalie Goldberg's latest The Great Spring (which overall I can't recommend), she writes: "This was groundlessness, no abiding. Supposedly a good thing in Zen practice, where you finally unhinge, admit you know nothing, surrender to the vast unknown."

    Yes adventure in spades...more soon.

  10. "The meaning and purpose of a problem seem to lie not in its solution, but in our working at it incessantly."

    This makes me feel better about some things I wrote in my journal more than 25 years ago, that I just read this week when I was looking for a bit of information - it seemed that I was constantly writing about the same things, never at rest, debating various issues and, from my current vantage point, complaining and depressed, hyper-critical of myself and emotional. I asked my daughter if she remembers me that way, and she said, "Not at all!" so that is a relief. I guess I was working it all out in my writing.

    I appreciate the Mary Sarton quotes, too, and the idea of the garden as "an instrument of grace." That's how I always experience it when I experience it. When I am merely thinking about it, it is a responsibility I am neglecting!

    I am so glad you got to go on a cruise, and for the report that it was a good thing in spite of your preconceptions. What a gift! I have never been on a cruise but I haven't ruled out the possibility. I hope you can write more about it, even as the memories must be drawn up from further back in time.... perhaps if, as you say, you can't stop thinking about the cruise, they will remain at the forefront of your mind and ready to pass on here.

    Thank you for a stimulating post.

  11. Thank you Gretchen for this lovely response. I had such a similar experience recently with my journals...finding that I was debating the same issues over and over (ones I'm still debating now!)...but we are "working at it incessantly"...whatever "it" is...It's great your daughter doesn't remember any of the complaining, depressing voice...that you channeled it into your writing.

    I really appreciate your encouraging me to talk more about the cruise...drawing the memories into upcoming posts...and I do hope you get to go on a cruise some time, too. The vastness of the ocean (even just the little bit we saw) has stayed with me. It is something I never had any real sense of before, only in the most abstract way. How it feels to be out there is almost indescribable. The perspective it gives.


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