I’m a rusher, a multitasker, a list-maker. I routinely try to carry in so many grocery bags from the car that I inevitably end up dropping half of them, taking twice as much time to clean everything up than if I’d just carried in a couple at a time like a sane person. After our second son was born, and I was trying to balance a newborn and a kindergartener and also a book deadline and that crazy amount of newborn laundry, I caught myself running up and down the stairs with baskets of laundry, trying to use my time well while the baby was sleeping. Running. In my home. As though I was participating in a timed obstacle course. In my home.
All this to say: I’m not by nature a slow, cool, wander-through-life kind of person. I wish I was. Instead I’ve always been quick with a side of frantic, efficient with a dash of manic. And about two years ago, that whole way of living stopped working for me. I don’t know if it was age or God or that second baby or another book deadline, but rather dramatically, I was no longer able or willing to run my life on that fuel. And I was no longer able or willing to miss the things I’d been missing in order to get done all the things that had previously seemed so urgent.
I wanted to taste things deeply once again, to play again, to be with instead of do for. I wanted to feel my life, instead of blowing past it day after day, falling asleep too late and then waking too early with a start—dreamless, panicky. I wanted to connect, to taste, to feel, to savor. I used to know how to do those things—we all did, didn’t we? But along the way I became more efficient than connected to God, to my own soul, to the people I love. And I wanted a way back.
Morning devotions were part of the path back for me—silence, stillness, prayer. I needed my life to be quieter, and I needed my soul to be stilled. What I found was that when I begin the day in quiet, that stillness inside me lingers throughout the day, like the smell of having baked bread several hours earlier.
And that stillness inside me, that quiet space I’ve been carrying throughout the day since those morning minutes, is what sustains me. When a glass breaks or the kids fight or a review is bad, these days I can feel that pool of silence, of stillness, of groundedness, and it allows me to be kind, to be patient, to forgive, to be my better self.
I’m finding my better self through silence. I’m finding my most patient self through the practice of stillness. I’m discovering that I was dead wrong about what makes us happy: I thought experiencing more of everything would make me happy. And so I crammed in as much life as I could—meals and moments and trips and adventures and books and movies and up-late nights and up-early mornings and more, more, more. That way of living didn’t make me happy. It made me numb. Exhausted. Perpetually jet-lagged by the speed of my own life, unable to taste all the things I was gorging myself on, literally and otherwise.
What makes me happy is a rhythm of life that allows me to savor a few things, deeply, slowly, completely, instead of cramming my days with so much I stop feeling anything. Savoring is about stillness, about silence, about trusting that simpler is better, that our souls need space more than our ears need more noise.
Again, this is new territory for me. I’m a high-volume, high-speed person by nature. But day-by-day I’m becoming more committed to slow and silent, to the subtler beauty that shines through simpler moments, to the lingering goodness in my spirit that comes from beginning the day with silence instead of noise.
Savoring isn’t about fancy. It isn’t about perfect. It isn’t about everything having to be sparkly and outrageous. It’s about realizing that a cup of tea or an hour with someone you love can nourish you more than all that frantic doing ever will. It’s about training yourself to be entirely present with what is, instead of racing on to what could be, to what you can push and wrangle into motion. Savoring is watching closely for the ordinary beauty of our lives, waiting for us under all the glam and rush that we’ve been trained to see first. Under all that, there are conversations and companionable silences, soup and bread, bedtime routines, loving words from a friend. Those are the real treasures, and deep joy awaits any of us who will learn to savor them.
Shauna Niequist is the author of Savor (Zondervan, March 2015), Bread & Wine, Cold Tangerines, and Bittersweet, and is an enthusiastic hostess, home cook, and passionate gatherer of people. You can connect with her online at ShaunaNiequist.com