body in motion

When I was in a tailspin after losing my job, I became completely lethargic. I couldn’t move. Entropy was a state I knew all too well. I kept looking up the word “entropy” in the dictionary, staring in awe at the definitions, they so perfectly captured the spirit of my deranged soul. “A measure of the unavailable [emphasis added] energy in a closed thermodynamic system” [which I once considered myself to be--please, no scientific quibbles here--we’re going for the poetic license of the depressed]. Then there was “a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder.” That would be me.

When spring rolled around, I began walking again, perhaps out of sheer boredom, or perhaps the warm air curled around the clenched fist of my heart and softened it a bit. It felt surprising to be a body in motion. I was pretty aimless; I just hit the street, and wandered wherever my feet took me. I let my mind wander, too. I didn’t get aerobic about the exercise--either mentally or physically--didn’t even think of it as exercise, for if I had it would have ended. When a pattern in the sand intrigued me, I stopped and looked. When chartreuse lichen on a wet stone caught my eye, I stopped and gazed. If I noticed a turtle sunning on a log, I stopped and soaked in the sunshine too. My walking had a rhythm of stopping and starting. And that was an improvement on being stopped cold.

Some days, I walked for miles. I would get home hours later, my feet sore, my hamstrings taut, but my mind would feel clear. Once I got into the habit of walking, I couldn’t stop. Something about moving helps me in everything else I do, especially in writing. It is almost as if I hit a reset button for my life every day. I relax, my thoughts untwist and unwind, and my body responds as well: I feel stronger, more flexible. I even began to sleep more smoothly (losing that herky-jerky waking through the night). I’m going to write more about insomnia, and bedtime, in another post. But to finish up with walking: I have been completely unsystematic, just letting myself grow into a new way of moving through the world. Now, if I don’t get out for a stroll every day--sometimes fast, sometimes slow--I can feel myself get jangled and gnarly. I am so glad to be a body in motion.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dominique,

Congratulations, quite a beautiful & tasteful blog. Body in Motion made me think that I, too, need to walk more. Which I'll do right after I write to you.
Do you miss Pelham? I walk by your house and alwyas 'see' you there. I think part of us stays behind in the things we love...
Best of luck,
Bea Ball

Toad said...

Welcome to the world of blogging. It is much like exercise. its a journey. There is no goal. One foot in front of another.

You have been missed, its good to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common–this is my symphony.”

dominique said...

Anonymous, gorgeous quote, also anonymous?

TOAD: Thank you so much for your support and inspiration. And that picture of your legs! I'm still reeling.

Bea: How lovely to hear from you. I miss Pelham very much--miss my garden, and my friends, and my walks, the whole thing. Except the taxes. Oh well, such is life. How is the travel business? Post your link to your gorgeous site so we can find it. And thank you so much for writing.

Fuji said...

Apologies, by William Henry Channing

Fiona said...

I enjoyed reading this post, I'm going to add your blog to my daily reading. A couple of years ago when I started walking to work in earnest, I got my ipod engraved with "It is solved by walking", a quote from the Songlines by Bruce Chatwin. I just recently had to leave my job after 15 years so I am in a period of flux and unknown and I should probably start walking more.

Susan Wells Unkel said...


You and I were close friends our first year at Wellesley College. Would have lived to keep up with you, but had some traumatic events in my life shortly after and lost touch.

I also have experienced the ebb and flow of life's gifts.

Rediscovered you via 'Paths of Desire' and have been following your book reviews on the NYT. Congratulations on that!

Is there any more personal way we could get in touch? I'm on facebook as Susan Wells-unkel. Please let me know; and warmest of love and wishes.

Catherine Nolin said...

So glad I have found this blog.

Diane said...

Hi Domnique. I wasn't sure where to post this - but this seemed like the right place.

I just finished reading your excerpt from your new book in the New York Times. Thank you. It was so inspirational for me. I lost my job a month ago, and reading your story was the first time that I had tears in my eyes since it happened. And that's a good thing because I've realized that I need to let myself feel, and I've been suppressing those feelings.

Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for being so honest about it. That takes courage, and that courage is one that will help others.

I'm so happy you found your next phase. I can't wait until I find mine.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dominique,
Just read your piece in NYT and shared it with my online network. I never subscribed to the magazine, but I can see how you must have made a brilliant editor! You have a gift for taking the reader with you -- making them a part of your moment. Your reality. Your life. Thank you.
P.S. Is there a way the typo in your NYT piece could be corrected online? It says "I put the plate of peanut better" on Page 3.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

This is why I always heartily recommend owning a dog. They get you out walking even when you'd rather not.

Janet Ungless said...

Hi Dominique, from Janet Ungless

It's been quite a long time....What a gorgeous, soulful excerpt in the Times, can't wait to read the book. Love to connect with you more personally, I'm at janetungless@gmail, or on facebook. Will you send me your contact info? I also have an idea about connecting you with exhale mind body spa, where I think your book would be a great fit.

Anonymous said...

Oh, walking is my salvation. That's where I get most of my creative ideas (the ones that don't come to me while lying in bed).

I enjoyed the NY Times piece about unemployment. So apt!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dominique,
Just read your piece in the NYT magazine and I felt such a heartfelt connection to you. That you could be so open and honest about your feelings and experience is admirable. I lost my job about 10 years ago and was so terrified. I had never been unemployed for the first 18 years of my working life. Like you it was my structure, my "scaffolding" as you put it. You express that existential dread so well. You have a sort of poetry deep in your soul that I can sense. I too like to take walks to clear my head. There is something about being in motion that helps me to think better. Trains have the same effect on me. Some of my best inspirations come to me on the train. Best of luck with your blog and your book. I look forward to reading more.

Sarah Spongberg said...

Hello Dominique,
Janet Coleman forwarded your beautiful NYT article to me this morning and I read it with great interest...what a lovely piece of writing and what an inspirational message you have for so many ..
I hope to see you this summer in LC..
All best,
Sarah Spongberg

Anonymous said...

As I ponder retiring. your quote "Grow into a new season" requires some positive action on my part for sure. However, since it's is your quote, I think it would be a great title for an article. New York Times piece was well done. Thank you, looking forward to more.

Cynthia said...

Ms. Browning, I so appreciate your sharing your poignant, deeply personal story in "Losing It" (NYT).

As a fellow traveler on this new path (at 55), grappling with this new “problem with no name”, I too have spent time sorting out how to move forward. There are many stories of how other older achieving women reinvented themselves, but we all share the personal challenge of creating a new identity and structure after conventional work ends. Too young and vital to retire, we are all “vanguard scouts” in this uncharted land. One of my answers was to get a graduate degree at Harvard so now I’m writing a book about these “intertidal years”.

Thanks for being an eloquent spokeswoman.


Jean Montgomery said...

Dear Dominique,
It was so good to read your article in the Times. As a long time reader of House and Garden, I always read your editorial first. I look forward to reading your new book.
My shelter magazines are now House Beautiful and Architectural Digest; the former boring and the latter pretentious. And now Gourmet is gone too! And so it goes. Good luck.
Jean Montgomery