Slow down! No, stop.

Flying from task to task at the speed of light, more powerful than a triple latte, able to leap a stack of emails in a single bound? Hmmm. I don’t have superpowers, but I recently encountered some serious Kryptonite.

I believe in taking breaks, being on vacation when you’re on vacation, and setting aside time for reflection. But I waffle on actually doing these things, and I just paid a steep price for that. My body enforced a leave of absence a couple of weeks ago in the form of unexpected surgery. Though I had hoped to make it to my 40th birthday* with all of the original parts, fortunately I have no long-term health issues to deal with. I can now assure you all unequivocally that what we learned in physics class is true: being forced to stop when you’re traveling at high speed is apparently a lot more painful than mindfully slowing down first.

Once I got home from the hospital, the immediate crisis was over, and my family went back to work and school. Then an amazing thing happened: I found myself with several days of absolute silence. The doctors had differing opinions on recovery time, from the cautious, “You will be able to go back to work after two or three weeks,” to the brusque, “You can go rake leaves tomorrow, if you’d like.” (Yeah, right.) I split the difference and spent about a week in bed. My husband, co-workers, and friends immediately and completely stepped into the fray to protect my recovery process, and I love them for it.

It was a still, small place of napping, painkillers and reflection. In fact, I think I spent a good 15 minutes one day wondering about the last time I saw a car painted in my favorite color, British racing green. But I also thought about what is important to me, and how I have been spending my time, and enjoyed the ability to assess and synthesize all that’s happened recently both professionally and personally.

If you are scratching your head and wondering what this has to do with Rush Hour since we are officially “off-season,” the truth is that RH staff works year-round. As executive director, this is a crucial time for planning and writing, though somehow I believe everyone survived my brief absence. There’s a certain symmetry in the fact that I had to stop my mind to help my body heal, since usually I’m talking about the importance of slowing down physically to experience aesthetic nourishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. When we bring what is within us out into the world, miracles happen.” Rush Hour expands the space between what we just did and what we’re going to do, giving us a gift in real time. My recent “retreat” was a gift of real time- and a strong reminder that mental and physical breaks are not just a pleasant idea, they are requirements.

Slow down. Your body may thank you, too.

– Megan Balderston
Executive Director

* If, like me, you’ve not yet celebrated your 40th birthday, read here for important information on how to participate in the under-40 matching grant challenge.

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