Slowing Down (An Update)

slowing down

I’ve been getting a few emails here and there asking how my “slower life” is treating me, and I realize I’ve never written a proper update on the so-called experiment. In a nutshell, the change has been amazing, and because there are so many thoughts swirling in my head, I’m going to just open the pantry and unload absolutely everything, all at once. This may or may not be legible.

Whenever I find myself saying, “I don’t have time,” I mentally re-word the phrase into “That’s just not a high priority for me right now.” Because I have the same 24 hours as you do and your neighbor does and the uncle who took you to your first movie growing up had. But our priorities are different. My priority right now, this very second, is to maintain a healthy relationship with my husband, care for (and find enjoyment in) the early months of my daughter’s life and end the day feeling fulfilled, restful and at peace. (I have a theory that I, personally, can only juggle three priorities at once, but I know many folks who have plates that overfloweth and feel content in that state. I am not one of those folks.)

What this means is that I often check myself throughout the day to make sure I’m working toward those priorities. When I sit down at my desk to work, I stop and think about what I’m hungry for (not literally, although that answer will likely be some form of cheese). Today, I was hungry to write. To have a conversation with myself that might result in some sort of personal growth. To host a discussion about priorities and timing and work and balance and helping others and all things good and perfect, Amen. And by feeding this hunger, I know I’ll end my day feeling fulfilled (priority #3 for those keeping score at home).

Baking muffins for my neighbor might fulfill me one day, but welcome stress and anxiety the next. Because priorities often overlap and bend and sometimes break until we forget they were important to us in the first place. The trick, I suppose, is knowing what we’re hungry for and which priorities take precedent over the other. They change, as do we.

I once read a beautiful passage in Donald Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” about change, personal growth and the beauty of seasons:

“People get stuck, thinking they are one kind of person, but they aren’t … The human body essentially recreates itself every six months. Nearly every cell of hair and skin and bone dies and another is directed to its former place. You are not who you were in February.”

The slower me understands this. I see deepened lines in my furrowed brow and remnants of old habits regenerating into new. And the slower me feels free when reading this. Because we are growing, whether intentional or not. The world is changing and we are in the world and we are the world. Cue Michael Jackson.

I’ve never been a gardener, but I know that bushes often need pruned for this reason. They grow and grow and grow until one wild branch often shapes the bush into something else entirely. For me, slowing down was simply another way to prune the bush. To force myself into cutting away certain parts of my life so that I don’t wake up next February, blooming roses I don’t like.

It’s hard, slowing down. We’re taught as young children that life is a buffet and the world is our oyster and we can wear many hats, but then sometimes we wake up and realize that our waistlines are too large and seafood is slimy and we’re tired of hat hair.

So we purge the hall closet of our berets and caps and bonnets until we’re left with empty space – a space that’s simultaneously inviting and terrifying. Because empty space is life’s first date where the awkward silence is deafening and there’s no bread left to butter. And we’re left watching the clock, wondering if there will be a spark or dessert or a goodnight kiss.

Or a pruned rose.

My garden is growing and shaping, but into what? I’m not yet sure. And I suppose it doesn’t matter, because tomorrow I’ll awake and become hungry for something else, or decidedly not hungry for anything at all. And in six months, a new me will regenerate and I’ll grow wild until I gather my pruning shears yet again.

But sometimes, I think, the empty space might sprout a tiny seed and something new will be planted in its place. And although I don’t know much about gardening, I kind of think this happens in February.

  • This is the most beautiful blog post that I’ve read in a long, long time. Every single word & phrase resonates with me, I absolutely adore it. The line about “empty spaces being life’s first date…” (I’m paraphrasing obviously) was simply beautiful. Just what I needed to read today.

  • I love this, especially the part about listening to what you’re hungry for and filling it. That resonates with me so much in this new season of motherhood. Sometimes I’m hungry for playing on the floor, sometimes I’m hungry to write and process. It’s different every day, and that’s okay. I’m slowly letting go of strict routines and tight schedules in exchange for being more spontaneous with my time, which in turn, makes me slow down a bit and enjoy things more than I normally would.

    • @Ashlee – ive noticed this in my own motherhood journey. its such an interesting rhythm!

