The Real Meaning of “Small Life, Slow Life.”

I started this blog almost five years ago. I was sitting at a Starbucks near my boyfriend’s (C, who would later leave me, and come back, and marry me) house, racking my brain about why I’d been so much happier in Japan. And when I looked back, it was all of the little things that stood out to me. Walking home from school while my students called my name and waved. Cooking in my kitchen. Re-learning how to ride a bike (yes, you can absolutely forget). Watching the seasons change from the light coming through my windows.

A small, slow life.

I really wanted to reclaim that life once I got back here. Examining what’s come to pass in the last five years, I can see that I never really did. There were moments of it, sure. I quit my desk job and joined lululemon. There, I found the joy of a team that operated like a family, laughing and eating meals and practicing yoga together. But when C left, I had to take a second job to afford my studio apartment where I lived alone, and I worked seven days a week for almost a year. Not small or slow. Just tired and broke!

There were moments in that apartment, though. Coffee on my balcony. Listening to music while I cooked or cleaned up at night. Reading a book on my meditation cushion. I had glimpses of it.

But if I’m really being honest, the last five years have been big and fast. Lots of promotions at work. Heck, I was married to work. A breakup, reconciliation, engagement and marriage. A pregnancy. And the third trimester of my pregnancy is when everything changed.

What I wanted took a backseat. My baby had stopped growing in my womb, and my doctor put me on immediate maternity leave with instructions to barely leave the couch.

Small life, slow life. And I fought it like hell.

The end of my pregnancy had been difficult. I was getting dizzy spells and huge waves of nausea. I didn’t know that the baby’s umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck three times. Sometimes I had to lay down on the floor of the bathroom at work just to keep from passing out. The more I fought it and tried to get stuff done, the more my body fought back to make me slow down. Finally, the IUGR diagnosis came from the doctor, and I got on the couch and barely got off for the month leading up to her delivery.

I assumed once V entered the world that things would pause and then go back to normal.

But you already know that they didn’t.

She stopped breathing on day two. They had to empty her stomach that was filled with amniotic fluid which kept coming up her throat (because of reflux that had yet to be diagnosed), making her choke.

We had to have her tongue tie cut. Breastfeeding was still extremely difficult, and looking back I wish we’d had her lip tie cut too. I’m seven months in with this baby and I’m still feeding her and pumping around the clock just to get my supply up.

Then the colic came.

We were stuck in the house for months because she’d scream bloody murder in the car. (It was the reflux. I didn’t know that.)

Then, the slow weight gain. V is such a small baby. At her 4 month checkup, she only weighed nine pounds. Our pediatrician told me to stop breastfeeding immediately and to put her on formula made up of 54% corn syrup solids. Nope. So we got a second opinion from who would turn out to be our new pediatrician. And Violet gained three pounds in two months, all on breastmilk.

More recently, she is having trouble with solid foods. Her little digestive system is just so behind. She cried for a full three hours once after eating because it hurt her so much.

I took more time off of work to be with her and feed her as much as I could.

All this time, I’ve been trying to do things my way. But around the time she’d stopped gaining weight, I learned that I was going to have to drop my own agenda and try it out her way.

And that is when V gave me the gift I’ve been chasing for years.

Sunny mornings, looking out the window.

Walks to the park, putting feet in sand for the first time.

A squeal of exhilaration during a first ride in a swing.

Immediate soothing when hearing “Baby Beluga.” (To this day it calms her down in seconds.)

The love and anticipation of being tickled.

Hours and hours in a rocking chair, gently rocking back and forth, back and forth.

Having a child is incredible and frightening. My love is so powerful, and so is my fear. To this day I check that she’s breathing. To this day I long for sleep.

But I also look at her and my heart swells with unbridled delight. And I have never so willingly shoved my own desires aside and fully lived solely for the happiness of another.

I’m going back to work full time soon and I’ve been so worried. It hasn’t been very easy with Violet’s childcare. And I dread missing these little moments that have changed my life.

These seven small, slow months are coming to an end and it absolutely makes me emotional when I think about it.

