Each at her own pace

The Jewish people left Egypt in a hurry. Had I been there, I surely would have been up to the task.

Departure of the Israelites 521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Departure of the Israelites 521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I function at a speed twice that of an average person.
I’m always early for wherever I’m going and do everything fast. Recently I had a friend visiting me who runs at two speeds slower than the average person. There are thus four time zones between us. Imagine a squirrel and a slow loris. Or Speedy Gonzales and Pepe Le Pew. We’re in our fourth decade of friendship, and we get along very well as long as we don’t try to do anything together. She claims that as soon as I get somewhere, I want to leave. I timed her twice in one day, and each time she left one hour and a half after her declaration that she would be ready to go in 10 minutes. Despite the fact that both approaches – slow and easy and fast and efficient – have their advantages and disadvantages, we stressed each other out no end.
Now I’m here to tell you that a person’s pace is intrinsic to him/her. Although minor adjustment is possible, it is as immutable as the speed at which water flows downstream (we visited a few waterfalls fed by the Hermon’s melting snow) and the speed of the earth circling the sun. A squirrel will not move slowly no matter how many nuts you tempt it with, and a slow loris cannot move faster. It is against their natures.
I have tried to slow my pace. For a period in my 20s I even carried a picture of a sloth in my wallet (they are extremely cute), but it didn’t help. I was born two months premature and have kept to that schedule ever since.
Unlike the zoo, the wild or nature reserves, different species of people live together and attempt to do so in as much harmony as possible. But what happens when spouses or parents and children or colleagues at work or friends have to get along or want to do things together and their speed is at odds? It makes for friction, conflict, stress that, oddly enough, causes the faster person to pick up his speed and the slower person to lag even farther behind.
The Jewish people left Egypt in a hurry. Had I been there, I surely would have been up to the task. I would have been waiting at the gates to the city, rushing others along. But there undoubtedly would have been others saying, “We’ve been here 210 years, what’s another few minutes?” But doubtless during those pre-sojourns in the desert, I would have been antsy to get moving. Counting 49 days to receive the Torah would have been very stressful for me.
So, in the interest of promoting greater harmony among people (because I can’t realize it myself), I offer a few suggestions:
• Take into account what the other person really means. In other words, if someone is predictably an hour late, assume they will be this time, too. If someone is consistently an hour early, assume they will be this time, too. A problem can arise, however, if both people attempt this.
• Set your watch ahead or behind a quarter of an hour. This will keep you closer to the time frame you’re supposed to fill.
• Slow lorises can benefit from better time management.
They tend not to realize how long things take in general and for them in particular. They are also easily distracted. Writing down a schedule and sticking to it or adding an extra half hour to their predictions of how long things will take would be more realistic.
• Squirrels need to smell the roses. Know that this is an opportunity to relax. If you still can’t relax, bring stuff along to do when you’re with your slow loris and allow them to smell the roses.
• Empathize! People who move at a slow, relaxed, maddeningly mellow pace need that time. People who rush by in a blur need that rhythm. Try to show consideration for those who are waiting for you and not arrive too late or too early.
• Try to do activities together whose pace is determined by an outside force, such as spending Shabbat together or going on a tour or participating at an event where the schedule is predetermined. Don’t do things together when the time factor is important.
This friend and I once went kayaking on the Jordan.
There’s a certain time frame in which you do this, and you can’t rush it or slow it down too much.
• Take other people along who are the happy medium, and let them set the pace.
• Be independent of each other when doing things together. Take two cars so neither is held hostage by the other. Make alternative plans or places where you can meet up again. Alternate between mellow and high-speed activities so that both of you will be happy. This is especially important for families with kids who operate at different speeds.
• Know that conflicts are inevitable in these situations, and this is a great opportunity to work on your character.
Ultimately, our relationships are more important than the differences between us, and it’s important to focus on the big picture. Whether you’re a tortoise or a hare, the important thing isn’t when you get to the finish line; it’s how you treat each other along the way. It’s good in any event for us to learn from each other and consider alternative ways of doing things, even if it goes against our nature.
I look forward to my friend’s next visit, and I’m sure she’ll look forward to seeing me again soon, eventually.
After all, she works at a slower pace than I do.
On a final note, my friend took me out for supper before leaving for the airport. I was getting nervous that she would miss her flight if we didn’t leave soon.
Then, as we were getting ready to go, she locked her keys in the trunk of her rental car. She can’t do that with her own car at home. She had to call the rental company to get someone to come and break into the car. I was sure this would make her late for the flight.
But it didn’t. She made the flight with time to spare.
Which only goes to show that no matter how slow or fast you go, the results are up to God.