Slowed Down

Martha Beck had two degrees
from Harvard University
and was ready for a third.
Then she and her husband
learned she had become
unexpectedly pregnant.
Next she learned her unborn child
had Down syndrome.
Ignoring the advice of Harvard colleagues,
Martha and John had the baby,
whom they named Adam.
In her book Expecting Adam, she writes,

“I was afraid Adam would slow me down, and he has. Not because he has required more care and time than a ‘normal’ boy, but because the immediacy and joy with which he lives his life makes rapacious achievement, Harvard-style, look a lot like quiet desperation. Adam has slowed me down to the point where I notice what is in front of me, its mystery and its beauty….”

Most of us do not enjoy being forced
to go slower than is our inclination.
That’s one of the reasons
caregiving can be frustrating—
the one in our care may operate
on a different internal clock
than the one we commonly use.
They may be limited physically
as to what they can do
and how quickly they can do it.
It’s possible their mental processes—
brought on by their disease or condition—
may be what slows them down
and therefore slows us down.
Whatever the cause,
Martha Beck wants us to consider a response
other than the customary one
(and very understandable one)
of impatience, of pushing to go faster.
Is it not possible that slowing down
has its benefits, its gifts?
If that is true, why not sample these?
Is it not possible that we might feel grateful—
at least a little, at least at times—
for what we then have the time
to see and hear, to touch and enjoy?
If that is true, what is stopping us?
Is it not possible that we might find ourselves
learning some things that our incessant busyness
may prevent us from learning?
If that is the case,
then will we open ourselves or not?
Can we not be willing to synchronize ourselves
with the one in our care,
rather than expecting them—
they who are our equals—
to move at the pace we dictate?

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