“Man man” is a Chinese word meaning slowly. I often come across this word when I’m out and about in Taiwan. Oftentimes, I would see this word written on the road. When I am walking down the street, I would often “walk slowly.” When I am in the office or at my Chinese class, I would hear “take it slowly.” When I’m having lunch in the food court, I would hear “eat slowly” or “drink slowly.” Upon reflection, I realized that this word is a call for me to slow down.
Up until then, I never really took any notice of how I walk, the way I eat or drink, or how I decide something because I would be focused on more important things. To illustrate, I recall the first problem I had with my ankle. I was returning to the office after my English class with the female detainees at Hsinchu Detention Center. While walking in the park, my mind was busy planning the next activity for the shelter when I twisted my right ankle. I didn’t take heed of the ground I was walking on because my mind was elsewhere. Afterwards, I realized that the ground was uneven. I felt it was not just an ordinary twisted ankle either. It was really painful. I sat on a bench nearby, massaging my ankle, but it was still painful. I waited for the pain to subside before continuing my journey, walking slowly. My co-worker accompanied me to the clinic the next day. It was an ankle sprain, and the doctor gave me medicine to relieve the pain. The pain was gone after two weeks. I thought I could run or walk fast as I used to when I was younger, but, I was wrong.
The second ankle problem occurred in Taipei. That day I had meeting with an SVD priest in Fu Jen Catholic University. Before the meeting, I went to the wash room. The room was not very well lit so I didn’t notice that the entrance floor was a little elevated. I just felt my right leg become weak and numb, causing me to fall. I was lucky that my right foot was strong because I was able to support myself. I realized then that my left ankle had not healed completely, because I did not allow the for it to heal but rather continued walking and running. That exact moment, I became conscious of my ankle. I underwent therapy, took conventional and traditional Chinese medicine but still my ankle didn’t improve. Some of my fellow missionaries suggested taking a break from work to relax my feet. I asked for a 5-day absence from work, but I would still go to check on the residents in the shelter every evening.
After I twisted my ankle for a third time, I decided to take another 10 days’ vacation from my work and to fully detach myself from my ministry and spend time just relaxing and looking after my feet. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to say no to people I love and serve, but I realize it’s also not fair for me not to listen to the needs of my body especially if it’s really urgent and important. During those 10 days off, I spent my time at home in my apartment doing the things I love: cooking, reading, sleeping, listening to music, chatting with old friends via messenger, organizing my things, talking to my family, meditating and writing in my journal. I came to realize that it’s been a long time since I have done those things because I was so focused on my work. I needed to experience twisting my ankle three times before acknowledging that I needed to take a break to heal my ankle injuries.
I became so busy doing many things, often in a hurry just to finish the work on time, but my body was reminding me to slow down. This time, I listened and gave time to other important aspects in my life. This happened in order to remind me to slow down in many areas of my life and learn how to eat slowly and savor the food, to spend time with family and friends, to walk slowly and appreciate the beauty of my surroundings and to take time to discern before making decisions. Now, I appreciate the word “man man” because it made me realize the essence of the here and now. Life is good if we focus and enjoy the present moment.
Columban lay missionary Marea Lyn M. Almirañez lives and works in Taiwan.