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Love That Pup

By Cathy Kirkman

About this blog: This blog explores life in Palo Alto with our dogs, cats and other pets, as well as the urban wildlife around us, the title being a reference to Sharon Creech's lovely story, "Love That Dog." I grew up in Palo Alto surrounded by ...  (More)

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Slow Your Roll

Uploaded: Sep 29, 2014
Now that summer's over, most of us have moved on to the busy tasks of school, work, and other obligations. The purpose of this post is to suggest that you try countering this acceleration by slowing your roll in some aspect of your life to enhance meaning and satisfaction.

What do I mean by slowing your roll? I mean slowing the tempo of your daily routine in selected ways to increase your quality of life. This means making time in your day for whatever you select as meaningful to increase the human satisfaction, rather than the brute force efficiency, of your day.

For example, it might mean stepping out each afternoon for a walk and some fresh air while you do your calls, or it might mean stopping at the market on your way home to choose fresh produce for dinner each night. Or you might decide that you are going to bake your own bread on a regular basis. With a recipe like the New York Times' no-knead bread recipe, it's easy to do. You mix the ingredients, let it rise overnight, and bake the next day. All of a sudden you have a regular supply of hot, crusty homemade bread.

Or you might want to take it a step further and plant a fall vegetable garden, like my neighbor who recently converted his front yard from lawn to planter boxes. In addition to having fresh veggies, he now makes time for planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, processing and preparing his crops, as well as chatting with neighbors. He's slowed his roll and made time in his day for something he values and enjoys. It's not about a cost benefit analysis in terms of how to get your food most efficiently, as many would argue just buy organic or patronize the farmer's market. It's about finding things in your life that give you meaning and pleasure, and making time for them.

Another example is doing some of your own manual labor. If you don't need specialized expertise for the task, try doing it yourself. You will need less time at the gym if you are scrubbing, sweeping, lifting, and hauling things yourself. Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), whose 145th birthday is this week (October 2nd), believed in cleaning our own toilets and doing other "bread labor" in walking the path of humility, simplicity, and self-sufficiency. It's worth thinking about. And it's good for children too, to know how to rake the leaves, wash the car and clean the bathroom.

Having a pet is also a lifestyle choice. It's time consuming, and there's nothing efficient about it, yet the personal rewards are tremendous. Your dog needs your time and attention, and making time for him when you're busy can be a challenge. But the fact that you have a pet means that you want this bond with another living creature, and you are trying to fulfill it, although none of us is perfect in doing so. I love to hear when people find ways to commute to work with their dogs and do day care near their jobs, or get a treadmill to exercise their dogs on indoors, or do a power walk somewhere other than the Dish so they can bring their dogs along. Seek out and try other creative solutions to enhance your daily life with your pet.

Also, we can learn from our pets about how to rethink our day. Your dog is flexible: he's always available and ready to go. At the same time, a dog will tell you when it's time to eat or go to bed. There's a lot of wisdom in trying to follow a simple daily clock like that, even if our lives are more complicated in practice. Even a chicken will run around like crazy all day scratching for treasure, but at twilight she calls it a day and takes her roost until the morning.

Here in Palo Alto we all seem to be doers, movers and shakers. That's wonderful, but at the same time we can get so busy that we lose track of whether we're really living in the here-and-now how we'd like. There's a season for everything, and it can make sense to work around the clock on a short-term basis to achieve an objective, and we all know how interesting and exciting those pursuits can be. And we all have career and financial objectives, which aren't going to make themselves happen without our cooperation.

However, Google's Larry Page recently spoke about how we should all consider working less, insofar as the things we really need in life can be simplified and rationalized, especially as we are freed by technological efficiencies to leverage our human capital more effectively. Page said, "If you really think about the things that you need to make yourself happy?housing, security, opportunities for your kids?anthropologists have been identifying these things. It's not that hard for us to provide those things."

And Gandhi said, "the less you possess, the less you want, the better you are." Your dog may not get the metaphysics of what you're doing, but he will surely appreciate being there by your side while you try.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Nora Charles, a resident of Stanford,
on Oct 7, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Nora Charles is a registered user.

Very nicely said, Cathy.

I especially like the bit about our pets needing attention. It doesn't have to be a long walk (though that's wonderful), but a few minutes here and there of play, and a few short walks a day. My cat gets playful at night and we run round the house playing hide 'n seek. We both have such fun, and he gets good exercise. It takes so little to make them happy and keep them healthy.

Posted by Cathy Kirkman, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Oct 9, 2014 at 8:59 am

Cathy Kirkman is a registered user.

Hi Nora, thanks for your comments. It's interesting that you mention your cat, as often we think of cats as self-sufficient. Our cat Petie likes to hang out in the front yard looking for people to pet him, and it's nice to stop and spend some time with him as I go about my day. He knows our cars and is always there to greet us. It slows me down and is really sweet of him!

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