A Place of Rest.

By: Jen Shoop

**ICYMI, I launched a weekly “Magpie Digest” email newsletter last Friday. You can sign up here. This is a once-a-week email that bubbles up all of the things we’re talking about, wearing, reading here in the Magpie community — sort of a highlights reel for the week.

Are you familiar with Rachel Ringenberg? She runs a quiet, insightful blog with musings on homeschooling and rural life, and something about the simultaneous generosity and specificity of her observations moves me. She will write about summer with haiku-like crispness, the shapes and sounds of the season distilled to stick figure shapes that somehow telegraph its feel with near-visceral clarity, and casually mention the kindnesses she bestows on her neighbors as if such warmth is unremarkable. Her way of life is different from mine — her thoughts on homeschooling and harvesting maple syrup from her farm having little bearing on my own ministrations — but her voice resonates, richly. You might do yourself a favor and sign up for her. I find her writing among my favorite on the Internet.

In her most recent post, she mentions a homeschooling book by Sarah Mackenzie called Teaching from Rest. Ringenberg writes: “Her book is a short but concise view of the mental challenge of teaching from rest and from a space of low-anxiety.” Reading those words was like falling into a familiar hammock I hadn’t realized I was feeling for. It suddenly seemed obvious that my ethos, my experience in so many realms of life could be characterized by “the mental challenge of parenting/running a home/living a life/navigating relationships/running a business/writing/creating from rest and a space of low-anxiety.” It is, truly, a struggle, as the pace and complexity of life seems determined to strip me of rest.

I wrote earlier this summer about eschewing the ersatz glamor of “busyness.” I don’t want to be busy! I want to sit still, and absorb my children, and take in the cardinal-dotted arbor vitae in my suburban backyard. I want to read. I want to play games while condensation drips down the side of my water glass and the fan clicks overhead. I want to unfurl into the day. I don’t want to live life just having visited, a flurry of appointments and checkmarks — I want to sit squarely in its center. I want to take up space, a tree rooted and branching.

Yet these naturalist sentiments are in constant contest with the administrations of life that, for reasons benign and not, feel necessary even as they consume my free time: the children’s programs and their attendant forms and gear, the desire to feed my children diversely and healthfully, which often introduces additional mental load in the conceptualization of the week’s menus, trips to the grocery, accommodation of their ever-changing palates, the intent to volunteer in my children’s school that simultaneously nips at my productivity in other realms, the aspiration to stay in good touch with old friends, which can occasionally feel like chasing tails. Even my erstwhile commitment to exercise seems occasionally antithetical to my desire for rest, for pauses that aren’t filled or “productive.”

This past year, Mr. Magpie and I have been more aware of good sleep hygiene, and have been startled by how much easier life feels after a good night of sleep. We find ourselves more patient with our children. We have more energy for creativity. It is so obvious and yet for my entire life, I have thought sleep was the margin I could cut into, no harm, no foul. Didn’t have time to make the cupcakes during the day? I’ll stay up until midnight getting it done. Couldn’t finish my essay because I was chasing twenty different admin items? I’ll sit down after the children are in bed and wrap it up. But I think I am in a place where I need to start protecting those evening hours, valuing them as much I do the good food I eat, the stirring books I read, the stimulating friendships I nurture. Because rest is just as important.

Sleep is an obvious starting point for those of us after a more rested, low-anxiety lifestyle. But today I am auditing my daily routines to ask how I might further shape them to invite more rest and low-anxiety. I can tell you that sitting down to a proper lunch — not spooning it into my mouth absently over my keyboard at my desk — has been a small but meaningful change to my daily life that has introduced a sense of relaxation, or pace, into the middle of my day. I also think our family’s “one thing a day” rule (other Magpies have similar mnemonics, like ‘do the small thing’) is helpful for maintaining a sense of ease and low-stress on the weekends. Of course, these are not always and invariably achievable — life does get in the way — but they are useful guardrails.

What other ways do you introduce rest into your life?


+”Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.” Love these words so much.

+We publish the good news.

+On how Invisalign helped me make space for better things.

Shopping Break.

+In the above photo, I’m wearing this ultra-comfortable midi length nightdress from Lake Pajamas’ new collection.

+Lululemon just released some great new lounge shorts. Love the slightly higher hem at the outer thigh.

+RMS just sent me their new SuperNatural radiance SPF serum, and I am legit legit obsessed with it. I apply it after my skincare routine and it kind of acts like spackle/primer for makeup, but can also be worn on its own on the days I’m going to exercise. It provides good sun protection — you can almost feel the barrier! — and a lot of glow. I’m in love love love. It’s 20% off at BlueMercury with code SUNSHINE.

+I’ve been doing penance for forgetting my Chanel sunglasses in a Target dressing room for the past ten years or so. (Still makes my stomach turn.) However. I think I need this Loewe shades in tortoise or pink. What do you think?

+Speaking of shades, this new style from Le Specs has a very Loewe/Celine vibe.

+These raffia dad sandals are under $100 and SO GOOD.

+Not sure if the price is a mistake (?) but this Sarah Bray hat is listed as $100.

+Been on a major gingham kick lately. Love these shorts and this mini.

+Sunhouse Children is running a warehouse sale. Love this suit for girls, and these trunks are among my favorites my son owns, and currently only $13!

+This caftan is giving Pippa Holt vibes (ahem) for a fraction of the price.

+Looks designer, is $139.

+Target is offering 50% off pool toys this week, including three of my children’s favorite summer items: these divers, this rainbow sprinkler arch, and these light-up wigglers.

+CHIC scalloped bath mat.

+Obsessed with these pants.

+I can’t stop thinking about this sweater polo from VB. I am just LOVING everything she’s putting out.

+Fab swimsuit.

+Fun Marni crossbody.

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6 thoughts on “A Place of Rest.

  1. Veronica Beard is actually a duo–two sisters-in-law who both happen to be named Veronica! Just FYI 🙂

  2. I’ve been practicing a Two Minute Pulse Check regularly where I take a two minute rest to come back to myself and back to my body and “what do I need now?” It’s not even in the asking so much as it is sitting in the pause, being in the two minutes, the act of coming back to myself and pulling my energy and attention temporarily back from the to-do list and the adrenaline of the day and the focus on other people and what they need to be with myself. It’s incredible how fueling two minutes can be.

  3. Jen, your essays are such a delight, and I appreciated this message. I have been thinking for the past year or so on a concept that often (for me) allows for rest: contentment. I love the life I’ve built, and I’m proud of myself for all the work I’ve done to build it. I’m trying to actively choose to linger in that happiness and contentment as often as I can. In my best moments, this allows for rest and ease. Of course, life happens – my job is often high stress (though I’m proud of what I do!) and sometimes my daughter’s swimsuit is missing on our way to water day at daycare (see: me at 8am this morning). But on my best days, I’ve found I’m able to not let those moments overshadow my day if I can focus on not wanting more than what I have, and remembering that what I do have is incredible.

    1. I LOVE this energy and message, Meredith. I can feel it vibrating off the screen/page! Going to keep this gratitude/contentment practice in mind for myself, too. Thank you!


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