“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” –Mary Oliver
I know it’s going to be a good book when, only a few pages in, I pull out a paper and pen to take notes, then get so lost in the narrative I abandon all note-taking. Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path by Erin Loechner is just such a book. Before I became too engrossed, I did manage to jot down this tidbit;
“There is a lion inside us all. It reigns over pace and time and intention, and it lingers in the rooms of our hearts daily. It roams, searching for the reasons we were place on this planet- our passions, dreams, abilities- and it scoffs at the demands of our daily lives- our schedules, responsibilities.” (page 18)
Yes. Oh, yes.
This same thing has been up for discussion in recent letters between the two Marys. The demands of life and lack of time are not new topics for us. In Mary & Me, we both mention time being at a premium during our early mothering years, though mine stretched out far beyond hers. I still have two daughters remaining at home. Readers of our book also know that of the two of us, I’m the one who has struggled with envy over the amount of time other women seem to have, especially those who don’t have to work outside the home.
What does the lion in each of us want, we’ve recently wondered (only we didn’t use the term lion, but our own desires), and how does that align with God’s intention for us? During Mary’s visit last week I mentioned our mutual friend, and the book she was working on.
“I’m not in a hurry,” the woman had told me, and with that pronouncement, it was instantly clear to me that I am.
“I am in a hurry,” I told Mary. “I’m always in a hurry. And it’s never enough. No matter what I do, I want to do more. I want the book proposal written. To finish my next book.”
I’ve also bemoaned my greediness with time in recent letters to Mary. Since I’ve changed jobs, I’ve dropped in hours,opening up more mornings. I’ve always utilized morning time for writing, even during the years I was raising young children, when I’d get up at 5:30 a.m. just to savor a precious hour or two. I lost that morning time to an office job for 18 months, and nearly came undone in the process. With my new job, I have five of seven mornings free, and I’m making the most of them.
“And still, it’s not enough,” I lament to Mary. “I hunger for more. More time. More hours to myself. More speaking engagements. More workshops. What’s wrong with me?”
Or, if we are speaking lions, why is my lion so restless, so loud?
“We fluff this great pit with our ego boosts, our need for control, our unrealistic expectations, and soon our days are dictated by its excess. The lion sulks around our soul, pacing for his next meal, hungry for more than we are throwing his way. Perhaps we are feeding him the wrong thing.” (page 19)
It fascinates me that for the majority of the book, I was seeing the author’s unique style of chapter headings and her numbered “lists” in the sidebars as 00:01.
Not 001. 002. 003. But 00:01, 00:02, 00:03. Like a clock. Quite telling, don’t you think?
Perhaps it’s natural I would be starved, ravenous even, for time. For the majority of my adult life, my time has not been my own. That same mother who trudged down the stairs in her pajamas at 5:30 a.m. for a moment’s peace, would inevitably be called back up by a baby or toddler’s cry on the baby monitor before long. Factor in the logistics of mothering eight children in an attachment-style manner, and there wasn’t much “me” time. Of course I want more now, when I finally have some.
But according to Erin Loechner’s wonderful book, more will never be enough.
“It can’t be counted or valued or summed or justified. More is always, by definition, just ahead at the horizon. That’s why we never stop chasing it. More is never enough.” (page 87)
Of course, Erin wasn’t talking about time here, but stuff. It was material possessions, fame and fortune, she made a conscious decision to minimize. In Chasing Slow, she turns away from her viral and HGTV fame and frenzy to shift her focus to the journey that matters most; her husband’s brain tumor, bankruptcy, family loss, a baby. Not only does she say no to some choice opportunities, she empties her closets, and pares down possessions, carting bags of excess to Goodwill.
My chase for more time is still a chase.
“We can throw it all at the lion and watch as he devours it like scraps of meat; the fast life, the slow life, the more, the less. We can exhaust ourselves with our offerings. We can keep tabs, keep pins, keep watch, keep score, keep track.” (page 281)
“Why do you always have to be doing something?” was my husband’s lament when I begged off sitting on the couch next to him to watch television, or I was too intent on finishing something up at my desk to lie next to him for a nap. Too late now, I can no longer do either. What drove me to be incessantly busy?
I believe part of the answer lies in the words I recently transcribed to my journal from Mary DeMuth’s memoir, Thin Places.
“I cannot stop. I must always work. I must always prove that I am worthy to take up space on this earth.”
Maybe all of the former “raggedy little girls,” as DeMuth describes her childhood self, feel that way.
I need to remind myself daily that God put me here for a reason, that He has plans for me. He gifted me with the same 24 hours in a day he gave everyone else. I don’t have to “do more,” “be more,” “work faster” to gain the grace He has freely given me.
Life’s answers are not always hidden where they seem. It’s time to venture off the beaten path to see that we’ve already been given everything we need. We’ve already arrived. (from the back cover of “Chasing Slow”)
Some of my takeaways from this book:
- The author married a man with a brain tumor, but she still had to figure out how to put him first. According to her, that was ten years. I was married for 27 years before a stint of caregiving when my husband went through cancer treatment taught me that valuable lesson. I’m grateful for the bonus five and a half years we shared after that.
- Sometimes, the answer (to more) should be NO.
- The lion inside of us can be a real beast.
- God is in control.
- Sometimes, less is more.
- The next time Erin Loechner gets rid of her stationery, I think she should give it to me.