“Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.” –Shakespeare
It’s been three weeks now, but I’m still thinking about my January 31 paintings in 31 days mostly because I miss the unique magic of the ritual– the power to slow down time.
When I looked at the date on my phone this morning, I nearly laughed. How can it possibly already be February 26th? Hadn’t the month just begun?
Last month, I found myself saying things like, “How can it only be January 7th?” Certainly I have done enough work for it to be at least mid-month. The 31 day practice gave my daily routine not just structure but purpose and meaning. Without such a daily painting commitment, I find myself wondering what to prioritize– emails? Social media? That painting I’ve been meaning to do or the one I need to finish? 31 in 31 cuts right through the uncertainty in the urgent vs. important debacle– the daily painting becomes both urgent and important and therefore a no-brainer priority.
I find myself lost in relatively mindless routines a lot– getting my son ready for school, the drive to and from karate, the dinners I throw together but somehow still need one or two additional ingredients from the neighborhood grocery (and inevitably leave with a cart full).
The paintings require my attention, my focus. I have to look at what I’m doing. I have to decide what happens next. Perhaps it’s because I still feel new at this, but there is no cruise control. In exchange for my undivided attention, the paintings give me time. They reach their magical little hands into the hourglass and make sand escape more slowly; they make me more mindful of other, non-painted things like the sun against my bare arms after the most brutal Louisiana winter I can remember or the color of my kitchen floor where the wood is particularly worn down.
I used to hate it when well-intentioned strangers at the park or drug store would remind me to “cherish every moment, it goes fast” with my then-baby son. Life was harder and left little time for anything but cleaning up messes and soothing unrelenting cries– neither of which I was interested in prolonging.
I am finally ready to do some cherishing. No longer wishing for things to hurry along, I’m content to find new ways to take it slower.
And when things feel too fast, I know I’ve got a month of a painting a day in my back pocket. I know I can slow down time.