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Writing Workshop: Fast and Slow

For as long as I can remember, my life has been about too fast or too slow. On the way to nursery this morning, my boy sped along the lines in the pavement, dragging me by my hand. Fast, fast! he’d shout. And I laughed and we raced and declared ourselves winners. And that’s me, that is. Fast.  I am most definitely the pretend horse galloping under cold sunshine, and the runaway train that’s going to catch us, mama! FASTER! I have always been a million miles an hour girl. It makes me skip and trip over my own feet. My head moves faster than I can keep up with sometimes. Mental energy is something that runs out of my ears like too-small hands trying to carry sand. It keeps me awake, it gives me this endless, relentless drive for more and more and more, each tiny cranial space stuffed to the ceiling with bits of paper marked IDEAS! and TOMORROW! and, I could this THIS! And I love it, I do. It makes me feel plugged into something huge. I love jumping into its current and letting it speed me away. I want to go fast. I love fast.

But I have a body that doesn’t like it, and I always have. From so tiny I learnt that my times of running and skipping and FLYING, which is what it would feel like, would mean getting right to the top, fingers outstretched, before something in the mechanics would give and I’d have to brace myself for the crash. And it always comes. Like night follows day, if I fly I have to pay for it, screaming angrily and frustratingly all the way down. And I pay for it with tiredness, and pain, and limbs like lead dragged through treacle. I pay for it with slow. That’s the illness, that’s my wiring, and like it or not, it’s just how things are.

As part of my treatment, for years and years, I was taught that my secret was pacing. I must learn to temper slow and fast with even, steady. Not too much, not too little. And when I was very, very ill, when the slow had won for a long, long time and fast was defined more as having the energy to get up and get myself dressed, than about spending the weekend speeding about on trains having adventures, when I was that ill, even was the only thing for it. I had to give up fast. I had to. I missed it. And I resented it hugely, and it would make me angry, the energy I wished to be pouring into life trapped somewhere I couldn’t get it. But I was patient and after very many hard lessons learnt I got well again. I got very well. I got my fast back and oh god it was wonderful.

When life began again, I was told to carry on with the pacing, with the careful measuring of time and energy to avoid the massive crashes. And I did, I was careful. But I am me, I am the galloping horse, and Tigger with his bounce, and a firework with a lit fuse, and I was growing strong on fresh air and new experiences and that part of me was keen, it was hungry and I decided, actually, I didn’t want to live life in the even, steady lane.

So these days I let myself fly. I let myself run. I embrace fast and let it speed me away. I let life take on a momentum that goes and goes and GOES and I feel alive and free and I go faster and faster and I stretch and I stretch and I STRETCH, and I get to touch a bit higher, and then with a happy sigh I wrap myself up and let myself fall. And that’s what changed my life. That’s what made me whole, in the end, and really, properly well, well in the way that matters. I learnt that the falls were worth it, and, better even than that, I have learnt that there is something at the bottom that’s special and that I had missed, in all that time I spent angry looking resentfully back up at where I wanted to be.

Because, you know, slow can be lovely. I am learning to love it as much as the fast. When my body gives in, which it does, frequently, like today in fact, there is pain and there is a crushing fatigue but if I relax into it, if I don’t fight it, which, turns out, was what I was doing pretty much my whole life, if I LET that take me as completely as I do the fast, it can be magic and beautiful. There are things here that you miss if you’re going too fast. When your legs make you walk slowly you notice shadows that you wouldn’t otherwise. You notice things on the pavement, and snails climbing walls. You NOTICE.

If I’m going to have to do slow, then ohh I’m going to do it well. When my body says stop now, I do. I’ll get to go fast again, because I’m learning that if I rest properly the refuelling takes less time anyway. And in the meantime there is still lots to do. There are long naps to be had, and dreams to play out in my head. There is early nights with a new book that gives me a world to live in while I’m taking a break from this one. There is the steady, slow, click click of knitting needles, and the sound of a blinking camera shutter.  I find all the slow I can and I swim in it. I let it it hold me up as I drift and rest. And I don’t think about fast, I just enjoy where I am.

Today slow has won. I lived hard this weekend and I must accept the pay-off. So I’m going to go sit and let a ink slowly work its way over paper as I sit and sip tea slowly. And the things that need speed can wait a while. The housework can pile up, and emails can wait, and I can let the slow tick tock rock me till I’m ready to go again.


Now it’s your turn. Tell me how time affects your life

Leave your name and the URL to your post in the Linky below (the URL should be to your post not just to your blog) – it’ll be open til Sunday night so if you haven’t had chance to respond yet, then you’ve got plenty of time to join in. Don’t forget that anyone can take part! New prompts will be up this time next week, so I hope to see you back soon.


  1. my god you are brilliant – As one who is currently defined by her ability to get up and get dressed, to eat, to walk somewhere, anywhere it is so good to know fast is possible again – I just have to find what makes it so and why now, when I used to be exactly that a galloping horse, it feels and is so impossible.
    You write brilliantly and it is so good to know you are where you are and YOU. 
    (oh yes and when you feel bad read your own blog and the comments – see how lovely and loved you are)
    *hugs many*

  2. Your writing is so visually stimulating. I am there, feeling it and living it. Fabulous and honest as always :-)

  3. Living fast can be fun and exciting but learning to love and be happy in the slow is a skill many people find hard to master.

    Lovely post Josie….rest well pretty lady, for soon the time for fast will be upon you again!


  4. It never ceases to amaze me how you express yourself. You pour such passion into your words it really comes out.

    I’m glad you’re learning to accept the slow, but I’m sorry it’s painful. If I could wave a magic wand and stop the pain I would, straight away

  5. Mrs Wordsmith. That’s your new name. A poem from me this week (no time for prose…)

  6. What a fantastic piece, so real and honest and poetic all at the same time. You need to take care of you too hon xx

  7. Mummy Plum

    Your words created such vivid images in my head as I was reading this, it was like a movie in my head.  Beautifully written. 

  8. Thatwoman

    Thank you for the post, and your comments on mine. I was very touched. Time something I am, ahem, spending a lot of time thinking and writing about it now. L

  9. Billygean Co Uk

    I’ve been blogging about fatigue for four years (glandular fever caused mine). Yours is the first really lovely and well-written blog I’ve found I the same subject. I’m MUCH better than I was but I am not completely there yet – work part time.

    Lovely writing :)



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