It has been hard. So hard. Every day, at some point I tell myself to just hang on until the end of the day, till bedtime. Every night at 3am, I remind myself that I’ll sleep eventually.

But when I really pull the camera back and look at the big picture, I see it so clearly. Right there in front of me.

My daughter gave me the kind of life I’d always dreamed of, even though I fought it the whole way. She forced me to think in literal baby steps. Small victories, slow days. And while it was hard, it was everything I’d ever wanted. I’d do it again in a second flat, and more.

But beyond all that, it’s even deeper. I am changed. I look older, and I’m so tired. But though the struggle was hard, I am fulfilled.

Because my daughter taught me how to live.

Sending you the joy of happy kicks, baby squeals, and toes in the sand for the first time.

xoxo, Jen


14 thoughts on “The Real Meaning of “Small Life, Slow Life.”

  1. So much love to you Jen!
    I believe in your small, slow life. My heart fills with a sense of personal success and joy when I read this post. You came through a lot of real pain and hardship and realized through your own growth, a purpose to her life – to help others discover the rainbow on the other side. And often, that rainbow is something we create. And often, it’s found in the midst of a cloudy sky. You deserve this SO much! I wish you the most beautiful things to discover ! And I wish to discover them too 🙂

  2. Hi there!
    I know you are no longer accepting emails but I did send you one on your gmail account. It isn’t very long and I would be so happy and grateful to hear your point of view! After reading all your blogs and comments I feel like I know you!

    If my email posts publicly could you private it? Thanks!

      • I just wanted to say I’ve read all our blogs and all your responses to people’s comments and it’s all helped me survive the past couple months. I was with my ex 9 years we grew up together and we got engaged in october. He moved out in janurary and said he was so scared to get married and needed time and space. I called him crying in February begging for him and he told me to move on and that it wouldn’t work out. My head was spinning because now he had no hope. We haven’t spoke since that day and I’ve been so miserable. How could gen just never speak to me again after 9 years and an engagement. I’ve been forcing myself to stop thinking about him. Went to therapy once and a date last week. These past 3 days I’ve fallen back into a depression. I’ve been listening to Taylor swifts red album like you mentioned and it’s helping me. The songs mean so much more when they actually hit home. I just wanted to thank you for putting yourself out there to help others. Cause it’s really been helping me.

        • I’m glad to hear this has helped, and so sorry to hear what you’ve been going through. I really didn’t begin to feel even a little bit better until four or five months have passed. Books and music and exercise helped me so much.

          I’m sending you a hug. I’m so sorry this has happened to you. I pray the sadness lifts ASAP. ❤

          • Jen,
            Today is a sad day for me. I was fine until a doctor at work I haven’t seen in a while asked me how the wedding planning was going and I had to tell her we broke up. I’ve been laying in bed reading your comments to people trying to get myself back on track but I’m hurting so much. It’s also upsetting to me next week will be 3 months since we last spoke. How could you plan a life with someone and then never hear from them again? Ugh.

            • You will hear from him again, though by the time you do, it may not matter.

              The said, closure always comes.

              I have been there. I wish I had the words to heal what you’re experiencing. Unfortunately, only time does that.

              But I know, and I understand.

              • Happy Mother’s Day to you Jen!
                I am feeling sad today because I feel guilty I didn’t text his mom. She’s been so kind to me the last few months and so supportive but I have to pull away for the sake of myself. I’ve been struggling with how he hasn’t contacted me I’m really distraught right now. It just feels like he never could of cared if cutting me off was this easy. I’m seeing signs and it’s making me crazy.

        • I’ve listened to my share of Taylor Swift, especially Red and 1989. I have another music recommendation for you: Kaleidoscope Heart by Sara Bareilles. The album is a gem, and I’ve listened to it countless times over the last few months. If you look up just one song, look up “Breathe Again.”

          Keep doing what you’re doing. There are going to be tough days, but you’ll make it through.

          • Ohhhhhh yes, I’ve actually seen her live three times now and listened to KH a ton when I was living in Japan. She’s always been a favorite. I actually used to listen to “Gravity” and cry over C wayyyyyyy back in the day! 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for sharing about your journey over the past five years as you have sought a ‘small life, slow life.’ I haven’t read all of your posts, but I have read a number of them since I encountered this blog back in December or January.

