Slow…

tortoisehare

Illustration by Arthur Rackham

Yesterday, my dear friend and I lugged ourselves and our little ones across the Bay to the Oakland Zoo. It was a lovely outing. The sun tickled our skin, the animals our curiosity. My 19-month-old was probably a little confused when some of the animals he’s only seen in books or on the iPad/TV turned out to be enormous in real life! (Elephant, anyone!?)

As we passed a large tortoise milling around in its enclosure, I was reminded of the saying “slow and steady wins the race.” The adage, as you may know, has its roots in Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare. Summary: Quick, overconfident hare races a painfully slow but ever forward-plodding tortoise. Hare, knowing he’s the superior contestant, naps and takes breaks. Tortoise, slow but steady, eventually wins the race.

Great story, great moral.

EXCEPT, lately I’ve felt like the tortoise in Aesop’s story with one crucial difference: I’ve felt slow but not steady at all. Like the hare, I’ve been taking a lot of breaks (in writing and in life). Not because I feel overconfident about winning the race. Quite the opposite.

What’s worse, the breaks (most of them unwanted) have not rejuvenated me. Rather, my naturally high stress-level has risen to new heights because of frustration and guilt at taking those breaks.

The inevitable conclusion of my personal tortoise and hare story?

I can’t win the race. Not only am I slooow and unsteady, but guess what? The world teems with hares that are fast AND steady. (Aesop conveniently forgot to mention them!) What’s the point of even trying?

Wow, that’s depressing. Body-sinking-through-the-floor depressing.

Good thing my post doesn’t end here, right?

Because through the thundering self-deprecation going on inside my head, a quiet voice tries to make itself heard:

It’s not a race. Not against anybody else, anyway. So be patient with yourself. Do what you can when you can and you will get there eventually.

Why is it so hard for the slow and unsteady tortoise to listen to that still, small voice??


Leave a Reply