February 18 2017
Day 18 of the Month of Resting in Wholeness in the Semester of Sabbatical in the Year of Flowing Legitimacy Occupying Gentle Awareness
“Slow and steady wins the race.” I remember hearing this saying for the first time, after reading or having read to me a children’s book that retold the story of the tortoise and the hare.
At the time I remember Little Me (maybe I was like five years old?) thinking, not in these words, but something along the lines of “wow, that’s so counter-intuitive* but it makes sense [*note – I doubt I knew the word ‘counter-intuitive’ when I was five]. But, it would be hard to remember in the heat of the moment during a race!”
Yes, Little Me, exactly. The thing is, you have to have faith in the moment that if you just proceed steadily, no matter how slowly, you will eventually “win the race.”
This applies to so many things – like saving money, or getting healthy, or engaging in a sustained spiritual practice – but of course here in my little writing-blog I am thinking of it in terms of writing. When I was a younger woman, in grad school, so insecure about writing my dissertation, “slow and steady wins the race” was almost impossible to believe. After all, so much hinged on me finishing the dissertation – not just the practicalities of life, like getting a job as a professor, which would mean being able to eat and not go bankrupt, but also all the stuff wrapped up in my identity. I had been in school, with some breaks to work in the “real world,” almost my entire life. Now was the time to “prove” that I “deserved” to reach (what I thought at the time) was the highest of all the rungs I had to climb – the Ph.D. I had so much real and imagined stuff about my identity, and my future, and also my ability to not be homeless, wrapped up in that last golden rung – finishing the dissertation – that, paradoxically, I almost couldn’t finish the dissertation. I would tell myself “slow and steady wins the race!” but it was very difficult to believe that at the time. How could writing 100 or 200 or 500 usually pretty crappy words a day – which, after all, is just one or two pages – ever possibly result in something like a completed, polished, 300-page dissertation?
I wish I knew then what I know now. That it definitively can and will work. But how could I have known until I did it? I still am amazed that I did. There are many better dissertations out there than the one I wrote. But I did it, and the Authorities Who Needed To decided it was good enough, and by some crazy combination of luck, timing, and, yes, I suppose, my own talent, I got a tenure-track job.
Anyway, so it’s only now, a decade later, that I can really believe it when I tell myself “slow and steady wins the race.” I am making progress on my book project. I have about half of a chapter written. 5,000 words. Now, it’s a pretty rough half a chapter.And it would half of a pretty short chapter. But it’s something. I do believe that I can “win the race” if I just keep at it long enough, steadily and slowly. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself of ten and twelve years ago, “remember the tortoise and the hare? Well – the tortoise was right. You can have faith.” But maybe that kind of faith requires a little bit more age and experience? I don’t know.