Zainab Bawa


My experiments with pace (Or, on time)

Pace is the central feature of my life these days. If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see my daily posts on running and the distances I have been doing everyday.

I am not a long distance runner. I am simply restarting on running, an activity that has helped me immensely in my previous lives and relationships.

This post is not really about pace and running. It is about the experiments I have been doing with pace and re-organizing my life and my perspectives.

Let’s first define what pace means. Ignoring all dictionary meanings and definitions, pace can mean any of the following, depending on your perspective, state of mind and existential angst:

  1. Speed
  2. Rhythm
  3. Momentum
  4. Movement

I am starting to experience each of these above meanings in different contexts. That’s what I intend to write here, today.

Pace as speed: When you live and breathe in the Bangalore tech startup ecosystem, pace is nothing more than speed. Sometimes, the experience and definitions of speed overtake pace, to the extent that what is left of you is a mass of breathlessness, heaviness and anxiety.

Until very recently, I used to live and breathe speed.

Conference organizing is work that demands pace — daily rhythm and routine. Gradually, it takes over to being a run against time since different parties and stakeholders require much longer time to cooperate towards the common goal of producing / being part of a conference. Also, closer to the conference dates, the DNA of your body and pace changes — everything is a matter of speed because communication becomes intense, there are more parties to deal with than you had in the beginning and middle stages, and there is a lot more cooperation to be sought to produce the eventual outcome. Here’s where you can easily lose rhythm.

I tried disconnecting myself from the frenzy and hectic nature of event organizing, especially closer to a conference, last month. Despite this conscious experiment, I found myself worked up on the conference days, eating trash like kebabs and too many carbs to deal with my body’s rising pace and my mind’s frustrations, and unable to bring down the speed of my body to a more accepting rhythm.

Nowadays, I wake up daily and tell myself: I shall not be overwhelmed by the amount of work I have pending. I shall slow down and not frustrate myself if my pace is not in rhythm with the pace of others around me. I shall continue to move forward despite frustrations.

I managed to get past yesterday with this affirmation. Let’s see what happens today.

Pace as rhythm: Bringing up a child is learning how to reset your rhythms and pace on a weekly basis. Every week, the child is a different person – she has learned to talk more. She has developed newer likes and dislikes. She has decided to not do something she was doing last week, and to even resist violently if you try to push her into doing something she has decided not to do.

I have now accepted that if I want to have a healthy relationship with my 22-month old daughter, I have to readjust my rhythms and pace as per her worldviews and decisions. Fortunately, I have the luxury to do so because I run my own business and I can adjust my work timings based on her routines and schedules (thus far).

Yesterday morning, we needed to settle into a daily routine now that December is over and the daunting 2016 is in my face. Our holiday times and relaxed schedules are over — we have to run consistently, and sometimes faster than we want to (if I have to keep the fires burning in the company, bring bread to the table of my daughter and all those dependent on me). But I decided not to rush into the first working day of the year and week. I decided to let myself be guided by my daughter’s decisions and pace.

After she woke up later than usual, I let her decide on her daily schedule — feeding, peeing, brushing her teeth, eating her breakfast, playing in the house, getting comfortable to the point of readiness to change into a different set of clothes, and go to daycare. Adjusting to her pace helped me stay relaxed — I was no longer expending energy on resistance, frustration, resentment and feelings of helplessness. In fact, watching her and ‘being’ with her, helped me stay in the rhythm and pace of our relationship. I was energized for the rest of the day.

Pace as momentum and movement: These days, I am running each morning. On many, many days, I start out feeling uncertain about whether I will be able to run enough, complete the intended distance and do justice to my plans.

Every run is a different experience. However, underlying each run is the principle that if I have to complete the run, I have to keep moving. Movement is what fuels momentum. Momentum may vary, but as long as I am moving, I am getting somewhere — either towards my goal, or towards the completion of the distance, or towards a new bodily or mental experience which will renew my understanding of myself and the world.

I try not to be seduced by the timing per kilometer because that is as much a function of the mind as it is of the body and strength of the muscles (and the food you ate the previous night). What matters is I moved when I imagined there to be obstacles. In the process, I ran against my mind and its unnecessary warnings.

I thought this will end up as an inconclusive post. But I am reminded of Philip’s words which I think summarize this post very well:

I have no plans. I only have intentions.
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