Life In the Slow Lane

Life In the Slow Lane

I was born on March 2nd, a full ten days before my due date. It would prove to be one of the few times in my life when I would show up ahead of schedule.

I’ve always been what one might call a “late bloomer.” I played with Barbies and stuffed animals well into my middle school years. I discovered things like makeup and fashion much later than my friends. I was late to the puberty game. I didn’t go on a first date until years after I’d graduated from college. Though Luke and I were fairly young when we got married (24), I didn’t have my first child until I was 30.

This slow-moving tendency isn’t limited to approaching milestones at the later end of the spectrum; I move slowly through my daily life, too. When I was a kid my parents affectionately referred to this as “dawdling.” It took the force of an army to get me moving in the mornings (it still does), and any transition took an inordinate amount of time. Case in point: it was not at all uncommon for me to “hang out” in our minivan for up to an hour after pulling into the garage. I have no idea what I was doing (this was an era before we had cellphones to distract us), I just know that I wasn’t in any hurry to move on to the next thing.

To this day I have a hard time with all transitions, whether that’s moving from the car to the house or making the decision to move out of state. (Luke and I thought about moving for years before we actually made the jump. We are still planning on getting a dog, and we’ve been talking about that since we were married in 2008!). Even changing up the decor in my home gives me anxiety. 

As an adult, I have little patience for this sluggish facet of my personality. After all, it doesn’t seem to fit: I’m a hard “J” on the Myers-Briggs. I crave order and structure, I’m task-oriented and live by my lists. I have little patience for others’ slowness and actually hate running late. This lack of inertia simply doesn’t fit; or does it?

A few weeks ago I was reading Anne Bogel’s upcoming book Reading People* which dedicates an entire chapter to the differences between Introverts and Extroverts. In reading about Introvert/Extrovert tendencies I had a huge aha! moment. Anne writes, “Extroverts think faster than introverts, processing information in less time. Extroverts can pull this off because information travels a shorter pathway through their brains. . . . Introverts prefer the sympathetic side of the nervous system, the side responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ mode.” In other words, Introverts—that’s definitely me—are wired to think and move more slowly!

It’s true that I am an extremely slow processor. New information takes a long time to permeate my brain and move into my heart, and it isn’t uncommon for me to have “new” revelations about conversations or events that happened last week, last month, or even last year. I often feel as though life is moving too fast for me to keep up.

Because of this, I had a hard time with the act of growing up. Even when my body and my friends and societal norms told me it was time to move on to a new age and stage, I was never fully able to let go of the last one. (I still can’t bring myself to get rid of my childhood stuffed animals, or college notebooks.) And this “never fully ready” feeling hasn’t gone away.

Of course, this has transferred to my relationship with—and impressions of—Charleston. I know that all moms have a hard time with watching their children grow up “too fast,” but I feel as though this is especially challenging for me. As much as I’ve loved every new stage and development, I also experience a deep sense of grief with the achievement of each new milestone. I know for his sake that I must let him grow into the boy he is becoming and not try to keep him a baby forever, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel absolutely gutted every time I look at one of his baby pictures and realize that’s no longer him. Many of my friends with kids Charleston’s age have gone on to have one or even two more babies in the past 2.5 years, and I somehow still feel like a brand new mom.

I don’t have any solutions to this conundrum, but I have found a few things that help. Journaling has been hugely beneficial, allowing me to process things in real time, or at the very least, get the day’s events down on paper so that I can do the processing part when I’m fully ready. Surrounding myself with “fast movers” has also been helpful; it might be painful to have them carry me through life at what feels like reckless speed, but my instinctual sluggishness helps maintain a sense of equilibrium.

The biggest help has simply been developing an awareness around this aspect of myself. Knowing that I’m a slow mover prompts me to counteract this tendency when it becomes unhealthy, and it allows me to embrace the benefits. And there are benefits: I like that I am nostalgic, reflective, and intentional, all side-effects to living life in the slow lane. Focusing on what I love about this approach to life is SO MUCH more life-giving than bemoaning the fact that I can’t be different.

I’d love to know about you: any other slow movers out there? How has this personality trait been a hindrance, and when has it proven to be a secret power?

*As part of the launch team for Reading People, I received an advance copy of the book. It was an honor to read this book prior to its publishing, and I can attest to how amazing it is. If you have any interest in personality models, this is a must read. The book doesn’t come out until next month, but you can pre-order your book now. By ordering ahead, you will get access to all sorts of goodies, including a free download of the audiobook!

  • Karen Peterson

    “Any other slow movers out there?” I am! I’m like you in many ways. Very slow to process most things. Developed later (in most ways but not all), slow to digest new material, have a LOT of difficulty with transitions and following conversations, even if there’s only one person speaking. And I STILL sometimes just sit in my car for awhile when I arrive. Just because! 🙂

    • I love hearing that I’m not alone! And I TOTALLY still sit in my car when I arrive places, at least when my son isn’t with me. Observers probably think I’m a crazy lady!