  • Okay, first of all, this is so beautifully written! Your hunger for writing showed up as masterful turn of phrase, so good on ya for listening to what your heart wanted to do today. And speaking of your heart, it’s a beaut. I’m so honored to be part of a world where we have people like you, baring souls and opening minds. Thanks for this one. xo

  • amazing post Erin. i am entirely convinced that slowing down also allows you to appreciate things in a way you werent able before. it heightens your senses, hones in on what is important and eliminates the opportunity for chaos. enjoy this time, its ever so special!

  • I love that quote by Donald Miller – that book is fantastic. I think slowing down is so vital – especially when you have a little one. It’s inspiring to hear that you are making time for this when others would just truck on and miss it. Hopefully I will remember your wisdom when that time comes in my life.

  • It sounds like it’s done you the world of good, and inspired others to follow in your footsteps too. I
    t’s all too easy to get swept along with things and before you know it, you’re in a panic about nothing in particular, just a general feeling.
    I am of the mind set, that I would rather have more leisure time than work flat out and never be able to enjoy the time with nearest and dearest. or for that matter, make time for myself.
    Continue to enjoy x

  • This is beautiful Erin! Your ending keeps reminding me of Fitzgerald’s “fresh, green breast of the new world.” Only you have hope that every day we can find ourselves face-to-face “with something commensurate to [our] capacity for wonder”—an adventurous, unending self-renewal.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • So beautiful. Also, I love the slowing down involves Lines & Shapes books…I too always associate them with quiet moments.

    • @Nidhi – Oh gosh; I LOVE those books. I have three on my bookshelf that I stare at daily. :)

  • Thank you for this piece of beauty. So much of it is speaking to me where I’m at right now…thank you for affirming what I’ve been feeling, and making it so damn lovely to read :)

  • Erin, I, as luck would have it, am in the process of pruning right now and feeling more than a bit turned around, maybe even lost. I couldn’t be more elated that I stumbled across your blog and this post in particular (thank you, Twitter!) because it seems like you took the words right out of my mouth. Your words hit the mark of what it feels like to start something new, unknown. Thank you.

  • What delicious and calming words for me to read. I’ve been in such a hurry, playing catch up with this learning or that experience. A self imposed need to catch up. But catch up to whom?

    There’s enough time. And like you, the joy I get from spending time with the man and my daughter – that can never be replaced or scheduled.

    And enough time for the creative pursuits that make my heart sing.

  • Beautifully written. I’ve been realizing how many times “I don’t have time” pops into my head throughout the day, and trying to explore what that really means. In doing so, I’m learning so much about my priorities and noticing subtle shifts I need to make — and have started to make. I really enjoyed this post. Thank you. “What am I hungry for?” has definitely provided some food for thought.

  • Oh, Miss Erin, you’re so spot on right now I can’t EVEN! I’m taking your advice to heart and it is making all the difference. You are not who you were in February…true that!

  • you are such an encouragement… and such a fantastic writer! needed these very words today! big xo! trina

  • This was so touching. Thank you so very much for writing this post. It resonated so much with me and I really think it’s an important journey we all have to take when striving to reach that “balance” in our lives. It was so calming and such a great reminder to really stay true to ourselves and what makes us happy as a whole – not just in one area of our lives. I so needed that reminder today so thank you :)

  • Thank you. Words well spent in reading. Enjoy your time with your hubby, sweet girl and yourself. x

  • Best blog post I’ve read in quite a while. Beautiful, Erin. I feel how passionate and confident you are about your new pace and I love it. I’m so happy for you. You’re inspiring me to prune.

    Loved this the most: “People get stuck, thinking they are one kind of person, but they aren’t … The human body essentially recreates itself every six months. Nearly every cell of hair and skin and bone dies and another is directed to its former place. You are not who you were in February.”

    Beautiful, beautiful. Every new season, I feel like I’m totally different person. It’s wacky but thrilling. Now I know that’s biologically true!

  • First off, your writing is so eloquent and beautiful. Kudos to you! Second, I’m so happy that you shared your personal journey that is taking place right now. I’m feeling very similar these days. I’ve tried creating a personal motto for the year to learn from and help me grow. I’ve been reading the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and it has really inspired me to just grow — and continue growing because that’s really what keeps me going. Best of luck to you and your sweet little family! XO

  • i love your goal of looking back on the day and feeling fulfilled, because you filled you day with things that matter. so imspired by you erin!

