Chasing Slow: a book review.
Maybe you feel it. That tug in your heart, in your bones. Slow down, it whispers. You don’t have to try so hard.
This world tries to tell you a different story. It says you must always be doing more in an effort to be more, to be loved more. It tries to convince you who you are isn’t enough, that you have to dress yourself up in Pinterest-worthy outfits and perfectly curated social media feeds to be worth anything.
I am naturally inclined to live at breakneck speed. It’s how I lived for most of my life, until it all came to a screeching halt in 2014 and Jesus flipped everything upside down. That’s when I began to feel that tug in my own life. Slow down. You don’t have to try so hard.
Erin Loechner is a kindred spirit to those of us who’ve spent any amount of time chasing fast, chasing more, always feeling like you’ve never quite arrived.
In her book, Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path, Erin chronicles her personal journey of stepping away from the fast and the frenzy and leaning into the slow and the still, reframing her life on the knowledge that we already have everything we need, we have already arrived.
With nuance and care, Erin shares her triumphs and losses — from building a successful online career and giant fan base before she turned 30 to grappling with her husband’s brain tumor, bankruptcy, and public criticism — in a way that invites your soul to be at rest. She weaves a beautiful narrative filled with funny, poignant, and sad moments, all the while encouraging you to shed expectations for who you’re “supposed” to be in favor of who you already are.
Two years into my own journey toward a simpler and slower life, Erin’s story crossed my own path and in her words I found a part of myself, bits and pieces of my own story that is still working itself out. Through it all, her words gave me some important reminders:
1. Thinking about living isn’t the same as living.
I have spent most of my life afraid and more than anything, I have learned the most common thing fear does is convince us that inaction is better than failure.
So we think about our dream lives, with all of the details planned out in Instagram-worthy style. And we think and we think some more. And maybe we make a board on Pinterest or talk with our friends about it. We might even make some plans. But all we ever do is think and plan, because we’re afraid. Fear has convinced us it’s better to just dream about our perfect life than risk falling flat on our face while we go after it.
But Erin reminds us thinking about living is not the same as actually living. Oscar Wilde put it this way, “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
Living, truly living, requires action, and action always invites the possibility of failure, but it also invites the possibility of success beyond your wildest dreams.
2. The secret to subtraction.
Our lives are filled with excess — of physical possessions, events on the calendar, information and social media updates and news. It’s no wonder we’re overwhelmed and anxious.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve thought the key to overcoming the overwhelming nature of excess is to reduce — declutter the things, clear the schedule, purge the social media feeds. But Erin reminds us of this, “Here is the secret to subtraction. It doesn’t matter what you remove. What matters is that you stop adding it back.”
The American culture has trained us to think more is always best, so add and we remove and we add again and we go round and round in a circle that leaves us stressed and burnt out. So stop adding back and refuse to let anyone tell you that’s wrong.
3. The crowd doesn’t tell you where you are.
Social media is a wonderful thing and a horrible thing. It connects us and isolates us. It inspires and encourages us and also drives us to comparison, self-doubt, and envy.
I love social media and believe we can use it in great ways. The trouble comes when we use it as our measuring stick for how we’re doing in our own lives, when what we’re often seeing expressed by others is an edited life, devoid of any part of ourselves we don’t love.
Allowing social media to tell you how you’re measuring up is like looking to a crowd to tell you where you are — all you see is a mass of people, but that doesn’t answer the question you were asking all along.
Use social media to connect with wonderful, encouraging people, but don’t let it tell you where you are or who you are. Ground yourself in truths about who you are first and stand firm in the place you’re at, regardless of how close or far the rest of the crowd is.
4. Difficult and bad are not the same thing.
The last four years of my life have been hard and this last year has probably been the most difficult one yet. I’ve had many frustrated conversations with Jesus, constantly wondering what He’s doing in the middle of it all.
But when I look back, I see so much goodness, not just in individual moments, but in the growth that has happened. Erin reminds us that difficult and bad are not the same thing, and the moments that often seem the hardest or the darkest often product the most beautiful fruit.
Novelist Stewart O’Nan puts it this way, “You couldn’t relive your life, skipping the awful parts, without losing what made it worthwhile. You had to accept it as a whole—like the world, or the person you loved.”
Sarah Anne Hayes is a believer, writer, and unabashed bibliophile. She spends her days running her small business, sharing her love of simplicity and ethical fashion, planning out her next adventure, and belting out show tunes. Sarah believes life is a gift meant to be celebrated, Tuesday morning should be as memorable as Saturday night, and nothing boosts your confidence like the perfect red lipstick. Connect with her on instagram or her blog.