Slowing Down is OK

March 2, 2021
Jane Biehl Ph.D.
Jane Biehl Ph.D.

Jane is a ten-year survivor of a very rare form of cancer Myelodysplastic Syndrome. She has enjoyed several exciting careers including a librarian, counselor, teacher, and writer. She loves to write about surviving cancer, overcoming hearing loss, and her hearing ear service dog, Sita.

A cancer survivor laments the fact that she no longer moves as fast as she once did when she was younger. However, she has come to the realization that moving slow is OK as it allows her to enjoy life.

There are disadvantages to being a Type A personality. What can make it worse is when you get older, develop cancer, or both.

I had a counselor astutely tell me that I am more patient with other people than myself, and he is right. Recently I was whining to my sister, who is also Type A, but has learned to relax better than me. I am in the middle of editing a book which is a tedious and painstaking process. I can’t speed-read like I do with other people’s books but have to search every single word and letter for mistakes.

I told my sister when I was working on my dissertation (I was 40, not 70) I would work all day, then come home and work another 8 or 9 hours on my dissertation before climbing into bed. I would sleep for several hours then start the process all over again for the entire weekend. Now I am exhausted by just working on my manuscript for 3 or 4 hours!

She gently reminded me, “You don’t have to work that hard right now. I do not clean my house all in one Friday evening after working all day either. I do a little bit at a time. It is OK to go slower.”

I stopped to ponder that statement. There are reasons why younger people work, go to school, and raise families while older people retire and work part-time or not at all. My brother used to laughingly say we should retire when we are younger and travel all over and work when we are older!

When I taught at a community college, several of my older students would return to school after several years off. They worried that they would never be able to keep up and learn as fast as their younger counterparts right out of high school. I would reassure them that research showed while younger people memorized quicker, older people had learned coping skills to help them study.

The point is, yes, I am slower. And, yes, it takes me longer to dress and do chores around the house. And, no, I cannot work 8 hours and then come home and work another seven or eight.

But that is OK. I don't have to because of a wonderful pension. Between my age and the fatigue of cancer, I should not expect to. Being older may not mean I have the energy of youth, but I have acquired wisdom.

Now, along with all my older relatives and friends, I can go out over long lunches, relax and read a book or newspaper, and enjoy life at a slower pace. And remember my elderly friends and cancer survivors, that by slowing down, we have a chance to see more scenery every single day!

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