  • Erin – your words are comforting and uplifting — I’m always grateful after visiting here. Thank you for giving us permission to slow life down and take stock of what truly brings us pleasure. The timing of your post resonates with me because while I will re-enter the working world in business marketing (put on hold 12 years ago when I embarked on the journey of motherhood + caring for my mom and sister in recent years) I will simultaneously be mindful of my actions to ensure that I’m working toward developing a day-to-day livelihood that involves my true passion: art. Whether it means returning to school to learn graphic design or earning a fine arts degree, I’ve come to realize this past week that art is essential to my happiness. I just finished my youngest daughter’s classroom auction project (a labor of love) and now that its complete, I feel an enormous void. Your update gives me the strength to reinvent myself and do it my pace. Thank you. ;-)

    • @Mandy – What a thoughtful comment, Mandy – thank you for sharing this! And gosh, I wish you the best during this transition! I’m confident you’ll do swimmingly. :)

  • I needed this. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, I’ve totally had a moment and feel like a huge weight has been lifted. I’m due with my first baby in less than a month and am driving myself absolutely insane trying to manage my small business (that I run from home) and figure out how we’re going to make room for baby. I love the life that my business affords me, but trying to do everything and be everything is definitely taking it’s tole. I’m going to take this weekend to sort out my priorities and make a plan for slowing down. Thanks!

  • This is exactly what I needed to read today. And I’m breathing easier because of it. Thank you for recognizing what you needed and seizing it for yourself.. and then sharing it with all of us as a completely acceptable and sometimes necessary way of looking at life. Slowing down sounds sooo good, and I’m going to find a way to do a little less, but make it count a little more :) xo

  • I loved this. Keeping life simple…understanding and respecting priorities….setting limits but also knowing that we are constantly changing and to allow ourselves – when we are ready – to break the limits.

  • Oh, Erin. I loved reading this post.

    1) “My garden is growing and shaping, but into what? I’m not yet sure.” I think it’s “better” to be unsure. You have to give yourself permission to be open and undefined. Continue to blossom, dear one.

    2) There is much to be said for silence and rest. I read somewhere that we actually grow and rejuvinate while we sleep because our body replenishes what we damage while we’re awake. We fight our natural pace constantly in order to keep up with ourselves and that’s where the damage is done. You’re one self-aware woman to be able to look at the chaos, understand it for what it is, explore your removal from it, and do so with some really GREAT priorities in mind that will not only benefit you but your loved ones and your relationships with them. Best of luck in all that you do, Erin. And thank you for sharing.

  • Thanks for this post! I especially love the passage from Donald Miller, and also the idea that it’s not that you don’t have time but rather it’s about prioritizing. My routine has recently slowed down dramatically. I have so much less that I “have to” do, yet I feel like the end of the day comes so soon! Thinking about it in terms of priorities makes so much more sense! Thanks for a little more clarity into my own situation!

    • Isn’t it crazy how a simple phrase can change your outlook in the biggest of ways? It’s incredible. :)

  • Wonderful post, Erin. I feel like I started this year with the same good intentions but found myself surprised by the momentum of some things that just wanted to pull me along with them. Now, with a few quiet moments, I’m recommitting to my new year’s intention and trying to slow back down again. Your rose metaphor is a beautiful one. We all need to prune.

    • Oh, Ingrid – I’m right there with you re: good intentions. It’s a task to focus and re-focus my priorities so I don’t get swept away in the momentum, as you so eloquently put it! It can be so trying when you have so many different interests, you know? Sometimes it takes all my strength not to get swept up into the current and suddenly find myself miles down the beach with no sighting of my own umbrella. :)

  • Thank you so much for this heartfelt post, Erin. As a Mama myself with a now-two-year-old little guy at home, it can feel like time is going too too fast. It really is important to create space in your days for what matters right now…a lesson I really needed to be reminded of today, so again, thank you thank you thank you, xo Laura

    • Ah, thank you, Laura – and oh goodness – a 2-year-old at home! Bless you and your sweet boy! :)

  • These words are exactly what I have been thinking and feeling these last few months. Your voice resonates through all of us. My path may be different…I’m an newly divorced empty nester, but I, too am re-creating myself. “That’s just not my priortity right now..” may become my mantra when the phone starts ringing and everyone wants to be at the top of my priority list. I stumbled across your blog, this one in particular for a reason. Lesson received. Slow down and enjoy the journey. Thank you!!!!

