Staff Picks: Chasing Slow

April 13, 2017
Note: Throughout this series one of our staff members will be giving you a recommendation and/or a brief review from the world of music, movies, TV or literature. Hopefully this will serve as a way to see inside the head of our staff members and direct you towards some listening, viewing or reading material for your own personal growth and enjoyment. Today’s is from special guest, Leah Hallahan. Leah is our youth pastor’s wife and this blog post was originally posted here.

Do you ever have your best thoughts of the day in shower?  I do.  Some of my best ideas in life, including the name of my business, came to me while I was in the shower.  A couple of months ago, I had a revelation in my thinking place, and later that day, shared it with my husband.

He chuckled as I explained my thoughts to him and he responded by asking, “Can I just give you your Valentine’s Day present now?”  It was a week before Valentine’s Day- but my revelation seemed to go along seamlessly with the book he had bought for me.  Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner, author and owner of the blog Design For Mankind– is a thought provoking read, and shares a lot of the sentiment I had been feeling in my own life. 

For those of you who do not know, before I was an interior decorator, I was a sixth grade math teacher in a Title 1 school in New Jersey.  It was a very difficult job that left me many days, drained, depressed, and defeated.  As it turned out, I was actually really good at the job, at least that’s what my administrators and evaluations would say.  And while I may have dragged my feet into the classroom everyday, it didn’t take a genius to see that my work at that school had real meaning.  No, my students never had any life-changing revelations while in my classroom, (I don’t think), but I knew that my being a consistent force in their life day-after-day meant something to them, and hopefully affected them for the better during such a rough time of their lives. 

 It was a consistent, reliable job. I could count on waking up every morning at the same time Monday through Friday.  I would be done my school day at 3:00, tie up any loose ends and prepare for the next day, and then come home to my husband and baby.  I could count on 12-year-olds being 12-year-olds and driving me up the wall. I could count on my summers and major holidays off and my salary bringing in the same amount on my paycheck every two weeks.

 Nevertheless, my soul longed for something more.  I dreamt of going back to my original passion for interior design, a dream I had been dreaming since I was about 10 years old. I wanted a creative outlet, the freedom to be my own boss, and no limits on where this venture could take me.  And so, after 5 years of teaching, I did just that.  I started my own business, and began to thrive…sort of. 

 With starting my own business, I no longer had these strict guidelines as to how long my work day would last, how much my paycheck would bring in, and how these new clients would treat me.  I definitely felt measuring my success depended on how busy I was.  When friends and relatives asked me how business was going, the times that I was able to reply “Busy!” got a very positive reaction.  But during the times when I wasn’t busy, the questions would creep into my head: “Did I make a mistake?” “Am I doing something wrong?” “Do I have what it takes?”

 Erin Loechner says in her book:

The instructions told us that hard work means logging a lot of hours at the office to pay for more things so as to appear you are logging a lot of hours at the office. The instructions told us to work hard, then play hard, but mostly work hard. You can play hard when you’re dead. Isn’t this called responsibility?

 If I was not “busy,” I did not have a successful day. I did not contribute towards the well-being of my family.  When did our lives become all about work rather than working enough to live our lives?  When did every day become about getting more, more, more? More clothes, more shoes, more home goods, more dining out, more cars, more activities for our children, more lattes, more everything!  With the way our brains have been trained by our “More, More, More” society (a.k.a. advertising, tv, social media), we feel burdened by how much we take on in our lives.  Let me repeat that phrase there- “we take on.” We do this to ourselves. As Erin puts it:

‘God will not give you more than you can handle.’
I think this to be true. But I also wonder if God has given us a few things- an aging parent, some mouths to feed, a recent job loss- and we have given ourselves many more things- the Target credit card bill, a yard to mow, a bigger house with an extra bedroom for guests, three dinner parties to host, and the inability to say no to serving the animal crackers in Sunday school twice this month. Between God’s giving and our own giving, there is excess.

 So I ask you, do you feel this pressure from the world like I do? To be busy and stay busy? To add to your already full plate just because everyone else seems to be? I am learning slowly, that whatever stage my life is in at this very moment, it is where I need to be.  If my entire day is spent not sourcing products or gaining dozens of new clients, but rather playing legos and making s’mores by the bonfire outback with Riley and Dave, that’s what it needs to be.  And I will not let the pressure of society make me feel like this was a wasted day.  We are allowed to rest. Did you know that? We are allowed to say “No.” We are allowed to be content with EXACTLY what we have. 

 Let me leave you with a quote that Loechner placed at the start of one of her chapters by Lev Grossman from The Magicians:

For just one second, look at your life and see how perfect it is.  Stop looking for the next secret door that is going to lead you to your real life. Stop waiting. This is it: there’s nothing else.  It’s here, and you’d better decide to enjoy it or you’re going to be miserable wherever you go, for the rest of your life, forever.

 I can’t get that quote out of my head. What if, at the age of 29, I am perfectly happy. Not waiting for the next chapter. Not wishing I had that new sink in my kitchen. Or that our bathroom would finally have a that soaker tub I’ve been dreaming about.  Not looking for what’s around the corner. Yes, I will keep working. I will keep loving what I do. I will keep being an awesome mom and wife for my family. I will be grateful for whatever God decides to bless our family with. But I will strive to be content, and enjoy this perfection right now. Because that’s what this life is. So thank you, Erin Loechner, for putting into words what I’ve been feeling inside. Thank you for giving me some courage to journey off the beaten path and chase the slow life.  To live with less, instead of more. To appreciate the now, instead of waiting for the “good life” down the road and around the corner. 

 With this beautiful start of spring upon us, what better time then to stop and smell the roses, or tulips since they’re in bloom.  Share with me if you can relate to this post at all and let’s encourage each other to be more grateful, content, and to move through our days just a little bit slower.