Speed of life

What keeps you going through the most testing of times? How do you keep up with the speed of life*?

Life’s relentless forward motion will not stop for anything or anyone. The world will keep spinning at its own pace, with or without you. You have a choice as to whether you accept this or not (not that your acceptance will have the slightest impact on the speed of life).

You can try to keep up with the speed of life. You will more than likely be able to match life’s unforgiving pace, at least for a while. But it is an inescapable truth that you cannot keep up with the speed of life forever.

If you try always to move at the speed of life, it is likely that sooner or later, the wheels will start to come off.

On the scale of things…

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I had a small taste of this at the end of last month. Looking back over my recent posts on this blog, I keen see how the stress and baggage built up over a frankly frenetic October 2021, leaving me feeling that I couldn’t cope.

All this is relative, of course. I’ve always liked Keith Richards’s words on keeping one’s problems in perspective from his book Life (although I must caution the sensitive reader that not only does he employ the language of the streets here, he is also talking about heroin addiction):

“I can’t imagine what other people think cold turkey is like. It is fucking awful. On the scale of things, it’s better than having your leg blown off in the trenches. It’s better than starving to death. But you don’t want to go there.”

The problems I faced last month were not on the scale of any of the three things mentioned by Mr Richards. But you wouldn’t necessarily want to go there, all the same.

It was one thing after another. For me, last month started with what felt like an abrupt plunge from summer into autumn at its most oppressive and damp, followed in quick succession by a bout of hearing loss (mercifully it proved temporary, but it knocked my world off kilter for the best part of a month) and the loss of our remaining, dear beloved guinea pig, Praline. All this was underpinned by the pace of my work accelerating further to what felt an unremitting fever pitch.

I felt as if I could keep up with all of this. Until I couldn’t.

A day or two before Halloween 2021, I felt I had nothing more to give. Mental exhaustion set in. A feeling akin to a block of tension in the front and middle of my head. After a good many years in this world, I recognise this feeling, this build-up of stress. And I know that it can only be dislodged by a combination of time spent at rest and the eventual arrival of emotionally cleansing tears. This seems to be the only way I can let go. The jolting process of returning to something like normal demands first that I acknowledge that I am overwhelmed. That I can no longer (for the time being at least) keep up with the speed of life. And then I have to allow for time and tears (both of which ultimately played their part in making me feel more normal once more).

That is how my system clears the decks, and finally hits refresh when things feel too much. What works for you?

Life and death figured prominently in the stresses and strains of the preceding month. But not all was life and death. Some of it was down to my own perception of the world, the level of exaggerated importance I placed on things. Let the speed of life carry you away, and your own perception of the world can become blurred, distorted.

Gentle reader: What keeps you going through the most testing of times? How do you keep up with the speed of life?

May today be nothing but kind to you and yours.

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FOOTNOTES

* I take the title for this post from David Bowie’s instrumental Speed of life, the opening track of his superb album Low.

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