A couple of years ago I wrote this article about the sweet lessons of Kampala traffic. In essence, it describes my journey from dreading the daily frenzy of cars, taxi vans, people, boda-bodas and goats roaming the streets seemingly without even a hint of order to embracing the chaos as an invitation to slow down and discover the beautiful flow of live and let live that you could not find in any traffic code ever written.
Kampala traffic taught me to slow down and accept. It taught me to not take myself so seriously. It taught me that there are truths that I was blind to, kindness where I had seen attack, friends where I had suspected enemies. Kampala traffic taught me to revise my priorities. It taught me to live in the now. I left Uganda having found peace within myself; more than I could have found in any serene retreat location in the hills of British Columbia. I had accepted the invitation to slow down.
What I had not yet found was my ability to accept biological necessities. As I worked on my spiritual enlightenment I frequently lost my patience whenever I felt the need to use the bathroom with an indignant sense of “why NOW?” After all, I had better things to do, had I not?
I was always in the middle of writing a post, responding to someone, watching a (very important) tutorial and I would attempt to ignore the mounting pressure until I started hopping around on my chair.
An Unexpected Break
I have been self-employed for a year now with all the pains and gains you get when you become your own boss. This August we traveled to Germany to spend a month with my parents, who had been desperate to see their grandchildren again, after their own visit fell through with the COVID pandemic. Personally, I would have never taken a vacation at this point in time, feeling the need to grow and strengthen my business. I knew that I would have very limited time and opportunity to focus on work while at my parents’ house, although I did not expect how little I’d actually be able to spend at my laptop. A burned battery, a wrong order, and a long process to get the new laptop helped turn my stay into a real vacation. An invitation to slow down.
We spent time outside, riding our bikes, swimming, walking, meeting new and old friends and hanging out at playgrounds. I borrowed my mother’s desktop for the few calls and meetings I absolutely had to attend to. No time on social media. I produced no content. In this month my business grew more than in the eight months before.
Time to Think
It got me thinking. Obviously, it did not mean I should spend the rest of my days hanging out and riding my bike. Equally obvious, though, is the fact that my hustling before had not been the brightest strategy either. When I came back I made a decision. No longer was I going to tell myself that hours of social media (“I’m producing content!”) or consuming tutorials (“THIS one is going to tell me how to do it right, I’m sure”) were proof that Julia was working.
I made another decision. No longer would I open my laptop in the morning and then allow it to suck me into an aimless waddle in the digital world, poorly disguised as being productive, moving from one program to the next and leaving me drained and feeling wasted at the end of the day. From now on I am the master. I determine every moment of my life. I determine how I am going to spend the next hour. After all, is this not the reason I became self-employed to begin with?
A New Invitation
I made a decision and I made a commitment. Get up and take a walk. Sit in a café. Call someone and talk. Only open my laptop when I have a clear purpose. Once I finish the task I close the laptop and go back to my physical calendar and plan. Then I decide what I do next. And, amazingly, after 45 years, I feel happy when I notice the urge to pee. It is an invitation! It is an invitation to slow down. To get up, to walk out of my office, to take a walk (after using the bathroom), to think about what my next step is going to be.
My urge to pee taught me to take my needs more seriously. It taught me to slow down and accept. It taught me to find focus where I had assumed distraction. I taught me to live in the now.
My sweet body has been calling me gently all those years. Even while I raged and resented and refused, dragging myself to the loo kicking and screaming that I had no time for such mundane tasks, it called. Gently and patiently. I have time now. And I have never been more productive.
Now, I’m curious about the next thing that annoys me.