Monday, July 26, 2010

Slowing Down in the Fast Lane

The baby blue 1967 Camaro was having difficulty making it up the hill. Although the car looked reasonably well-maintained on the surface, careful examination revealed it had driven a lot of miles and was past its prime. No longer worth repairing, the telltale smell of an inefficient engine was being exhaled out its exhaust pipe. The right front and rear tires wobbled, evidencing a desperate need for balancing of the wheels. It was on the freeway, so why would this aging automobile not move into the slow lane and let the faster cars go by? The tired vehicle realized there were cars trying to get by, but the once sought-after two-door coupe seemed hopelessly determined, too embarrassed to give up the struggle to remain in the lane to which it had been accustomed.

The fast lane is intoxicating territory. Speed, and the adrenaline rush that follows in its draft, intensifies and narrows sensory focus. It is like sprinting in a pitch-black forest with only a penlight’s beam. Trees, road signs and awestruck or angry faces flash by, freeze-framed in peripheral vision for an instant, and then they disappear. No more than a glance away from the asphalt ahead is permitted. The thrill of the road has its own rules; blind corners, unexpected potholes and frightened wildlife frozen in place. Reaction time is everything. But with enough speed there is no margin, no time for even a skid mark. The fast lane is speed’s domain, passing others its prerogative.

Inevitably you must choose to slow down, or someone or something will slow you down. In my case it was Parkinson's disease. My vintage Camaro can no longer be driven safely at the speeds that used to make me smile. Yet I resist relinquishing the fast lane. Even realizing the toll it takes to try and keep up my prior pace it is difficult to give up the exhilaration of speed, life in the fast lane.

So the challenge I face now is to savour the quality of life in the slow lane, taking care of myself, learning that living is no longer a race, if it ever was. It now, more than ever, a journey that is best taken in by traveling slower, so side roads can be more easily explored and distractions expand to become personal adventures. There is wisdom and beauty to be found on a journey enjoyed. To choose those deeper values need not involve resignation so much as discipline. Slowing down need not involve sadness so much as seeking soul-deep satisfaction instead of speed.

From time to time I return, foot to the floor, to the fast lane. Sometimes I struggle with the decision to pull over. But I know deep down that sustainable purpose and joy await me in the quiet and contemplative cruising only found in the slow lane.


  1. I really loved reading this Bob. I think it is a message meant for many!

  2. I really enjoyed this, although I feel it is more a "man" thing, this fast lane. Having once been married to a race car driver, and seeing him even today trying to keep up the pace with someone almost half his age in a relationship, makes me understand now more than before after reading this. I think women are a little different there. Kids slow us down earlier. At lease the aspirations. We hurry from one kid's game practices, to anothers, putting our own lives on hold. Someday, we say, when the kids are grown, someday we'll do those things we put off. When someday comes, we are too old for others to want us to do them. Thanks for as usual putting into words what we think but don't say.