Musings + Essays

Attention Is a Form of Love.

By: Jen Shoop

You may remember when I talked a bit about my deceased friend Elizabeth the other day, and mentioned that a mutual friend had said this of her:

“Her gift was her attention — she never rushed you through a story, always laughed at the right places, and had an uncanny intuition about what was important to you.”

I concluded, in that post, that my friend’s attentiveness was a vastly underrated trait, but I stopped short of completing the thought loop: that her attention was not just a virtue but an expression of love. Just a few days later, I came across this essay on the excellent show “Ted Lasso” (which was handily the best thing I watched during the pandemic) in which the author explains the arresting appeal of the show’s protagonist by exploring the notion that he is “an ignorant guy who is actually curious.” He in turn draws from from a summary of the film Ladybird (in a strange vortex-like moment, a film that elicited a rush of grief seemingly out of the blue over my friend’s passing), which runs as follows:

“Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith), the principal, has read Lady Bird’s college application essay. “It’s clear how much you love Sacramento,” Sister Sarah remarks. This comes as a surprise, both to Lady Bird and the viewer, who is by now aware of Lady Bird’s frustration with her hometown.

“I guess I pay attention,” she says, not wanting to be contrary.

“Don’t you think they’re the same thing?” the wise sister asks.

The idea that attention is a form of love (and vice versa) is a beautiful insight.”

I am sitting with this message today. I am feeling admonished for shortcuts, hastiness, conversations that end with “I gotta run!” owing to logistics, the distracted conversations I often have with my children, and jumping-to-conclusions. I am thinking of Mary Oliver, who wrote in Winter Hours that her goal was “to observe with passion, to think with patience, to live always care-ingly.” I am thinking of how, in a past life, I used to tell my team: “Focus is your scarcest resource.” The intention was to instill a habit of ruthless prioritization and to recognize the constraints under which we operate in every realm of our lives, both work-related and not. It is so easy to fritter away time, to flit from one unimportant but seemingly urgent thing to the next, whether in the office or at home. It is far more challenging to design my day in a way that thoroughly aligns with my values and goals.

So today I am re-centering. I am paying homage to Elizabeth, and Ted Lasso, and Lady Bird–reminders all that “attention, unlike talent or expertise, can be willed into being at any time,” and to great effect.


+My grandfather also showed me attention as a form of love.

+More on my friend Elizabeth.

+”To a great mind, nothing is little.

+”Creativity is a wild eye and a disciplined mind.”

+Do you consider yourself creative?

+More on the Oliver quote cited above.

+Do you live loudly or quietly?

Shopping Break.

+I recently finished up my Drunk Elephant Vitamin C serum, which I liked a lot but did not love, and — as you know — I’m on a quest to get to a place where every single item in my beauty arsenal is “OMG, I LOVE it”-worthy. I’d put the D.E. serum at the top end of Vitamin C serums I’ve tried thus far, but I really did not care for the smell — sort of like rotting vegetables? Anyhow, I surveyed my followers on Instagram, and these were the three that came up a LOT:




Skinceuticals received the most enthusiastic praise (and the highest number of votes) BUT there were a lot of caveats about the smell. Some people said it smells like pennies or sausage — yuck! I am thinking I might go with Biossance because you can buy it in a travel size to test without committing to a full bottle, though am tempted by the idea of getting the Obagi at a discount!

+I layer Vitamin C serum under my holy grail Clarins Double Serum. (Full review here.) If your skin can stand it (I know some people find Vitamin C irritates their skin), I find this combo is UNBELIEVABLE for achieving radiant, glowing, elastic skin!

+I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but I super love my new White Elephant beauty case. I love that you can buy the pouches individually versus as a set. The grande size is REALLY roomy — bigger than Cuyana’s — and perfect for travel.

+This toiletry case is also super chic.

+Everyone’s favorite $25 leggings are available on sale in select colors. These are SO great for everyday.

+These very popular shades were finally re-stocked!

+Just re-stocked my Rifle Paper gift wrap selection by using code BLOOM for 25% off! Bought more of my favorite wrap for children’s birthdays, this gorgeous bunny print, and this adorable sealife print.

+Perfect for wrapping this little model car set I bought for a little boy’s birthday, though I was also considering this fun superhero wrap.

+My Paravel tote arrived (I had it monogrammed with shadow lettering in blue) and I am in love. It is too big for everyday, but GREAT for little day trips / excursions / etc. I can’t wait to travel with it. PERFECT carry-on, as it has little compartments/zippered pouch on the inside and is a fantastic size, especially with tiny ones in tow. I used it just yesterday when we we spent the day at my parents’-in-law and I needed to have swim gear, snacks, change of clothes, lovies/stuffed animals, etc all on hand.

+Just discovered that Patagonia Baggies come in toddler sizes, and they are on sale in a few patterns here! They are on sale in a few patterns in the adult men’s sizes, too — these are a great gift for a guy. Mr. Magpie loves them for gardening, yardwork, running after the dog, etc, and they also double as swim trunks!

+Speaking of swim trunks, RUN. Vilbrequin men’s swim trunks on sale for 40% off. This is such a classy, traditional European brand — Mr. Magpie has a pair in stark white that are just so attractive! The Moorea (linked here) is the iconic style — a bit shorter/briefer than the usual board short style that has been so in for so long. I personally prefer the solid colors, but the patterns can be fun. There are also a few children’s sized trunks on sale and I am very tempted by these ones with the blue crabs! I am torn because they are SO pricey for a little boy who will wear them for one season, but…! Blue crabs!

