I felt as though I was waiting for life to happen to me for much of my teens and early twenties — angling for even the slightest brush with drama, or good fortune, or fiasco. I recall moodily listening to songs whose words of heartache or enterprise did not match my own circumstances, desperately willing them to ferry something other than phantoms borne of my own imagination. Would you believe that a young and desperate fifteen-year-old Jen drove down Connecticut Avenue with her provisional license in hand, blasting (my God, this admission both dates and humiliates me) REM’s “Everybody Hurts” followed by Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You,” aping heartbreak to which I laid no claim? I compulsively read books whose piquant narratives were unimaginably different from my own and simultaneously interpreted my own life as pathetically devoid of intrigue. I manufactured dramas, like the time I slammed my clutch on the ground, sprinting away from Mr. Magpie at the wedding festivities of some of our friends, because I felt I was owed a proposal that was at that time, unbeknownst to me, in the works.
Oh, of all the things — to have had Mr. Magpie’s heart but still insisted on seeing what I did not have? I was writhing toward the future, or at least toward an emotional spark — or better yet, to my naive and excitable sensibilities, fireworks. I was desperate for the shape of something substantial. And, of course, largely and unforgivably blind to the prodigious gifts I had.
I can’t remember when I stopped thinking that way. Was it a moment? An incident? One of the many losses or challenges or even beautiful happenings of the past many years? Or was it a gradual slackening, a loosening of my grip on the notion that life had not yet begun for me? Was it the way that we learn to cling to our own blessings as we observe and occasionally shoulder the burdens of others? Or perhaps simply the slow, inexorable maturation of self that happens as we make our way through myriad decisions and uncertainties and tears and laughters?
I don’t know. I do know that it has occurred to me at various fraught junctures of that past few years, that perhaps too much life is happening to me. Can we just slow down now? I think. I want for nothing. And I mean that in every sense of the phrase, even the selfish one: that is, I want nothing more to happen to any of my loved ones, even if my imagined moratorium forecloses on possible future boon. I want everyone freeze-framed in good health and happiness, in various permutations of ascent and success. I would of course prefer for us to all be beyond this pandemic but please, please — nothing more. I am satisfied here at this perch. I recognize this entreaty to be just as foolish as my youthful desire to fast forward to my future self, and that part of maturity is surely facing the unknown with — if not acceptance, then grit, seasoned with healthy and learned-the-hard-way circumspection.
At my wedding, my Dad read, in a voice uncharacteristically choked with emotion, with eyes unexpectedly rimmed with tears, the beautiful words of “The Exhortation Before Marriage,” a relic of pre-Vatican Catholicism I’ve lauded elsewhere:
“This union, then, is most serious, because it will bind you together for life in a relationship so close and so intimate, that it will profoundly influence your whole future.
That future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows, is hidden from your eyes.”
At the time, I heard only the rhythm of the prayer and its solemnity of form and expression, and I reacted strongly to the import of it being read, tearfully, by my beloved father. It was moving because it was moving to my dad. Beyond that, on that hazy August evening, I felt nothing but anointed in life.
Now I sit here and read those words and realize that I did not take seriously enough the threat and joy of things hidden. And I feel moved in a different way.
I think, in short, that at some point in the last decade, there has been a shift in ballast, and it all hangs on the tenor of my apprehension of “that future, with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and its failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows.” At 36, I find myself planted firmly on the other side of something — some eidolon I was busy constructing for a large swathe of my younger years — and the achievement of this view is accompanied by a renegotiation with optimism, or perhaps, because I do not consider myself a pessimist, an accommodation of reality.
And now for our daily dose of the delightful and frivolous…
+This $100 draped velvet top is SO major! Love the unusual dusty color, the fit, and the pricepoint!
+Still not over the Gucci Deva flat, especially in this new wool plaid situation. Santa, are you out there?
+Truly, if I were going to make an investment this winter, I would splurge on a Max Mara camel wool coat. The Madame is iconic but I also love this elegant style from their diffusion label, Weekend Max Mara, for one third the price. I also really love Reiss’ Leah style — perfect length.
+Though I typically alternate between Mad Hippie’s Vitamin C serum and Vintner’s Daughter, I recently read a few raving reviews about Vichy’s formula (and then, as of the time of writing this, found it was $4 off on Amazon) so I’m giving it a try. TBH, I find that most topical Vitamin C products work great. I also loved the one I tried from Ole Henriksen — it was my first serum and I was stunned at the results. I’ve liked every Vitamin C product I’ve tried since. But I’ll report back on Vichy — if it’s as good as the rest, why overspend? We can save our money for Westman Atelier.
+Eyeing this ear warmer for cold mornings. Not sure if it’d be great for running given material, but looks so amazing for walks through the park. Speaking of running, I had to publish a caveat on my post raving about Lululemon Aligns — an employee of Lululemon commented that Aligns are not made for running and that they will pill more quickly when used as such. Just a heads up! I don’t want to lead you to an early Lulu demise by drawing you to my wanton ways — ha. I personally will continue to run in them because they just feel great, don’t slide down at the waistband, etc., and will gladly replace when needed.
+Speaking of fitness gear, one Magpie commented that she’s been wearing 90s-vibe cotton basics (oversized college tees, etc) while exercising lately and I can’t unsee it. Do I need these $31 Lacoste tennis shorts to follow suit?! (I see you, Katherine — style icon!)
+While we’re at Lacoste, note that they are running a great sale on their iconic polos for little ones (also available in a style with scalloped edges) — even in the best basic colors, like white and navy. Just stocked up for both children for next summer. I am also drawn to this neoprene gray sweatshirt for myself…
+My children would LOVE this magnetic face set. Kind of like an artsier Mr. Potato Head.
+Also in the vein of pretty decor finds: this domino set — pretty enough to keep out!
+Are we all getting tired of headbands? I thought I was towards the middle of summer but then I came back around. Now I have convinced myself I need this style for the holidays.
+If you’re still shopping for that person you don’t know that well but who you must give a gift to — why not a pretty ornament? They are both impersonal and personal in the best ways.