Soon after I wrote about the “reinvention generation,” I received a review copy of Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas & Found Happiness By Dominique Browning. This book totally captivated me. It was written by an author that I’ve followed ever since she took the editorial helm at the now deceased House and Garden magazine. I looked forward to Browning’s reflective editorial letters each month. I kept a file of those pages because they touched me in so many unexpected ways – the writing style was graceful and casual, the tone of the editorials had an eclectic mix of something you didn’t read about when entering a shelter magazine.
The topics she chose touched a chord that glimpsed the purpose of living fully (even if you couldn’t live in one of those magnificently staged House and Garden homes). She discussed her emotional angst about her children growing up and the difficulty of adjusting to an empty nest (she didn’t like not having a choice about it), the end of a fine dinner party (peace and quiet), renovation nightmares (Why do we keep doing it?) and her environmental activism (she writes a column for the Environmental Defense Fund). Actually, now that I think about it, and reread those letters, Browning’s musings read like a blog conversation waiting to be commented on. She describes her personally tumultuous situations so eloquently, and with humor.
When House and Garden folded in 2007 without warning, her purpose-driven life came to a deafening halt. Her home collapsed. Literally, the one she expected to grow old in, she needed to sell, and the one she was moving into was structurally unsound and crumbling. Browning’s youngest child went off to college and her relationship with her lover whom she calls “Stroller” because he is a walker (as in walking away) is on the skids. She can’t sleep, yet she can’t get out of her pajamas. Browning’s life descends into freefall. Slow Love begins with her sad acknowledgment, “I am long past due for a personal renovation. But my toolbox feels empty.” Her painful road to self-discovery has more than its fair share of bumps and roadblocks, but she does begin to come to some inspiring realizations. After a day of kayaking (alone, and after making a decision not to pack a cell phone), she has a life-affirming moment, “I take a deep breath, feel my lungs stretch against my ribs, and blow out the day’s fears. I am strong, healthy, vibrant and thankful. I have the energy and the to will get going. I have learned by now that getting going is the most important thing,” Browning gets on with her life – slowly.
Browning has a knack for threading her emotional tales in a smart, witty and beautifully written manner, even when the structure in her life is falling apart. The reader feels a kinship with Browning’s renewal. I did. For me, it may be because we are the same age and have kids that are the same age, or maybe it was the way she describes her love for her pajamas, the foundation of her unemployment wardrobe. Either way, I think this brave woman puts her cards out on the table so authentically – goes down for the count and comes up with a sustainable new pace for life’s next move – wiser, deeper, more joyful and slower.
Can you tell I liked this book? Want more? Dominique Browning first memoir, Around the House and in the Garden: A Memoir of Heartbreak, Healing and Home Improvement reads like therapy for a healing home. I highly recommend it. Browning is also blogging. Here’s the link to her blog, Slow Love Life. She describes the meaning of the book title over on her blog: “SLOW LOVE means engaging with the world in a deeper, more meaningful way, learning to appreciate the beauty of everyday moments, and taking time to share them with one another.”