I wrote not long ago about the dissolution of a friendship. There were no dramatic fights or terse stand-offs or regrettable words. There was no central “conflict” — no climax. I sometimes feel the gradual ebbing and decline of what had once been a deeply meaningful relationship in my life was more excruciating than a lashing-out might have been. But maybe this is the way of adult friendships. To pocket a phrase from T.S. Eliot: “This is the way the world [or the friendships that make it go round] ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.”
I spent stretches of days unpacking what had changed and whether I was to blame. I once missed my subway stop, too deeply engrossed in thinking through why I found myself recoiling and withdrawing from our conversations more often than not. I spent a string of several afternoons verbalizing my angst to my sister, who would sit, perched in the blue armchair of my living room, and nod with empathy.
At some point, she articulated a permutation of a lesson I’d pocketed from Lee Radziwill not long ago, but since forgotten:
“Do you feel like she adds to your life or subtracts from it?”
I saw, in the end, against my best wishes, a minus sign. I felt guilty thinking that–but there it was. Net-net, I felt less than, depleted in our interactions.
I am equally to blame in the ending of this relationship. I have changed in the last two years, substantively. I can see it in my own writing, the tenor and sweep of it so different from a few years back. Writing is a bizarre litmus to be sure, but this blog has held up a mirror to my transformation into — into what? It’s too reductive to say a mother, too facile to say a middle-aged woman. (Am I middle-aged?) But I find myself more serious, more measured, more drawn to the things that matter. I am more guarded, more jaded, more conscientious. And though I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, motherhood and aging and the failures and frustrations I carry with me and oh! the weight of things has left me increasingly tender at the bone. Just last night, Mr. Magpie missed mini’s bedtime by ten minutes, caught up in a board meeting. As I marched through our nightly routine solo, I felt his absence as though it were a thing corporeal. I helped mini onto her stool to brush her teeth: “No, daddy do it.” Midway through story time, the noise of a neighbor unlocking her door arrested mini’s attention, and she went flying out of the room: “That daddy?” As I picked mini up to place her on our bed, pathetically parroting Mr. Magpie’s nightly “rocket ship” routine where he counts down from five and then flings her into the bed, she looked at me quizzically, with disappointment: “No, that’s Daddy.”
When he came home, I felt my eyes well up with tears as I recounted her longing for him, how integral he is to her daily routine. Beneath a borderline mawkish appreciation for my daughter’s love for her father, I felt a thick, heart-swelling layer of gratitude: how fortunate I am to have such an involved partner in parenting. How lonely it might be otherwise.
I find myself dashing off meaty observational “field notes” along these lines to my dearest friends. I wonder what they think when they see a text from this silly heart — “oh, what maudlin or saccharine thought does she have for me today?” I’m only half-joking, as I find that my innermost circle of girlfriends seek and treasure similar moments of poignancy and meaning in their own lives, and echo them back in my direction, unafraid of their emotional ballast. I value these exchanges, and the strength of their collective gaze as these women of substance negotiate, unblinkingly, with the hefty heart of life–with the things that matter.
And so I may have a trimmer circlet of close friends these days. And I may find myself increasingly drawn to women who are willing to go there with me — to talk about the scary and hard and almost-don’t-want-to-say-it-out-loud things, like aging parents and the ailments of our children and the fears we carry about ourselves and our relationships and our abilities. And so I may be more inclined to bare my soul and have a cry than a 20-something Jen would have appreciated, back when I spent more time lingering over aspirations and distractions simply because I was not as deeply aware of the extent of my blessings, or the fragility of their presence.
This is me, on the eve of turning thirty-five: embracing the things and people that matter, letting the rest fall away.
+Testing a new Molton Brown scent for body wash — the fiery pink pepper. Love it. They are so good at formulating the most incredible scents and I love the way it lingers on your skin for hours and hours.
+Finally ordered this Sleeper linen dress after lusting after it for the last many months (although I got it in this blue hydrangea print — so very into blue these days). So elegant for summer with my Hermes oran sandals — and nursing friendly, too!
+This balloon-print pinafore is so adorable for a birthday girl. I’ve been very into pinafores with little peter pan collar blouses for mini lately.
+Been seeing this pearl-encrusted bag all over the Internet lately. So fun.
+This chic maternity jumpsuit was restocked. I was eyeing it for most of the last two months of my pregnancy in the hopes it’d be available in my size! Love it. (Note: Hatch runs really big.)
+This Staud bag was THE bag last summer and I still find it incredibly chic — now 50% off!
+OK, I promise I’ll cease with the deluge of headbands (are you sick of this trend?), but this $18 gingham style is super cute in the beige colorway in particular — and such a good hack for a tired mom with limited time to shower/blow-dry/make herself feel pulled together.
+Love this embroidered tunic top.
+I love the simple styling and puff sleeves of this decently-priced everyday top. Cute under white overalls or with white skinnies.
+I’ve mentioned this in the past, but we have these gingham blackout shades in mini’s nursery (in pink) and I can’t believe how long I waited to install them. They instantly extended mini’s nightly sleeptime — she used to wake up at 5:30 and, ever since these have been in place, she nearly always sleeps until 7 or 7:30.