Bits and Bites of Everyday Life


Pacing one's life

By Geneviève Hone
True North Perspective

Geneviève Hone is a grandmother, family therapist and social worker.  With her husband, Julien Mercure (also a family therapist), she has co-authored three books on couples and family life. Her home on the web is

“I need to talk to some people, so I’m going for a walk”, I inform my husband on this lovely day.
“Heading towards the park?” he asks.
“No just down the street.”
He laughs. Today is the first day of the Ottawa Race Weekend and a few blocks down from our place, I will find thousands and thousands of people.
I pack a snack of carrots and nuts, grab my water bottle and my sunhat and take off. At Confederation Park, I find a good observation point on the bridge from where I can share the excitement that seems to be lifting people off their feet, runners and supporters alike. The runners are concentrating on their strategies, which at this point seem to have much to do with water, both intake and disposal of such, judging by the lengthy line-ups at the portable loos. The supporters, families and friends, are offering good wishes, encouragement and counseling: “Just do your best, don’t push yourself too hard and follow your coach’s advice.” And then, there are the Pace Bunnies, easily recognizable of course by their lovely ears, special T-shirts and the signs that display their target finishing time.
  Painting by Julien Mercure.

Pace Bunnies are the gurus of marathon racing. They know everything there is to know about pacing oneself, about going slower or faster depending on one’s goals and energy level. They are wise beyond their ears. Like all gurus, they have followers (at least for the duration of a given race) to whom they will dispense breathtaking wisdom of the ‘Keep this up and you’ll make 1:47’ kind. Pace Bunnies are definitely the ones to help me with my question du jour: how can I slow down at this point in my life. I must speak to a Pace Bunny. Urgently!

Suddenly, the racers are off, Pace Bunnies at their side. I look around to see if there might be a Pace Bunny left behind, one who has decided to quit the rat race, preferring to relax and just enjoy watching the race. But apparently Pace Bunnies are creatures of duty: they have all gone to work, and there is not a Pace Bunny in sight. This doesn’t really deter me. If I need to talk with a Pace Bunny, I can conjure one up from my imagination. And this is what I do now.
I find a bench and sit down next to my Bunny. I explain that I have just turned 71, and that I feel the need to really slow down this time. “What do you mean, this time?” he asks. “You mean you tried it before and you didn’t succeed?” I nod in acknowledgment. “You mean you sabotaged your own efforts?” I feel myself being drawn into a silly argument. The way this conversation is going, I’ll soon find myself apologizing to a bunny that is a product of my imagination for having broken a resolution or changed my mind about something. “But…” I start. “No ‘buts’ about it”, interrupts my Bunny. “Face the facts. Somebody inside of you is rewarding you for obeying old rules, rules that start with ‘always’ or ‘never’. ‘Always be generous to others. Always help others as much as you can. Always be nice to people, no matter what. Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.’ I bet you get a good feeling when you obey these rules, even though you know it’s not what you really want or need today.”
Painting by Julien Mercure.  
The blessed Bunny continues relentlessly: “You’ve probably been told to hurry up thousands of times in your childhood: ‘Hurry or you’ll be late. Hurry or your homework won’t be done in time. Hurry or you’ll be left behind.’ But today you don’t need to hurry all the time! For Heaven’s sake, woman, act your age! If your age is an age of slowing down, well do it. Tell the people inside of you, be they your mother, your father, Sister Joseph from 4th grade or whoever thinks it’s their concern, that you are old enough to run your own life. Frankly, I have trouble believing my own ears, and they are very large ones, when I hear that a grown woman can’t find her own pace, let alone follow it.”
In an attempt to mollify my Bunny, I offer him a carrot. He refuses disdainfully: “Don’t try to buy my approbation with a carrot. “You wanted my advice, I gave it to you. Take it or leave it. Right now, I’m leaving and I’m not taking you along.” And he throws a final parting shot: “Lose the ‘always’ and the ‘nevers’, lady. At your age, you can’t afford such absolutes.”
Well, that should teach me not to pick up strange bunnies in a park!
I head back home walking very slowly, taking the time to really look around me, seeing for the first time lovely details in the architecture of buildings, stopping for a few minutes to listen to the cascading water in the fountain at the top of the park. “Did you meet any interesting people?” my husband inquires as I open the door. And without waiting for my answer, he adds: “I need carrots for the salad. I thought we had some.” “Here, take these”, I answer. “I hope they’re alright though. They were turned down by a rabbit.”