THE BROWNING COMPASS
I finished Dominique Browning’s latest book, Slow Love. It took me only a few days and I enjoyed every minute of it. The story recounts the end of House & Garden, the magazine she edited for a number of years, managing to increase its circulation a hundred fold. Despite her success, her creation was destroyed and her job eliminated, all without warning. Given today’s economic conditions, the tale is all too common. Thousands upon thousands of people can identify with her story and she tells it with gut wrenching honesty. After her firing, she details her weight gain, her life in pajamas as she hides from the world, her crumbling relationship with a married man, and the compulsory sale of her cherished home. She thinks she has nowhere further to fall and then her doctor informs her she has a virulent form of cancer.
Nothing in this memoir makes the writer unique. I have friends who have been dropped down the same rabbit hole. Lots of people have. That makes her book worth reading. Anyone in her predicament can be assured that sometimes the fetal position is normal for an adult. The rest of us gain an insight into the enormity of the struggle.
I wish I could say that Browning’s story ends happily, in the way we think about happiness. She didn’t find a new editorship and no one came to her rescue. She had to adjust the dials of her compass herself and set out on a new course. What she discovers comes as a surprise: the times when she felt she was in control were the times she was lost. Happiness is not an external but an internal measurement. In accepting herself and all her presumed failures, she reaches a quiet point. She is more than a job description or a title. As she sits in her kayak beneath an open sky, she discovers her intrinsic worth. Before her lies a horizon of 360 degrees. She is free to strike out in any direction. The world offers alternate potentials. As her understanding grows, the pages that follow bring a quietude that is akin to Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gift from the Sea.
The author’s journey is an all too human one. Life is full of disconnects between who we are and what we want to be. Sometimes a catastrophe forces us along a path we would rather avoid. We needn’t fear it. Browning shows us we can adjust with grace.