Our Great Layover Part II - Revitalising the forgotten art of single-tasking and slowing down
Making our own fun in the alley outside our Ranelagh home, mid-quarantine. Left to right: Milo (7), Benji (3), Ruben (5), Felix (1/2)!

By SteamLine Founder, Sara Banks

When I listen really hard, I can hear that the universe is trying to get me to slow down. 

For a while now I have been struggling completing tasks. Big tasks on my list. The constant distraction of a phone call, ping of a text, pulsating inbox, questions/ideas I let divert a meeting, the ceaseless attention and pull I feel to be with the kids I can hear outside my door (in our WFH environment!). I have a million browser windows open, ranging from financial reports, blog drafts, strategies for business, templates for a course and, admittedly, wishful-thinking flights and airbnbs bookings—none of which I can close for fear of losing track of what I am doing.

I am trying to do too much and therefore doing nothing well at all. “This is 101,” I want to scream at myself, “Now more than ever you need focus!” 

And it's no wonder. Strangers who meet me with four boys in tow say, “well, you’re busy.” (Thanks but "haggard mom" is not really the look I am going for!) Yes. Yes I am. But not in a way I’m proud to be. I remember in university, we wore stress like it was a badge of honour. Looking busy now is not the quality of life I pride myself in. Yes, I have these four little blonde delights in my life, and I am proud to run a business I love while supporting my husband in his, and I do have other passion projects in the offing, too. To say nothing of the next steps we need to plan for our family in this whole new world. But when people shake their heads as they look at me and ask (rhetorically), how do you do it all, I’m not flattered. I’m embarrassed.

Not because the busyness bothers me. Because of the way I’m busy. 

But it's understandable. And I don’t think I am alone. We have been in fight/flight this year, the world events constantly changing the goalposts on us. We’ve searched the soul, we’ve fought for what’s important, and through all this hard work and taking stock of our priorities, it still feels as if we are spinning so fast and going nowhere. There’s the irony. We are grounded, yet I am not sure any of us really have gotten the time to reprieve, lift our foot from the accelerator. We have had to shift constantly not let our lives fall apart—to keep things together for our families, our businesses, our loved ones. But properly slowing down? If it was something we thought we were relearning in early weeks of the pandemic, it is something that we have already forgotten, the promise that we wouldn’t return to old habits falls like an SOS flare over the horizon. 

In August I attended a wonderful Nushu Thought Leadership Series where Kate Northrup accurately said, "When you are in fight/flight you are unable to make decisions. But the less we do, the more able we are to show up, the better we are able to do what we need to."

As if speaking straight to me, she says, if we kind of do everything, we do nothing.

My travel motto is to slow down, look up. But at home, I find myself running around, multitasking as if it were some talent, not recognising that the very lessons I embrace on the road are those I most need when at home. We all plough ahead for vacations, holidays, escapes. But in a world where these are less possible, when will we find time to refuel the soul? 

And this is what the universe is reminding me of right now. It is not about escaping to travel in order to find the time to slow down, but applying these lessons I have been lucky enough to learn while abroad to my life at home. It is not about looking forward to the next travel opportunity to stay present, it is about slowing down and appreciating the moments as they unfold now. Kotsu, kotsu is a Japanese term and mindfulness practise that means "step by step." In the same spirit, Tamara Levitt from Calm says (don’t we love her??), it is not about waiting for the sunflower to grow, it is the process of digging the hole, planting the seeds, and watching the shoots sprout. 

We had some big adventures planned to travel for a year. To get everything in place so we could slow down with the kids and really immerse ourselves in a surrounding. Take everything in and feel life. Travel teaches us so much and this small lesson was in need of some dusting off. Until we hit the road again, I’m leaning on my memories, my reading, and my diverse community whose wisdom brings travel lessons home.

To keep pausing, listening, and learning.

To lose my phone accidentally on purpose.

To discover how much can come from less.

In Donegal, our generally chilly but soul-refueling home-away-from-home, with three of my four lads!

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