When I was a young girl growing up in New Jerz, for a span of four years, my family lived in a house where my bedroom had a clear view of the New York skyline. On most nights, particularly hot muggy ones, I’d sit in my windowsill and stare at the flickering city lights and listen to car horns, people yelling in the distance and the hum of endless noise. Energy blanketed the entire region — nervous energy, cosmopolitan energy, electric energy, and every night I sat in that window, I absorbed every last kilowatt floating through the air.
I still have scars on my legs from those days of running around the neighborhood with my brothers and their friends, trying to keep up, even at the expense of near-impalement over fences and getting chased by dogs. I probably have a few scars, too, from the switch my mother deservedly laid into me every so often for not shutting my mouth and throwing around too much sass. Naturally, such a childhood set the tone for a life on-the-go and an underdeveloped “off switch.”
When my husband and I moved Louisiana, I knew we’d have problems from the outset. To me, the phrase “Big Easy” seemed more like a euphemism for obesity and laziness than a way of life. Seriously, what would it mean to take it easy and slow down? Gain weight? Lose focus? Be a hostage of humidity?
Flashbacks of the summers in which my mother shipped my brothers and me to North Carolina as kids provided little insight, too. All I knew was if living in Louisiana was anything like those long, hot, laborious summers, I wouldn’t survive.
On the first day of my job in New Orleans, I showed up in a power suit and heels — with a leather portfolio in hand — dressed like I’d just stepped on Capitol Hill or the 34th floor of Trump Towers. I meant business. Needless to say, my new co-workers perceived me as alien. Dressed in linen and flip-flops, they worked in style and comfort, while I was ready to wheel and deal and relapse into workaholism. And it only took a few days on that job before I’d get upset when co-workers left at exactly 5:29, while I was perfectly happy to go in on weekends and take work home.
With time — and a few interventions from loved ones and a few extra cocktails each week — I finally slowed down and came to understand the way of life here. I stopped leaving the house on Saturday mornings to “run errands” and took pleasure in unproductive weekends.
There are certainly times when I revert back, particularly when caught behind a car on a one-lane street or stuck in a grocery line hijacked by sluggish shoppers. But I imagine that’s normal behavior for a reformed hyperactive Yankee, and with time, such episodes will give way to even more meditative moments.
Last week, Business Week unveiled a recent study that places Louisiana at the No. 1 spot among states with the most sedentary lifestyle. Not much shock and awe in those findings.
But it confirms one thing, for sure: I moved to the best place in the country to Slow. The. Heck. Down.