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I play Traditional Irish fiddle with a group of fellow musicians every week. We are an informal Irish Session, which means we get together and play traditional Irish tunes in jam-session style. Recently, post-baby, I’ve been dashing in, joining the group for 45 minutes, then dashing out (as a mom, you grab your fun on the fly) to put Aela to bed. The group is kind enough to indulge me during these 45 minutes and play all my favorite tunes in a row. As a result, this has highlighted an interesting pattern, and, as usual, a giant metaphor for my inner life. (Seriously, life, enough with the metaphors!)

It has become clear that I play the tunes very fast, at what one group member calls, “tempo de tear-ass. I’ve noticed everyone looks slightly frantic while we’re playing at that speed. While it’s a fun challenge, it often means we can’t keep up with ourselves. Sometimes, we hit the right groove and it’s really fun. Other times, it’s just a mess.

It has been suggested that possibly this is a pattern of mine – going too fast and tripping myself up.

WHAT? Never.

Whenever one runs across a life metaphor, the question to ask is: what is this telling me about myself? (I know, sometimes it really sucks, and I do NOT want to answer it.)

For this metaphor, though, I grudgingly accept the challenge – what is this telling me about myself? Why am I moving at such a breakneck speed, and therefore getting ahead of myself?

The answer is not all that surprising. It’s a fabulous avoidance technique that I have employed all my life. Scared? Unsure of myself? Just go for it, as fast as I can, and hope that the bumps in the road hurt less because I’m moving so fast. Or maybe it will all be such a blur that no one will notice mistakes. Or, maybe it’ll just all get done so fast that the discomfort will be barely noticeable and then it will be over.

Being present with discomfort is a lifelong journey for me.

I don’t really like it. But, in discomfort lies so much treasure, guidance, and truth. When you slow it down and address the places that are uncomfortable, you find out what works and what doesn’t. You meet your own needs, because you actually know what they are. You see where the music isn’t flowing quite right, and you find out how to return to harmony and balance.

In college, when I was earning my music degree, my professor would repeatedly force me to play simple phrases at ridiculously slow tempos. It’s one of the basic tenets of music that you learn it faster by playing it slower. I can remember one grad student who would play – and I am not exaggerating – ONE NOTE on her violin for AN HOUR. EVERY DAY. I was like – shoot me now.

I remember a book my mom once got me called, “Slowing Down to the Speed of Life. Pretty sure I didn’t read that one.

So, Mom, fellow musicians, and many, many other people – I gracefully (or not) accept the challenge of slowing down and being here, in this uncomfortable, imperfect moment, with all its wrong notes and mistakes. I will begin to notice when the urge to go fast hits, and remind myself that it’s when I most need to slow down. Then, I can find the groove, where the music wants to sit, where the melody flows, where the drum and guitar don’t feel hurried. I’m sure I’ll have no shortage of friendly reminders from people about this current life metaphor.

And, every now and then, I’m going to indulge myself with just one – one serving only – Irish reel played at deliciously fun, ridiculously breakneck speeds. Just because it can’t be all about the life metaphors, all the time.