default mode: hustle

Friday, 14 March 2014

"once she stopped rushing through life, she was amazed how 
much more life she had time for"

The summer past was definitely a game changer. It marked the end of a year distinguished by rolling sets of challenges: where I'd give my all to reach the crest, snatch a glimpse of the horizon, and have the next set on top of me again. Keep going, keep going, push through I'd think. You're resilient, you work best on adrenalin, you can run on a staple diet of double-shot flat whites and no sleep [btw: you've got no choice here anyway!]

Of course it wasn't sustainable. During a few weeks off over the summer holidays I realised I was burnt out. I felt tired and old beyond my years, unfulfilled in spite of all the great things in my life, and unsure of how to properly relax in the limited windows of time I'd get to do so. 

As I was processing this burnout, I experienced a moment that crystalised how much I was caught in the pace of modern living. It was down at our local beach one day: my dad, daughter and I had been kayaking as part of my effort to start to slow down and get active outdoors again

As we prepared to make our way home, I was given responsibility for looking after the kayaks and our belongings while Dad went to collect the car.

My five-year old daughter asked to go by herself to the beach shower, located at the other end of the car park. She was going to be somewhat out of my vision so I gave her a list of instructions: don't be long or I'll worry something's happened; don't take too long in the shower, especially if other people are waiting; remember Pops will be back soon. Laden with my details and worries, off she raced. 

I waited a while and tried to keep an eye on her and our stuff. If I hedged away from our belongings I could see her - soaking away under a warm shower as a small queue formed. My instructions had floated away on the thick salty breeze, as often seemed the way of late

Then finally she was off again, her strong little body racing barefoot along the pavement, a trail of wet footprints quickly evaporating behind her. Halfway back she abruptly stopped and stared out at the ocean.

Standing waiting I felt sandy, sweaty and increasingly irritable in the direct heat of a 43 degree day. Did this strong-willed kid ever listen to me? I wolf-whistled and waved her back. She looked up, shook her head and signaled for me to come. We did this routine once more, both of us more defiant and exaggerated in our gestures. Sweat running down my legs and my irritation bubbling, I swore and strode off to get her. 

As I neared she excitedly exclaimed "Mum, Mum! Look! It's a dragonfly hovering! I've never even seen a dragonfly in real life before!" 

Her words were the brake to my pace: I looked and found the dragonfly hovering a few metres away towards the beach. I swallowed the words I'd planned to say, surprised that she'd picked it out whilst running and that she'd been so fascinated observing it. Simultaneously touched and guilty that she'd wanted to share her discovery with me. 

So we stood side by side and watched the dragonfly hover, dart and shine on that hot, salty morning. We studied its shape and movements, discussed its differences with butterflies, and agreed it too liked days at the beach.

As we walked back to our gear I questioned myself. What real cause did I have to be rushing? Why did I feel the need to make her rush too? We'd had a magic morning the three of us and we didn't really have anywhere to be. Didn't I want my kids to have the time and inclination to discover and wonder, to lose themselves in awe of the little gifts everyday has to offer?

She - and our things - were actually quite safe, and if she'd done exactly as she was told I would have rushed her right past her special dragonfly discovery. I then realised I felt like I'd spent the entire year rushing; that I was so caught up and stressed out with the pace of living that my default mode was permanently set to 'hustle'. What else was I rushing past, rushing my kids past, when I didn't really need to? 

Yeah I know  - but it just ain't sustainable 24 / 7  

That moment with my daughter and her dragonfly helped me to remember there's a time and place for the hustle  - and it's nowhere near as frequent as my reactive auto-pilot functioning would dictate. It served as a call to check my default mode, to put a strategy in place, to wind back my setting to 'present'. 

The new strategy is encapsulated in the nature//street concept of inviting more nature, simplicity and play into modern living. Of reconnecting, exploring and celebrating life in the urban jungle. Of slowing down, thinking consciously and making a concerted effort to appreciate the little things in this busy world.

Implementation of the strategy's not all going perfectly to plan and the default setting will need maintenance checks, but you know what, that's life - and its all part of the expedition. I do know I now have some float when those sets of challenges roll through, and I'm seeing and cherishing more of those dragonfly moments. And the best bit is so are my kids... and I have a feeling these are the type of moments we'll all hold on to for years to come. 

Take care and all the best,


  1. This is my favourite post yet. Such an important lesson we forget as we try to be "productive" - thank you for this reminder!

    1. Thanks for much for the lovely feedback, I'm really glad you enjoyed the post! Thank you also for following the blog as it starts out!