Just reflecting on this time of flux and uncertainty we seem to be living through at the moment and wondering if perhaps there is a silver lining to the pandemic. Has the pandemic given us the gift of slowing down? Or are people working harder than ever with working from home? Has there been a shift to more flexible working arrangements? Has the pandemic and the recession it seems to have caused, given us time to reflect on the changing nature of work or are many of us caught in the stress and despair of unemployment or underemployment? How much work do we need and how much income?

I have to confess I have been working a four day week for several years now and I would speculate that the four day work week would be a viable option for many. I may have a reduced income but have better mental and physical health as a result of the four day week and I am a whole lot happier than I have ever been while working full time. Working from home further removed wasted time in commuting, not that my commute was lengthy but it also meant the car stayed in the garage which frankly is the best place for it. The pandemic lock-down seemed to help many people rediscover domestic joys that had been lost to time poor, modern life, it would be nice to think we could start to move away from such time poor, consumerist existence in favour of a slowed down, mindful one. Instead of working long hours and rushing home to quick processed meals or takeaway we could slow down and spend more time doing the simple things like preparing a meal with family and even better preparing that meal with food we have grown ourselves.

I have always been a bit envious of people who have the time, knowledge and skills to preserve the products of their own labour and it is one of my current projects to re-discover those Grandma arts of preservation. My grandmother used to make apricot jam and preserved apricots that had grown wild from an original tree on the farm. I may live on a small suburban block but I have always tried to at least keep a supply of fresh herbs growing. I am not the best gardener and I am afraid I need fairly indestructible flora to have any hope of success but I have resurrected my little veggie garden with hopes of good crops of tomatoes and a plan to make sauces and relishes with the produce. (I just have to hope my gardening efforts survive the twin hurricanes of Ada and Cassie).

What a difference it could make if we all were able to work a little less and instead spent that time normally given to work, in our own gardens growing some of the food we consume. There is nothing better than the taste of something you have picked from your own garden. Right now we are currently enjoying an abundant crop of mulberries from a mulberry tree I planted a few years ago. Some what fittingly the dogs Ada and Cassie are also enjoying the mulberries. The tree was planted as a memorial to our last dog Lily and both Ada and Cassie have something of a sweet tooth and enjoy stealing the mulberries before I get to them. Perhaps next year we might make some mulberry jam, this year I think all the fruit will end up eaten fresh. I may try and add some other berries to the garden and perhaps aim to make some mixed berry preserves next year. I really want to rediscover those old arts, spend less and make more, good for the soul and the planet in the end.

I recently read Sarah Wilson’s This one wild and precious life: a hopeful path forward in a fractured world. I have to confess considerable support for the ideas put forward by Wilson but I found something lacking in the delivery of those ideas. Despite the message, the book felt a bit narcissistic and self referencing, a bit trying to tap into the zeitgeist, I could be being terribly unfair but something about it did not sit entirely comfortably with me. Although I am sure Wilson is well intentioned and it will be a book that speaks to many, and may in fact do a lot of good. I do applaud Wilson for leading by example and raising the issues. We are living in a time of crisis that is for sure, and many of us are struggling with the demands of this time and the lack of leadership our so called leaders are displaying. I would like to think there are many people out in the world who are aware and consciously working to improve the world in little ways. Quietly advocating for the environment, rejecting materialism and engaging with the world, listening to the many voices that make up this world while educating themselves and others.

Maybe the pandemic is a blessing in disguise, it has certainly given us a bit of time to think and evaluate what is important. For many people it has been a chance to slow down and rediscover simple things and their rewards. I would like to think it may lead to some fundamental positive changes in how we live.

11 thoughts on “The gift of slowing down

  1. This weird and worrying time has certainly seen us all thinking differently for sure, but it has definitely caused a difference to our way of living depending on what stage of life you’re at and where you live. Leadership and how this crisis has been handled has made a big difference it seems. I almost feel guilty that apart from early on in this crisis when we were all afraid and unsure, we have come out relatively unscathed. Apart from not being able to see family interstate. 😢 It has made us reacess what’s important in life for sure!

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    1. We have been really lucky in Australia, really grateful our country has acted so wisely, listened to the science and we have a beautiful country to explore but the being cut off from family interstate is a bit of a challenge, hoping borders open for Christmas.

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  2. The pandemic has been a wonderful chance for us to slow down at my house. No commute means more sleep, which is a biggie. Working from home has been wonderful, as I’m not exposed to the gripes and difficulties of my coworkers in the office. My husband stopped traveling with his job and for the first time in our marriage, we are both home all the time and no children are underfoot.It has been a wonderful experience for us introverts! The slow-down is real, and we appreciate it. We’re so happy to be healthy and enjoying our home. It has been a huge boost to losing all the stress, spending time on what is important, and spending time together. I hate that it was at the expense of the economy and the health of so many, but I am willing to find the good part in all the difficulties.

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    1. Yes it has been a very positive time in many ways and it has been so nice to be able to be close to partners and away from some of the workplace whinging. The pandemic has shown we can work from home lets hope we can build some positive change out of it.

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  3. Great post. You’ve raised some really important questions about work, health and consumerism. Perhaps if we were all a little less consumer – focused, we could work less because we would need less, and in doing so, share the work around a little more. I think there has definitely been increased interest in being more self-sufficient – I am noticing all the empty shelves at Bunnings in the gardening aisles. Good luck with your tomatoes. I have just planted some too, also hoping to make some tomato sauce. I really do like the idea of trying to be as self-sufficient as possible, and they do taste better!

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    1. Thank you and yes the gardening shelves do seem empty, everyone is feeling inspired on the gardening front at the moment which is great. I have just gone looking for seeds of yam daisies but everywhere seems to be sold out, I thought since I am very good at growing weeds some native dandelions might be a good idea but it seems others have had the same idea.
      Sharing the work around seems like such a good idea, I am sure we would have a happier, healthier society for it.

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  4. In my early 30’s, after working intense jobs (sometimes more than one at a time) that working for others full time was not what I wanted to do. I figured out how to live on less, work 2 -3 days a week with some self-employment, and not owe anyone money. I’ve been very happy with that lifestyle – able to give time to my community, and faith community. Build my own house. Sew and knit my clothes, and garments for others. I was able to care for the children of friends, drive youth to gatherings, do book repair at the library, etc. Yes, money was often tight, and I still do without things like TV and internet at home. That’s not a great hardship!

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    1. I think we would all be a lot happier if we followed your lead on this, I find working four days is more than enough and the other things I can find time to do feel rewarding and much more valuable than anything I do at work.

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