    For months– maybe longer– I battled anxiety. At heart, I am a kind, generous, compassionate, optimistic person, but I couldn’t seem to gain control over my emotions and I was almost always stressed and became very negative. I knew what I needed and what I desired, but it seemed like no matter what I tried, nothing got better. Finally, in December, my relationship imploded and my heart was shattered. I was utterly wiped out and was left standing in the ashes of the world I knew. For weeks, the time ticked by so very slowly. I tried to confront and process my pain, and I also tried pretty early on to heal with intention. I had glimpses of joy in between many gray days. After probably two months time, I finally started to feel better and better. I also realized how much of myself I had abandoned and lost. I remember explicitly thinking, “I’ve really missed myself.” The realization comes with its own dose of pain as I try to reconcile how I became in the relationship with the love I had for the man who left me. It’s a delicate balance to be grateful for both the relationship and for the end of it when it caused so much pain. I wish I could say that I was fully healed and moved on, but I still sometimes wonder if and when I’ll ever hear from him, and if he’ll every apologize for how he left. I try to be patient with myself and remind myself that the choice to let go is one I will have to make every day. Even though I am in my late twenties, he was my first relationship and my first love. After five months, I do feel that I am doing very well, and my world continues to grow and blossom with possibilities.

    Your blog posts possess so much wisdom, truth, and sincerity. I’ve read and re-read many of your entries (and the comments) as I’ve worked on healing myself. Your post about pain was so valuable as I navigated my way through the heartbreak, trusting that I would one day be grateful for it. Everything you said in that post was true. My pain held me excruciatingly in the present when, for months, the ability to live in the present was all I had wanted. How ironic. You were also right about the way pain empties you out, making room for joy. I think I’m just getting to the point where I can sincerely thank the pain for what I have gained in wisdom, understanding, and compassion.

    I don’t think we can choose a small, slow life and then have it forever. We always have to strive to choose the right perspective on life, to let go, to keep ourselves in the present moment, and to treasure it. You experienced a small, slow life in bits and pieces before, but I am so glad that Baby V was able to give you the opportunity to live this way for a while. I hope you continue to treasure the little moments and experience a small, slow life as your journey continues.

    Notes: I recently picked up a book that may be of interest to you. It is ‘Zen Heart: Simple Advice for Living With Mindfulness and Compassion’ by Ezra Bayda.

    • This is probably the kindest and most insightful comment I’ve gotten in five years of having this blog. Thank you for your words and for sharing your story.

      I agree that a small, slow life is not like getting a puppy that you can keep. Life goes through cycles and there are times of love and loss, happiness and despair, beauty and hardship. It’s all important and I appreciate all of it.

      Thank you again. ❤

  4. Thank you. It has been a long journey to come as far as I have. My ex and I were friends for seven years before we dated for almost three years. It wasn’t easy to let go, but I have to believe that big love and even greater joy are just around be the corner. I’m happy each day, but I’m also grateful for changes and growth. Mayb someday he and I will at least have the closure we never had, but if not, I still know I will be OK.

  5. What a beautiful family you have. It is so good to know that, even after your darkest moments, things can work out for the good.

    I know you don’t like to address the “How I Got My Ex Back” blog much anymore (Oh man, who could blame you?)… but I, a stranger on the internet, felt compelled to leave this comment.

    I am 28, have lost who I thought was the love of my life (we had a very nasty breakup he initiated, so it’s made any hope of him coming around look bleak). At first, I was desperate to get him back even though he kept kicking me while I was down, telling me how much self-work I had to do (which is true, but he has a lot of his own, too) and something snapped in me when I found this blog.

    I am nowhere near close to being healed, but I want to be. I want to let go of my anger and pain and let everything fall away. I want to see his face in my mind, like you did in your yoga class, and be able to say Good-bye with hopes for a better future (with or without him).

    Thank you for writing your blog (I am definitely going to keep reading all of your posts).

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