    • Ah, thank you for sharing this, Ang! I wish you many moments of peace!!! (And “That’s just not my priority right now” is an EXCELLENT mantra!). ;)

  • Erin, this is beautiful. I have so enjoyed everything you put out there over the past few years. I am happy for you in this transition and new space.


  • Erin, I found you via Lara Blair’s Modern Pairie Girl. I am so glad I did! I have been readng your posts and find them inspirational, heartwarming and beautiful! It is refreshing to read a blog that is honest, down to earth and real! I have been trying to slow down for a while now. This recent post has given me the “ok” to do so!
    I look forward to reading more! I have you on my news feed so I won’t miss a post!
    xo Cindy

  • It takes courage to stop and prune the roses! Kudos for taking the time for what is really important. The best ting I have read on a blog in a long while! Thanks

  • It takes courage to stop and prune the roses! Kudos for taking the time for what is really important. The best thing I have read on a blog in a long while! Thanks

  • It takes courage to stop and prune the roses! Kudos for taking the time for what is really important. The best thing I have read on a blog in a long while! Thanks

  • It takes courage to stop and prune the roses! Kudos for taking the time for what is really important. The best thing I have read on a blog in a long while! Thanks

  • “Baking muffins for my neighbor might fulfill me one day, but welcome stress and anxiety the next.”
    I so much agree with you.
    For a long period, I felt guilty if I didn’t do regularly the things that I thought were important to me, even the hobbies. I was thinking: I love to dance, if I want to improve and give a chance to this part of my life, I HAVE to go tonight to that workshop/party/course…
    And I felt bad, and stressed …for something I’m supposed to love!
    Now, I just let my inner self decides for me. Do I feel like dancing tonight? Do I feel like writing (in French hey, I know I’m too bad in English ;) ), cooking, working badly, calling a friend, being alone, reading a book travelling, staying in my comfort zone, taking a risk,…?
    And it’s so good! And most surprisingly, I don’t loose anything doing less and not thinking in a “competitive” way. It’s all the opposite!
    Thanks for your article, I loved it!

    • I LOVE this; thank you for sharing, Musa!!! I used to be really hard on myself in this way, too – here’s to breathing deeper and letting our inner selves decide! :)

  • haven’t been here for such a long tie. partly due to leaving blogging alltogether. and look: slow blogging movement! Exacly how I feel/felt about it all. Not negative, just racing too much. Nice to read your posts on this.

  • haven’t been here for such a long tie. partly due to leaving blogging alltogether. and look: slow blogging movement! Exacly how I feel/felt about it all. Not negative, just racing too much. Nice to read your posts on this.

    • I couldn’t agree more – glad to hear there’s a kindred spirit among us. :) Nice to see you!

  • This is SO good and I ate up every word from this post! I need a new direction because the current me is worn out every day with all the things I have going on. Reading about how satisfying it is to lead a slower life is making me want a less hectic one too! Thanks for sharing and inspiring! :)

  • This is a really beautiful metaphor for EXACTLY how I feel right now. Sometimes pruning the bushes makes you feel like you are giving up on things that you feel you took on and feel you should see through all the way to the end, but when you keep taking things on and don’t clear any out, thats not good. Prioritizing is the key word, and it’s something I need to get better at.

  • I love Donald Miller’s book! You are so right on.. We are all just works in progress. I, too, am working on slowing down, enjoying life, and finding out who I am, and what I want my life to be about, and that I don’t have to go 90 miles an hours all day every day to feel like I have worth or that I have accomplished something. Thanks for the encouragement!

  • I super enjoyed this post and just wanted to say that your such a great writer. Thats all :)

  • I feel like my priorities are constantly shuffling.
    I want to bake muffins for a neighbor, cookies for coworkers, and more! It sounds like such a great idea. And, I do enjoy the process. But cleaning up? Dirtying a just-cleaned kitchen, then cleaning it up is enough to suck the joy out of it. Is it laziness? Or, something else?
    I found you through Shutterbean, and I’m so glad I did :)

    • SUCH a great point you’re raising! I think it’s interesting how some activities have these micro-joy-suckers attached that keep us from doing them. I’d love to travel the world, but (and this is CRAZY, I know!) as soon as I start thinking about it, my mind counts all of the itchy airport seats and crowded terminals I’d have to swallow to get there. Ha.

  • you have put into words what i have been trying for so long to understand about myself. and i firmly believe motherhood adds a twist to it all. thanks for writing this!

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