+These Cutter bug spray wipes are a total MVP in our new home, where we spend SO much time outside, and there are a lot of mosquitos (and those crazy mite bites everyone is talking about that have appeared thanks to Brood X — have y’all been following that story?! Everyone I know has those bites!). We also SUPER love our rechargeable Thermacell for when we’re sitting outside on the patio/playing in a specific area of the backyard (i.e., kids are splashing in pool). It is highly effective. You have to set it up about 15-20 minutes before you’re going outside, but then it’s shocking how well it works!

+This sweet sherpa vest for a little lady!

+This floral smocked dress is under $30 and serving up major SEA vibes.

+This $99 fall dress is ALSO taking a page out of SEA’s book.

+These popular blue clogs are on sale!

+Just added these hard plastic plates to my Amazon cart — great for bringing by treats/sides to friends/neighbors.

+An inexpensive, classic-looking comforter and pillow set. This would be fantastic for a guest bedroom or child’s room — the price is unbelievable!

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16 thoughts on “Attention Is a Form of Love.

  1. Thank you so much for your response, you are the most thoughtful person! I will keep these suggestions in my files. I found the article about writing to someone briefing a tragic loss particularly helpful.

  2. Do you mind if I ask two follow up questions about the paravel tote? 1. What color did you get? 2. Do you find the strap long enough to wear over your shoulder or do you have to carry it in your hand or crook of elbow? Thanks so much, you blog and your recommendations continue to provide me with so much inspiration.

    1. Hi Bayley! I got the Paloma colorway (blue/red). The strap is definitely long enough to wear over shoulder! My only caveat is that the bag is big — roomy! — which is great for big days out but I think it might be a tad big for everyday wear. More of a travel/lots of baby gear kind of tote.


  3. I feel like I’ve tested every vitamin C serum out there, but recently found my current winner – Skinceuticals Phloretin CF! It has much less of a putrid smell as their famed C.E. Ferulic, but still feels super effective and has a lovely texture.

    This is helpful on the differences – supposedly the Phloretin is better for oily skin, but I have very dry skin and still prefer it to the C.E. :

  4. Hi Jen,

    Wow I had the same reaction to Lady Bird – so many unexpected tears! There was something about the push/pull relationship of the mother and daughter and how it mirrored how Lady Bird felt about home. I could completely relate. Do you ever think about and project about your own relationship with Minnie? My daughter is two and I sometimes think about those big moments like prom dress shopping…
    To the reader thinking about gifts for a mourner – what about something that will grow? A lemon tree or plants.., or even just a beautiful object that has some tie-in (she loved flowers so this is a flower print).


    1. Hi Emily – I also found that movie profoundly moving and relatable on so many levels. It might be time for a re-watch…

      Love your idea about giving a mourning friend something that will grow.


  5. Reminds me of Simone Weil, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” And also, I definitely see attention as a thread running through so much of Oliver’s work, I believe I listened to an interview with her on the On Being podcast years ago and she said as much! And it’s also right there in The Summer Day: “I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. / I do know how to pay attention,”

    That poem never gets old for me 🙂

    1. I love that Oliver piece, too — oh man, all of these voices sing so beautifully in concert with one another!


  6. I love this outlook on attention and love — and love the Ted Lasso + Ladybird references. I fully agree that attention is one of the highest forms of love!

    Curious about the Biossance oil … keep us posted if you try it! I’m about to finish up a bottle of Mad Hippie but I fear that you really get what you pay for when it comes to serums, and although I love the sub-$30 price point of Mad Hippie, it’s not *that* great to me, results-wise.

    + thanks for the Baggies tip — my partner loves them and I actually do, too! They’re perfect for weekend summer days.


    1. Yes – have been really trying to focus my attention after writing this post! Such a good reminder!


  7. I loved this post. I have a quick question for you, do you have any recommendations for gifts, words etc for someone (a contemporary) morning a tragic unexpected loss. Flowers feel wrong. You have very thoughtful way with these moments in life, I am struggling a bit with what to do.

    1. Hi Daryn – I’m so sorry to hear this, and so sorry for your friend’s loss. If it’s a loved one you knew, I always try to write a heartfelt note with a specific memory or two about the deceased. I find that means so much to people — we all want our loved ones to be remembered! There is a great post on how to write a condolence note by a woman who somewhat famously lost her husband:

      I also check in with them a couple of other times a few weeks out, just to see how things are going. Sometimes it’s helpful to calendar these for yourself so you remember. Just something like “Thinking of you and checking in to see how you’re doing.”

      I also nearly always err on the side of comfort food, whether in the face of grief or illness or what have you. Something like mac and cheese, lasagna, soup, etc. I’m actually in the process of making a baked ziti to bring to a friend — one less thing for her to think about, plus a demonstration of your quiet, in-the-background love and support for her during this time. If you don’t live close enough, you can also schedule something like this to be delivered! (I had a lasagna delivered from Daily Provisions to a friend who lost his father a few months ago.)

      Another idea – a family member lost her daughter and I sent her a little bracelet with her daughter’s initials engraved on it. If you don’t feel comfortable with jewelry, you could do something like a little cross.

      Let me know if any of those thoughts jive with the situation. Happy to go back to the drawing board.


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