I've found a spiteful irony in my life:
While I've had the incentive to focus on slowing down during March, my agenda has been so congested that I've been able to do everything but. It's hypocritical of me to preach this "slow" concept, when I find it such a challenge to incorporate it into my life.
I arrive home Saturday afternoon, my eyes puffy from a lack of sleep and my stomach heavy with stress (and rumbling with hunger), as my roommate Freja comes out of her room. She knows how busy I've been this past week and asks me about my plans for the rest of the weekend. As I scan my brain, listing all the activities planned like an automated, lifeless voice message, she lovingly urges me to have an evening to myself with some quiet resting time. I agree with her, but I know it's unlikely for this "me time" to happen, given my full schedule.
But throughout the rest of the evening, Freja begins to stress the importance of this. There's a genuine concern coming from her. So I bug her a little further to find out why...
"Before my accident, I used to be a lot like you. I would go from one place to another and say yes to everything. I didn't want to miss out on anything. But it made me be so stressed and I got quite depressed."
Before I knew Freja, in the summer of 2016, she and her friend were moving to Copenhagen and were having a going away party. During the party, six people were out on the balcony, Freja included, before it collapsed from underneath them. While each individual was affected differently by the accident, Freja spent two days in a coma.
Following her waking up, she spent two weeks in the hospital. She recalls the first few days to be kind of blurry and she didn't have much energy. After Freja was released, she was told that she could do anything, but that she would get tired a lot more easily than before.
"It was funny actually - the nurse told me, 'You could run a marathon, but you'd probably be really, really tired'. It was nice that they didn't really give me any limits, but it was more my choice of going at my own pace."
"Immediately after, I wasn't allowed to look at screens. So I got really into audiobooks and drawing. I would do that all day and it was amazing."
Somehow, in the middle of this busy weekend, I let my shoulders come down to ease into an evening at home with my roommate. We decided on making a quiche together for dinner later on and maybe watching a movie. This is a common activity between my roommates and myself - quiche is something we can all share so easily and have fun making together. But before the quiche cooking, we play a few episodes of Friends in the background as we talk a little more.
I ask if she misses the busy pace she had before or if this forced slowness has opened something new in her. She tells me she takes joy in the simpleness of her days. I'm usually witnessing Freja doing a lot, despite the fact that she is doing "nothing". She's incredibly crafty. She has a brilliant bohemian, but entirely unique, style. She cooks incredible food and bakes the best chocolate cake I've ever had. She does hair masks and special self-care routines. She's also slowly growing out her afro.
"I have definitely discovered that it is good for me to have a slow life. It's good for me to relax and I don't feel the depression pushing. I'm less afraid that it will come back. To do what you love is important. It can be anything, from taking a nap, to going out. Now I have more energy to be out and present with my friends.
It's reminded me of the things that I like to do - like drawing or doing creative stuff. I've always been creative, but in periods it had been hidden because I hadn't had the time. So now I have the space to do whatever I want to do, and it's reminded me of the thing I like to do."
It's also a very individual thing - how to slow down. I find it really useful to be organized and write everything down. But that's not for everybody. The best thing to do is find what you like to do, and don't waste time doing what you don't like."
We were blessed later in the evening with a beautiful sunset. The kind that I recognize that only makes an appearance during Copenhagen summers. The kind that starts out resembling cotton candy but it changes every second, and at the peak of it, looks like the sky is on fire. Freja calls me out to the balcony to watch the sun go down.
"I talked to my psychiatrist about the fact that I'm not doing anything right now. It's really difficult when people ask me what I'm going to do and I don't know what to answer. But she suggested that, especially because I was so busy and stressed before the accident, that it would be best for me to take a year to really do nothing."
We sit now and enjoy our quiche fresh out of the oven.
"It's really important to make your slowness cozy. If you're doing nothing but you light candles and play music, then it's not nothing anymore. It's atmospheric and it turns into an activity. Even taking a nap is doing something.
You need to do the little things that help you relax. Like even listening to music can make such a difference. And you need to enjoy things slowly. There are nice little things that help you be you."
I became enraptured in what Freja had to say this evening. Sometimes inspiring people come from right under your nose. Or however that saying goes. Freja's story is fascinating, and really a reminder to all those leading a busy and stressful life. Her chaotic schedule and impulsive need to say yes to everything, drove her to a depression. Although Freja is of good humour when talking about her accident, it was still a traumatic experience. But it is admirable how she's able to see the light of the situation. The accident was the trigger in her life, obliging her to slow down her lifestyle and be aware of her own energy and needs. She knows what makes her happy and she knows how to go at her own personal pace, to avoid ever returning to that stressed out, quick paced lifestyle.
"Not that I can recommend it to anybody, to get an injury," she laughs, "But I can definitely recommend it to slow down."