I am driving down the interstate 94 between Deerfield and Kenosha. Cars are passing to the left of me and on the right. I am driving at a leisurely 65mph for two reasons; the first is that I have Wisconsin plates now, and as a former resident of Illinois I know that anyone speeding with out-of-state plates is more likely to be pulled over for speeding than an Illinois resident. But there’s another reason I’m driving so slowly; it’s that my pace of life has changed.
I used to live here. I know these roads and I used to hurl myself along them at the fastest speed I thought I could get away with. I’m not sure why, but there’s something about being here, being in the hectic pace that catches you up into it, even without realizing it. There’s no question that the pace of life in the Chicago suburbs is frenetic, hectic. To live here is to be busy, to be moving, always be late, always having something more to do, more to cram in before your day is through.
I am no longer constantly immersed in this chaos. I now live in Wisconsin, in Kenosha, just over the state line from Illinois. That makes all the difference–crossing that invisible line from the Illinois hyperlife to the culture of Wisconsin was what I needed to move from stressed to measured.
I have embraced the pace of life in Wisconsin. It is more forgiving, more human. It allows me time to listen, to reflect, to be present to the people around me. The change didn’t happen overnight, but the recognition was there immediately. (All you need to do is drive through the streets of Kenosha and rush hour and it suddenly hits you that no one is tailgating you.) For the settling to come, I had to let go of the internal drive I brought with me from Illinois. It is only recently that I have fully adjusted. I can move slowly when I get up in the morning, I can pace my work, I can respect the limits my body imposes on me. I can switch from a hard task to an easier one when I’m tired, and yes, as you might expect, I can slow down and listen to myself, others and most importantly, God, with a greater sense of calm and quiet.
I haven’t “heard more” from the Lord in Wisconsin, but I can be more attentive, embracing the quiet and the calm, the doable, the attainable, the walk rather than the run. This is building into me a kind of spiritual endurance that I haven’t experienced before. In the quiet, God is there. If he is silent, we both enjoy the silence. I am learning that even silence speaks when we have the luxury of listening to it.
Today I attended a meeting in the western suburbs of Chicago and my host was practically vibrating with excitement at the conclusion. It was a great meeting! I enjoyed it immensely, but my gladness is more in keeping with my own internal clock: regular, sustained, full. My excitement hasn’t come from winding itself up, but looks more like the hiker, who, knowing the distance that must be traveled, sets off at a measured pace, ready to alternately rest and walk, marveling at the sights along the way.
I am on my way home now. Cars are passing on my left, and cars are passing to my right. And I continue at my sedate 65mph, glad to have visited, looking forward to home, but not impatient to get there.