The military moves alternately at the pace of a snail and a racecar. What it doesn’t do is move on your time or convenience. We live on the whim of Uncle Sam, there’s no other option. When we get out in the military, we find ourselves in a world that feels like it sped by us and catching up feels impossible. When I first got out, I rushed around feeling like I had lost something, but I didn’t know what. To find balance and a measure of peace, I didn’t need to rush to catch up, I needed to do the opposite…to slow down.
Slow living for veterans is living your life around your values, not societies. The modern world will drain you if you let it, always asking more and more of you. Slow living reclaims your time for yourself and puts your life on your terms. The military dominates our time and when we get out, we’re too quick to toss away our hours and days to meaningless things. The civilian world overly clutters both our schedules and our minds. The technology world is a hamster wheel and at times it feels there’s no getting off. Slow living isn’t being lazy, it means veterans zeroing in on our priorities and discarding the rest. For years, the needs of the military, the mission, and the country came far before your own.
In a crazy world, slowing down is regaining sanity. When I first got out, everything felt overstimulating, stressful, and distracting. I lost sight of what I really wanted to be doing and felt like I was running on autopilot. All of us already carry the stress of our military pasts on our shoulders, that’s inevitable but we don’t need to let society pile on more. When life feels chaotic, treat it like a battlefield and have some tactical patience, let the dust settle. We’ve allowed ourselves to become overscheduled when our lives should be moving at our pace. Slowing down gives us a moment to reevaluate what we’re doing because like our rucksacks, we can only carry so much. Eventually it’ll break or we will, slowing down throws out some of the non-mission essential items of our lives.
Veterans live thinking about the next thing, that’s military life. We’re planning the next mission, the next promotion, and the next duty station. Taking that thinking into the civilian world wrecks the present and gets in the way of enjoying the freedom we all fought for. We’ve missed enough of the important things in life by spending plenty of holidays, birthdays, and big moments away from our families. Slowing down is planting yourself firmly in the present of your own life for those special moments as well as creating more of them. If you don’t stop it, the crazy push and pull of life will never end.
The most enjoyable things in life come slow. Roasting marshmallows with your kids on a summer night, floating down a river, a good cup of coffee out of your favorite mug or a cold beer with good friends. When’s the last time you took a deep breath and just felt happy to be alive? Trapping ourselves in the rat race makes our to-do list grow, our bank balance shrink, and means there’s never enough time in the day. Maybe it’s time you toss that list out as well as the people and things that are weighing you down, stealing your time, and stopping you from living your way.
We worked our asses off in the military trying to do the impossible and time is the one thing we aren’t getting more of. We already know veterans die sooner than civilians so we might as well slow down, find some peace, and enjoy the view now and then.
Ways To Slow Down
- Wake up slow- We are often jolted into the world by our annoying alarm clocks and our stress starts before our eyes even open. We roll over to check out phones and find ourselves already behind. Enjoy the morning and some quiet time before starting your day.
- Give meditation a shot- Go outside and find somewhere comfortable and quiet. Sit or lay down and breathe slow for a while, see if you can do ten minutes doing nothing and then go from there. It’s easier to meditate and let go of your worries in nature than anywhere else.
- Eat a meal slowly. In the military we’re either forced to eat incredibly fast or our food tastes bad enough we just shovel it down. Except if you’re in the Air Force then you get the good stuff. Appreciate food and eat slow, it’s one of the best parts of being alive.