The other night, Mr. Magpie came home to me moping around the apartment with a headache and a nothing-can-go-right attitude. It had all started around 4 p.m., when I was already tired after a day on my own with mini and Tilly, and I opened our overstuffed pantry cabinet and three boxes tumbled out and fell on my head. Seconds later, Tilly shredded an important receipt that had been on my desk and minimagpie managed to get a hold of a mercury glass candle holder, which she promptly smashed all over the floor. It was a miracle she wasn’t hurt, but the minute I had her safely in her crib, I sliced my finger on a shard of glass and then grumpily spent the next half hour using tongs to pick up the remaining shards in the thick-pile carpet, then sweeping, then vacuuming, then vacuuming again. I even changed mini’s sheets and carefully wiped down her bed and floor in the event that any shards had been on her clothing. Meanwhile, mini had frozen the iPad and Tilly had eaten a fish stick off the kitchen counter.
I was Alexandra and the no-good-very-bad day.
Mr. Magpie came home and angels trumpeted.
“I’m so glad you’re home,” I said, eager to offload my woeful tale onto a sympathetic ear. He listened, patiently, nodding and offering appropriate condolences that reminded me — if I’m being honest — of how petty I was being, and then suggested a glass of wine.
“No,” I sniffed. “I have too much to do.”
“Come on! I think you should change your plans and plan on having a good night.”
He had a point. I needed to plan on having a good night if I wanted one. It reminded me of something a good girlfriend of mine said to me. She’s a little on the clumsy side (which I say with love, and to which she would also readily admit), and she told me that she’d recently broken one of her mother’s champagne flutes. “Oops! I didn’t mean to!” she cried, bending to pick up the pieces. Her mom had replied: “Well, sometimes you have to mean not to.” My friend shuddered a little bit when she told me this — it was an earnest mistake, after all! — but she said it had changed her outlook, had made her a bit more cautious, a bit more careful, and that she was less clumsy as a result. It felt the same, in a way, with my bad mood. I could have just continued to let bad things pile onto my day, or I could mean not to.
So I changed plans. I asked Mr. Magpie for a little quiet time to myself. I neatly copied the remaining items on my to-do list into tomorrow’s column (I use this and love it because — even though it’s enormous — it offers me enough space to fully outline my daily plans), closed my laptop, and retired to my room. I changed into my favorite white cotton robe and then scrubbed my face and started from scratch, with a fresh face of makeup — including my new favorite foundation (has anyone else tried this?! I’m OBSESSED.) and my tried and true serum. I gussied up my hair with dry shampoo, which I then blow-dried (the secret to not making dry shampoo look like…dry shampoo) and, of course, the best round brush known to man. I put on my favorite body oil and then changed into a feminine dress similar to this and put on oversized floral earrings almost identical to these.
After putting mini to bed, I tidied our living room, lit a candle (we’re now burning this and it smells DIVINE — not overly floral; very fresh and summery), put on the new Leon Bridges album, and poured myself a glass of wine. Normally, I feel rushed to get dinner on the table shortly after mini’s down for the night in order to get into bed by nine for an hour of reading before I drift off to sleep. But tonight, I sat down in the blue armchair by the window overlooking the courtyard and did nothing. We polished off some outrageously delicious lomo iberico (charcuterie) and some smoked ricotta on little Italian semolina crackers. We decided to order in rather than cooking the steak and beets and asparagus in our fridge — which we rarely do. We chatted about this and that — nothing and everything — and sat down to a late supper. I stayed up later than usual that night, watching You’ve Got Mail for the trillionth time and enjoying what Mr. Magpie and I call “bed wine” — i.e., the evening’s final glass of wine, in bed, with pajamas on.
Somehow, a day of minor devastations gave way to an evening of small perfections.
A few days later, I listened to a Goop podcast in which a therapist explained that she often asks female clients struggling with the roles they fill: “Do you experience pleasure? Do you give yourself permission to be excessive, or reckless, or non-responsible? Do you always go to bed at a certain time because you have to wake up the next morning or do you still on occasion just allow yourself no curfew so that you don’t have to feel that you’re a child in your own house?”
I immediately sprang into defensive mode: “Well, I can’t just be irresponsible; I have a baby and a dog to look after, and what would happen if I didn’t answer when the realtor called or the landlord emailed with a question, or if we didn’t have enough paper towels, or if I forgot the milk for mini…!”
After a minute, I swallowed — hard — as I realized I had been flailing wildly against her innocuous (or non-innocuous, come to think of it) query. It dawned on me that the small perfections of the other night had been largely correlated with my minor transgressions against the order of things in our household — an order that I and I alone enforce. (Mr. Magpie is noddingly acquiescent with the routine, but he’s far more likely to live in the moment than I am and — as shown above — far more likely to encourage a last minute change in plan.) The twenty minutes to myself that is usually family time. The evening outfit change. The languid happy hour. The order-in dinner. The late supper and later bed time. The bed wine. I’d even left the dirty dishes in the sink! I had given myself permission, that night, to just do what I wanted to do.
Now — I’m an organized, disciplined person, and planning is in my nature. I’ll never toss routine to the wind or “just go with it,” as a general proposition. But I learned the other day, after the podcast prodded some self-reflection, that I need to give myself permission to “break the norm” on occasion. I was deeply struck by the therapist’s phrasing: “do you just allow yourself no curfew?” Do you just allow yourself. I had not thought about how strictly I had been policing my own behavior until that moment — and for what? For why?
Today, if you’re anything like me, I’d like you to give yourself permission to go off the tracks in some small way — dessert for dinner! An extra cocktail! No curfew! Fries instead of salad! Clothes on the floor! No alarm! Play hookie! Whatever it is — allow yourself to not feel like a child in your own home, because sometimes you really need it.
When I want to go “against type,” I wear my denim jacket (also love this embellished style), or a plain white t-shirt with distressed jeans, or Golden Goose sneakers. I usually dress with a bit more polish and femininity; these pieces make me feel different, edgy.
For inspiration, I have had this book on badass women (from Hilary to Gaga) in my cart for a long while. But I’m also giving myself permission to read fluffy sidecar books, like this, or the latest Elin Hilderbrand.
Dog owners: do you have any indestructible toys you love for your pups? We adore the Fluff N Tuff plush toys, which tend to last a long while, and nothing beats some good old tennis balls (a ball lasts about a week in Tilly’s paws — Jeff Bezos must mistake me for an avid tennis player). But everything else that pledges indestructibility fails. Has anyone tried this? Suggestions?
I have about five blue-and-white striped oxford-style shirts, but…this one? Yes pls.
Glow drops?! I must try this.