Slow Down You Move Too Fast: On Turning Off & Tuning Out

An old building at Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien, WI

There’s nothing like a line from a Simon & Garfunkel song to kick off a weekend, right?

Slow down
You move too fast
You’ve got to make the morning last

I’m trying to make this sentiment part of our lives at the Dream House. After all, one of the reasons we bought the house, besides creating an escape from the noise, crime and grime of life in the city, was to give us a place where we could slow down and enjoy life.

And yet, we rarely slow down when we’re at the house! We’re so focused on house projects, plus dealing with the other business of our daily lives, that we often lose sight of why we’re here. At the end of the day we realize that we’ve transferred the hustle and bustle of the city to what was supposed to be our tranquil country existence.

Every now and then, however, we press pause on the projects, shut off our smart phones and try to take it easy. Last weekend we took a walk around Villa Louis, soaking up the bright sunshine on a warm spring afternoon and talking about our plans for more outings this summer. Although it was brief, for we did have many more tasks to complete that afternoon, it was a wonderful respite from reality.

So why is it so damned hard to turn off and tune out? In some ways, I think we have ourselves to blame. We’re both the kind of guys who are happier being busy than we are being sedentary. But I also think that it’s part of a bigger societal shift to always be “on.” Computers and smart phones and modern technology are supposed to make life easier but it actually seems to have made it more complicated. Even when we’re relaxing, there’s that nagging inner voice reminding us that we should be tweeting our whereabouts or responding to the email that just hit our inbox.

Perhaps this is all just part of the human condition. Back in the 19th century so much of one’s daily activities were based on just staying alive. There was food to grow and then prepare, animals to tend, clothes to launder by hand, water to fetch from the well and slow moving wagons and trains to ride from point A to point B. Life in the 21st century is pretty damned cushy in comparison. I can order food from my computer, drop my clothes in the washing machine, hop in my car and whiz down the road at 70 MPH and be connected to the big, wide world no matter where I am.

All of this convenience has left us with a lot of free time. And yet what do we do with that freedom? We fill it with projects. We scroll through Facebook and compare our lives to those of others. We incessantly check our email lest anyone think we’re not on top of it.

I don’t know how to remedy this. I’m the first to admit that I couldn’t live without my smart phone. It has practically become part of my hand at this point. And yet I want to find a balance between being connected and just being.

So I ask you, reader, how do you unplug and unwind? How do you use your 21st century freedom to enjoy the life around you? We’d love to hear your suggestions for turning off and tuning out.

— J. Blandings

Images: Mr. and Mr. Blandings

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