This week, I underwent the harrowing annual experience of a Thanksgiving week Whole Foods visit. Even when we plan our Thanksgiving meal prep with militaristic precision, there are still things we forget, or (in this case) weekend logistics that get in the way of the best laid plans.
The lot was gridlocked. I found myself waiting, with my signal on, for an elderly woman to get into her car so I could take her spot. The driver behind me laid on the horn, likely not seeing that I was waiting for this woman to turn on her lights and reverse out of the spot. I sat there for what felt like an eternity (but was in actuality under 30 seconds) waiting for the car to back out while this woman honked and gesticulated with increasing wildness behind me. I pointed to the spot, and tried to yell back: “She’s coming out!” and the woman screamed back: “There are other spots, lady!” I did not see any in my immediate vicinity, and at this point, the car was reversing. I finally pulled in and the driver behind me careened around, yelling obscenities out the window in my general direction. Nervously, I walked into the Whole Foods and immediately saw the angry driver enter the store behind me. I found myself waiting for punishment as I skittishly selected my carrots and brussels sprouts. When I stole a look at the woman, I could tell she was pretending not to see me. It is so much easier to unleash frustration on someone when you are not face to face. For a split second, I contemplated approaching her with some kind of message, but what was there to say? The likelihood a confrontation in the supermarket would yield anything good was next to nil. (I thought, too, of Mr. Magpie’s frequent adage when encountering a situation where it appears that one party has bats in the belfry: “D.N.E.” or “Do not engage.”) Moreover, I was, frankly, relieved that she chose not to engage with me. After, I found myself walking around the shop as though on tenterhooks. When I returned home, I was unloading the groceries and Mr. Magpie held up the $8 bottle of fancy cream I’d bought for the mashed potatoes. “Why’d you get half and half?” he asked. “We need cream.” I burst into tears on the spot.
He knew, of course, it wasn’t the cream. It’s never the cream.
I stood there, wilted. A swarm of thoughts surrounded me, and I took some time to filter through them while putting pen to journal paper. Below, some insights that I am burnishing as I head into the holiday season, when stress levels can run high and interactions with others can run amok.
My first rivulet of thought was: how could I let a total stranger upset me in this way? I do not think I did anything wrong, but — at worst — I introduced a thirty second delay into her life, and her response was disproportionate. I rationally see that I should be able to let her aggression bounce right off me, as it was unmerited and seemingly blindly directed. This reminds me of one of themes I have returned to month after month in my mid-to-late 30s, as I try to unstrap myself from the habit of self-blame: You cannot control the behavior of others. Her flare-up said little about me and a lot about her.
My second, and more generous, thought: the holidays can be stressful, and people act in weird ways during them. I should give her a grace note and move on with my life. Maybe she was about to hit the road for a ten hour drive and I was inching her closer to rush hour. Maybe it’s the first Thanksgiving she’s spending on her own. Trust me, I can invent a thousand sob stories that will sufficiently fill in the blank. It is hard, though, to extend that kind of understanding when you are offered something entirely different. Still, it’s a north star, and something I hope to keep in the front of my mind during this season in particular. This is a time that calls for a gentle headspace.
Third, the fact that I burst into tears over this altogether minor scenario suggests I need to prioritize rest. This feels next to impossible to accomplish this week, with plans chock-a-block, but I came across a quote a few weeks ago that said: “Rest is more than napping on the sofa. Rest is anything that makes our nervous systems feel safe enough for our stress responses to switch off so our minds and bodies can recover and restore.” I am sitting here, drawing up a mental list of what those things might be — an early bedtime, a light-hearted book, taking a break from my desk to drop off a little gift I picked up from Whole Foods for a neighbor.
Which brings me to my final thought: we publish the good news. Yesterday, I took my children to see a staged performance of “A Year with Frog and the Toad” (an adaptation of the series by Arnold Lobel) at Imagination Stage. It was adorable, with clever sets and silly lyrics and actors who give it their all. The performance tracks frog and toad around a calendar year, cycling through all the seasons, and ends with a darling Christmas cheer song that felt like the perfect way for us to ease into the holidays. My children were transfixed! The only reason I knew about this performance was because one of my neighbors generously offered us four tickets. I do not know this particular neighbor very well and was deeply touched that she’d thought of us. I sat in the theater and thought how special it was to watch my son double over in laughter, and climb onto my lap during “the scary part,” and kick off the holiday season in this festive way, all because of my neighbor’s generosity.
I have a point: I could either headline the Whole Foods visit as “The Time a Stranger Yelled at Me” or “The Time I Went to Buy My Neighbor a Thank You Gift for Treating My Family to a Special Holiday Performance.” I think we all know the one that sticks. We publish the good news.
I’m wishing you all the happiest, coziest holiday season, but if you anticipate or find turbulence, I’m giving you a little squeeze and hoping some of my takeaways above might help smooth things out.
+A podcast on apologies that blew my mind.
+Give yourself a soft landing when you need it!
+Pertinent this week: how to fill your cup when you’re short on time.
+Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
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+I did update the shopping section of yesterday’s post to include a few sales I came across post-publication, including Doen (don’t miss my favorite top!) and Lake. You know how I feel about their Relax Set — treat yourself! Incidentally, when I am upset about something, as I was after the WF incident, the most delightful self-indulgence for me is to take a hot shower, put on the Relax Set, slather my face with a hydrating overnight cream (currently loving this overnight skin recovery mask from EltaMD, and it’s 27% off with code JEN27), and get into bed with my hair wet (so relaxing for me even though I look like hell in the morning) to watch a cozy movie.
+These slingbacks from J. Crew are beyond chic.
+I just ordered myself this NodPod weighted eye mask. I shared it a few weeks ago and one of my friends wrote to say: “This gives me instant deep sleep.” Um, yes pls.
+A perfect navy wedding guest dress, currently 50% off from La Ligne.
+AHHH. I’m so tempted to order the Dyson Air Wrap while it’s $119 off (tick the box for discount to apply). I’ve been on the fence about this purchase forever! I have been collecting all the best Amazon Black Friday finds I’ve come across here. My top rec is this incredible bluetooth speaker! It’s virtually indestructible. We use it all summer long when we’re hanging out in the backyard / grilling / traveling. I can’t believe the price right now. This soft-sided Yeti travel cooler would be handy for summer / travel…and a couple of great toy deals there, too, including on Magna-tiles and Lego.
+Ordering a set of these melamine tartan plates. These are ideal for sending off with a plate of cookies to a neighbor / hostess and not requesting the plate back.
+The entire internet is on sale, but leave it to me to find the one thing “excluded from promo” — still, I am contemplating order this chic pointelle turtleneck from Gap! While there, check out these adorable tartan-lined jeans for your son. My boy owns a pair! They’re currently 50% off.
+There are some great men’s buys included in Shopbop’s 25% off sale. I love these NBs, these vintage socks, and this puffer vest. Also – these are Mr. Magpie’s favorite golf shorts. My top men’s picks that are a part of the sale here.
+Margaux demi ballet flats are on sale!
+This top coat in the hot pink or banana yellow!!! SO good and currently on serious sale.
+Bring the tinsel with these $50 sequin pants.
+Love these quilted velvet stockings!
+This tartan fleece is fun.