In praise of the slow processors
Several years ago, I was invited to be part of a committee to plan an event that would happen in six months’ time. I went to the first meeting, listened to the conversations, engaged as I could, and went home to consider the next steps I thought would be best.
But before I had a chance to process some of the conversations that took place during our initial meeting, it seemed as if the organizers were five steps ahead. While they asked for input, it seemed like they already knew the direction they wanted to take things. Once they heard from a few quick responders, they were off and running.
I felt as though my opinion didn’t matter. But in that moment, instead of considering perhaps they were moving too fast, I turned the blame on myself: if only I were a faster processor, then my contribution would be valuable and my voice could be heard.
To make matters worse, during that time I had started to notice a pattern. I was taking even longer than usual to process events and experiences, requiring broader margins and more white space to consider their impact and my desire. While I wanted to start moving more quickly in my decisions and processing times, it seemed to me I was moving in the wrong direction.
Still, I am a hard worker who meets deadlines and can usually finish tasks when they need finishing. But I am also a slow processor who has to allow conversations, ideas, and other influences to marinate before I can grab hold of them.
These two true statements fight.
What is good for my inner health is often frustrating for my work.
I have tried to discipline the slow out of me. I’ve read blog posts and books on how to be productive, how to write even faster, and how to do other things I’m not naturally great at.
I have learned to do more in less amount of time, to focus in less than ideal situations, to finish, ship, and deliver. But it doesn’t come naturally for me. I find myself envious of those who seem to consistently organize, produce, and share. They make it look so easy!
Productivity skills have helped me meet important deadlines and release unnecessary perfectionism, and for that I’m thankful.
The problems come, though, when I foolishly try to apply these same skills to my inner life. This planning committee I mentioned required me to think and consider on a soul level. But the soul and the schedule don’t follow the same rules. My opinions were never heard simply because I couldn’t form them quickly enough.
Since then, I’ve learned the truth: my slowness is not a fault, but fighting it might be.
Photo by Emily Freeman
I tend to think my limitations are my burdens, but perhaps they are actually my gifts if I’m willing to see them that way. Because once I finally grab hold, I will take the conversation, the idea, and the influence all the way in, allow it all to move and shape my thoughts and my actions.
These slow-cooked thoughts will influence how I love, how I think, how I write. They will fill up holes of misunderstanding, smoothing some of the rounded question marks into straight-up exclamation points.
As much as I sometimes wish I could post a bulletin to this fast-moving world, announcing a celestial time-out, I know that isn’t the answer. Many people are in a season of speed, a time of movement, of action, and go. We need quick-thinkers and fast-responders to be sure. But that is not where I usually am.
I cannot wait for the world to stop in order for me to embrace permission for slow.
If you’re a slow processor too, I raise my glass in your direction: here’s to you, my fellow slow processors. Let’s take the long way home. Let’s embrace the silence to consider. Let’s give ourselves permission to think, to listen, to be sure.
Here’s to waiting before we move, pausing before we speak, and trusting that our natural hesitations may be our greatest gifts, rather than our liabilities. Here’s to believing we have something to offer – but that doesn’t mean we have to offer it in the ways the world tells us we must.
Here’s to listening to our questions, sitting in the darkness, and letting our experiences do their deep work within us.
Here’s to a long, deep breath.
A note from Tsh: Emily has written a fantastic book that celebrates the small and the slow, and it’s my favorite of hers yet. Simply Tuesday speaks to my soul—because as she says, the soul and the schedule don’t speak the same language. You don’t want to miss this one.
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