The last few days, I have felt disconnected from myself, unable to settle into my thoughts and my body as I usually do. I have been the finical bird. I had trouble clipping back into my running routine after taking a break to nurse myself back from a nasty head cold, I was dizzied from trundling our way through an overstuffed social calendar, and household admin in general has been at (what feels like) an all-time high.
How do you recenter in these moments?
In an ideal world, I would have gotten outside for a long hike. I would have paused. I would have given myself a day off. I would have gotten outside of my head. When I do those things, I usually find myself in possession of a new perspective that reminds me that many inanities pass as urgencies.
But all of that felt impossible this week given various demands and commitments, and so I looked for “the small things.”
That is: in what small ways can I call myself back inside?
I found that being deliberate in — even a little extravagant with — the scant pauses throughout my day (the car ride home from dropping off the children, the shower before bed, the lunch break at noon) was the answer.
As an example, I have recently been taking my lunch at my desk in my writing studio. Usually, Mr. Magpie and I try to eat lunch together, but I have been pedal to the metal, and this has felt like one easy way to earn a little extra time in my workday. When I have finished these desktop lunches, I have been stacking my plates on a table outside my room rather than descending to place them in the dishwasher, as a civilized human might do. Then I have been sitting in my studio vaguely aware of the meal’s detritus, side-eying it as a chore I must eventually tackle.
As it turns out, these tiny “time-saving” decisions have been coloring my days, and not in a happy shade.
So instead, I have been repeating the words: “Make this the most important thing.” If I am taking lunch, I want to breathe into that noontime break. I want to sit at the dining table without my phone and enjoy a conversation with my husband. I want to clear the plates afterward, restoring the kitchen to its tidiness.
If I am going for a run, I don’t want it sandwiched in between other commitments, a distracted tick-mark on my daily agenda. I want to take the time to stretch, to pause to take a picture on the Crescent Trail, to sit in my warm car afterwards, responding to text messages about lyrics from Taylor Swift’s new album from my sisters. Surely the work, the admin of my life cannot be so intense so as to displace the five minutes of downtime here, ten minutes of jogging there, that make me feel better?
I am sure I have lost an hour of “productivity” in the wake of these gifts to myself, but the math that matters holds up:
It is about measuring my days in terms of presence, not productivity.
I am haunted by an interview I read recently with an angel of a woman who provides end-of-life care. She said that some of the most common things she heard from people as faced their own deaths: “I wish I’d worried less, I wish I’d worked less.”
In some ways, this message feels contradictory with the thrust of my more common posts on focus, self-reliance, discipline. But morose as this might sound, it has recently been occurring to me that there will come a time at the end of my life where so much of what clutters my day-to-day will seem absolutely immaterial to the point of laughable. I predict that in a few decades, I will not care whether I finished that damned short story I’ve been working on this month or next, but I will cling to the way Mr. Magpie burst into unbridled laughter over the lunch table today, that I will caress the many noontime meals we enjoyed in our quiet, child-free home this fall. I will not care whether I’d laundered my sheets this week day, but I will remember my son’s sunrise face peeking up from beneath the covers, radiating with laughter, deferring the laundering process. I will not care if my daughter went to school with a non-regulation uniform sweatshirt because I had not found time to track down the ones that went missing in the lost-and-found; I will think instead of our conversation the other night: “Do you know how much I love you?” I asked her. She nodded. “I’ve known since I was a baby,” she said, which I think she meant matter-of-factly, as in, “you’ve been telling me this since I was born,” but which shot me right in the heart.
I’m willing to lose a little productivity to make space for more of that.
In case you need to give yourself dispensation today to leave the toys on the floor, or the assignment til next week, or the laundry to tomorrow —
Here is your permission slip.
+When was the last time you surprised yourself?
+On working through moments of self-doubt.
+On grief: “life takes root around the perimeter.”
+Obsessed with these little minis from J. Crew in tartan and solids.
+I recently re-discovered a Kevyn Aucoin face countouring palette I bought years ago. I’m not big into contouring / heavy makeup, but I’ve used it a few times the last few weeks when getting ready for evenings out and some professional photographs, too — he includes instructions that make it really easy to highlight and accentuate the most flattering parts of your face. I also still use his SSE ALL THE TIME. It’s a great, heavy-duty concealer for my fellow Magpies with dark undereye circles.
+FUN little dress.
+Apparently this $12 tee has gone viral — people rave about its quality/fit.
+A great fleece zip-up — love silhouette!
+These mini huggies look more expensive than they are.
+These navy velvet Mary Janes for a little on are a great price for holiday affairs.
+Swooning over the color and shape of this light lilac half-zip.
+Love these festive heels!
+These $250 dumpling bags are SO good. Can’t decide which color I like most!
+Fun little activity for your child’s next playdate: these Lego Dots friendship bracelets! They can decorate their own!
+Two adorable Advent calendar options: this circus-themed one and this angel one.
+Fun pearl statement clip.
+Tuke Bazaar is offering 15% off their spectacular De Castro dresses — the sale ends today!
+Inexpensive pearl handbag for your holiday party circuit!
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10 thoughts on “A Permission Slip.”
This is so beautifully said, Jen. And such a lovely perspective and reminder. I tend to fill my days with endless to-dos that spill over to the following day and feel as though there aren’t enough hours on the day. I’m letting this post be a reminder of my permission slip to be present and find pockets of time that fill my cup! Love this. Xx
I’m so glad this resonated, Emily! A good reminder for me today, too. xx
You always have an uncanny way of putting into writing what’s swirling around in my head. Thank you for this- After weeks of petal to the metal and feeling like I’m going to spin right off the track, closing my week with this permission slip re-centered me and was like an extra long exhale. Thank you!
Oh, I’m so glad, Natalie — and also glad I’m not alone! Onward!! Or…if not, onward, JUST SITTING STILL for today. 🙂
I am a new follower of your blog and am so touched by your writing. You make me think deep when I read it. Thank you!
Welcome! So glad we’ve found each other, and thank you so much for taking the time to let me know that my writing has connected with you. I’m so touched!! You’ve made my day.
Thank you for this permission slip. I needed this today more than you know
Oh Courtney, I’m so glad the words reached you at the right time. I needed this too this week!
One of my aunts is a hospice nurse and has said something very similar…that no one ever, ever says they wished they had worked more on their deathbed. It’s always about wishing they had made more of their time with their loved ones.
This really moves me — it has made me re-center my thinking meaningfully.