Dominique Browning's 'Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas & Found Happiness'

Read an excerpt from Dominique Browning's memoirs.

ByABC News via logo
June 4, 2010, 1:13 PM

June 9, 2010 — -- Dominique Browning's "Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas & Found Happiness," tells the story of how Browning lost her job as editor at House & Garden magazine, and as a consequence, also lost her focus in life.

With humor and insight, Browning tells how she eventually found insight, purpose and happiness.

Read an excerpt of the book below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.

The wind often dies down in the afternoon. The pond is a glassy black; it is a good time to go out in the kayak. Theo has returned to school, the summer renters have left as well, and the whole town seems to breathe easier, decongested. I have been alone for the last week, enjoying an unusual amount of solitude -- no visitors, no dinner parties, no deadlines, and no need for phone calls. Just my piano, my journal, my books, and the coyotes, foxes, minks, otters, raccoons, possums, bats, birds, snakes, and owls at my doorstep.

It will be an easy trip across the pond to the barrier beach, where I'll take a long walk and a swim in the ocean before dinner. I get the paddle and rubber boots out of the garage. It gives me pleasure to set out on this journey with a small bag containing only what will fit with me in the boat: goggles and a towel. My field glasses hang from my neck. I have a debate with myself about the cell phone. That old anxiety, but am I really going to need to call the coast guard for rescue? I don't want to become unable to disconnect. Trouble will wait. Good news ripens in delay. I set off without the phone.

I head out the back door and down the path mowed through the meadow to the edge of the water. I am careful not to step in a small creature's hole. If I wrenched an ankle, who would help me? I'm annoyed at that tinny voice that natters through my days. My parents, my sister, my children, and my friends all tell me to be careful. Don't swim by yourself. Don't go so far out. Don't use the kayak alone. Don't leave your doors unlocked. What are you doing up there, all by yourself? They're expressing love, I remind myself. But their worry is contagious, making me nervous, and I get the distinct feeling that they disapprove of my solitude; it also makes them anxious. So be it. I have finally come to embrace it. Someone once explained to me the difference between an introvert and an extrovert: both can enjoy going to a party, but the extrovert is energized by society, whereas the introvert has to recover from it. My batteries get drained easily these days, and need recharging in silence. Alone, I am willingly, cheerfully thrown upon myself.

It has been a beautiful September day, and the air is fresh and clear. What a gift to be able to go where I want. I am no longer young, but after all, I am not yet so old. Although I worry about pulled muscles, I am not at all frail. Even though I live alone, I live in the watchful care of loving friends and family. 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 will to get going. I have learned by now that getting going is the most important thing.

My little boat is a poky, squat, plastic affair, but it sits high -- helpful in shallow water -- and it is stable. It is dark green, to blend with the field in which I keep it, upside down, so it doesn't fill with rain. I flip it over. It does fill with ants and spiders and pill bugs, which I wipe out before dragging the boat down to the water. The thing may be ugly, but it fits me, or I fit it, and that is satisfying.

I ease one end of the boat into the pond, pushing through a gap in the cattails, which are so tall they hide me. Good thing, too, because the sight of me getting into the boat is comical, if not embarrassing. The water is so low I have to take a step into the muck to get the boat out far enough to float it. I've done this maneuver a hundred times, but I'm surprised by my awkwardness, my stiff knees. They actually creak. I have to move slowly, which means my foot is sucked deep into the mud before I wrench it out, give the boat a wobbly push, and crouch into the seat in the bottom. I'm fine once I'm settled. Feeling thankful again for their cover, I back out of the cattails.

I turn my boat around and get the hang of the paddle. The cormorants gathered on a rock have spread open the shiny black capes of their oily-feathered wings to dry. The swans drift away; there were at least a hundred on the pond this summer. "What'd you do?" a friend once asked. "Call Disney? This place is out of central casting." They are mute swans. They came here, the story goes, from Long Island, where a wealthy man had imported them to his estate from England in the '20s: the queen's own swans. I had seen the same kind on the Thames. When the man lost his fortune in the crash of '29, the grounds went to ruin, and the swans left to feed from other ponds. Their population no longer controlled, they spread across Long Island and then came north into Connecticut and Rhode Island. They are beautiful and nasty. They are fiercely territorial, and when threatened they attack -- bodies high, necks thrusting, beaks wide and hissing, enormous wings flapping so powerfully they could easily snap my arm in two. It is not difficult to imagine how poor Leda was carried off by a swan to be raped. From time to time the swan population begins to overwhelm this marsh pond; the birds' necks are so long that they feed easily off the shallow bottom. They make it difficult for the smaller ducks to find nourishment. Some of the swans keep their necks underwater so long that their feathers become green with algae. Every once in a while someone starts a population control program, addling the large eggs and leaving them in the nests to fool the swans into slowing their production. It doesn't seem to work for long. Lately, though, some of the swans, perhaps feeling crowded, have pioneered the short flight to settle on Martha's Vineyard.

My arms ache, though I am not very far across the water. Taking the island that sits squarely in front of my house as a midway point, I give myself a rest. I balance my paddle across my lap, and as the boat drifts gently, I take an inventory of the other houses around the pond.

I've often wondered where home really is, for those of us (most of us) who don't live where we were raised or where we raised our children. I've finally decided that home is not necessarily where you live all the time; it is where you want to be when you die, where you want to be buried or have your ashes spread. Or perhaps it is the place where you feel most alive and true to yourself. This pond, then, is home to me, at least for now. I've come to accept that I can't count on anything to be permanent and it no longer matters. I know that if I ever leave this home, I will make another. If I ever lose my garden, I will plant another. What I crave is a place that slows me down and reconnects me with nature, the sea, the trees, the night cries of the animals. I picked this place to be my home; I wasn't born into it. I picked it, and now I have grown into it.