Musings + Essays

Legends of the Fall.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image above of the beautiful Lauren Gores — more on her and her amazing new product below.

In early December, I tripped and split my forehead open in our apartment, an event I have discussed extensively and that has been the source of countless hours of self-reflection and musing. I promise I’ll stop writing about it after today, but it was such a jarring incident that I have worked assiduously to understand why it happened and what I was meant to take from it despite the fact that many loved ones (including many of you in your dozens of beautiful comments) reminded me that accidents happen. Do they, though?! I am a staunch believer that everything happens for a reason; as my mother puts it, “coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Further, as I expounded upon here:

“You may not see it today or tomorrow,

but you will look back in

a few years and be absolutely

perplexed and awed

by how every little thing

added up and brought

you somewhere wonderful — or

where you always wanted to be.”

That said, I appreciated the affordance of being reminded that we are all fallible and that I shouldn’t engage in too much browbeating over my clumsiness — especially when one of the first things I said to Mr. Magpie as I lay on the floor in a pool of blood was “I am so sorry!” Being in the fourth month of my pregnancy only escalated my anxieties and fanned the flames on my feelings of remorse (“how did I let this happen?!”), so I ultimately found peace in trusting that even though there is purpose in everything that happens, sometimes (often?) we are the unwitting pawns in the unraveling of that plan and we can’t see the forest for the trees.

I swing back and forth on this pendulum of fate vs. agency. I trust there is meaning and intent in all that happens, but also feel a tremendous amount of responsibility for everything that happens in my life. I’m not sure how to reconcile the two except for to say that some days, I lean more heavily on my belief in the former and other days I cling to the latter, and I have come to accept — if not intellectually grasp — the atonality between the two. Not everything resolves itself in a tidy equation, as I discovered when I turned thirty four. Becoming an adult has been an exercise in accepting irresolution as a condition of life.

There were also myriad other more trivial learnings from this fall that I thought I’d round up here:

  1. Doctor up. One of the worst parts about my fall was that I did not have a general internist to call for input on whether I should go to the E.R. for stitches or not. The wound was shallow but long and we later learned that any cut over an inch in length on the face should be repaired. (Mine was almost two. Yuck.) I had seen a general internist at some point in the last year but had hated her (she talked over me, was strangely judgmental, and was too quick to prescribe antibiotics for a run-of-the-mill cold — and I had told her that I avoid medicine unless absolutely necessary) and refused to go back to her. I’d been putting off finding another general internist. Lesson learned. I took my time tracking down a well-reviewed family practitioner and scheduled an appointment for an annual check-up more as a ploy to kick the tires. In New York, at least, this is a non-negotiable, as few doctors will see a new patient immediately; when I fell, I scrambled to see if a doctor would see me immediately, but they all told me I’d have to come by in three weeks (!!!) So my only options were to stop by a minute clinic or trek over to an overcrowded E.R., where I knew I’d be the lowest priority patient and would sit waiting for hours. I now have a general internist to call in similar situations and feel the most enormous sense of relief.
  2. Doctor up, again. A few readers suggested that — even after I eventually had my forehead repaired by my angel of a neighbor, who is an E.R. doctor at Cornell — I should see a plastic surgeon, just to understand how to best minimize scarring. (There were so many different suggestions about what to do that I felt a sense of whiplash — what to put on my scar? What to avoid?!) One incredibly kind reader (thank you!) recommended her own doctor, Nina Naidu, and I had an incredible experience with her. She let me come in the next day for a consultation and though I still feel vaguely nauseous when I think about the fact that we spent hundreds of dollars on about ten minutes of conversation with her (barf — #wedontacceptinsurancehere), I feel it was money well spent. I left feeling (finally) calmer about the situation, even though she confirmed my fear that this scar is here for the long haul and will always be visible. It still felt better to know what I should do to minimize its appearance and — bonus! — she complimented the repair work of my neighbor, marveling over how tidy the stitches were. Sometimes seeing an expert, even when nothing can be done, is the only way to quiet the nerves and begin to move forward
  3. Wear sunscreen. Everyday. I used to apply my SPF-infused tinted moisturizer and call it a day. Dr. Naidu encouraged daily sunscreen to minimize the appearance of the scar, and it’s now a permanent fixture in my skincare routine and I’ll never stop. I’d been meaning to get more serious about my anti-aging regimen anyway; this was as perfect a wake-up call as any. I am IN LOVE with this fluid sunscreen from La Roche Posay, which melts into the skin with no white residue and layers very easily over my serum. (I use a brightening serum, then sunscreen, then moisturizer.) It boasts SPF60 as well as UVA/UVAB protection. It’s a surprisingly small bottle for the price but it lasts a very long time — a little goes a long way. I’m still using the first bottle I bought in early December!
  4. Be gentle with your skin. I had always heard that you should apply skincare products in a gentle upward motion to avoid wrinkles and undue stress on your skin, but summarily dismissed the advice. When my forehead was still very tender, I was surprised at how even the gentlest of strokes tugged at my stitches. It made me realize how rough I had been with my skin! I’ve since learned to be a lot gentler with my skin, and to carefully smooth products with a lighter (upward!) touch.
  5. Don’t skimp on skincare. There are lots of areas you can go the bargain route when it comes to beauty. I’ve heard, for example, from multiple beauty insiders that there is very little difference between mascaras by prestige cosmetics companies and those by drugstore brands. (Someone recently told me it’s all about the brush, anyway!) A few of my favorite inexpensive beauty finds (many recommended by my readers): this clear brow gel, drugstore shampoo (<<this stuff just works, even though I alternate with pricier brands), this moisturizing/setting/toning spray. But core skincare? Ever since the fall, I’ve decided that I will always invest in a pot of La Mer moisturizing cream, even if I supplement with this gel moisturizer for late-afternoon pick-me-ups. I swear that my skin has never looked healthier. I’m a convert. I’m highly intrigued by Augustinus Bader’s Rich Cream, which seems to be EVERYWHERE right now and has grown quite the cult following. One thing to keep in mind with Bader’s tincture is that you are not supposed to use a serum beneath it; it includes a serum in its formula! So, though it is very pricey, if you subtract the cost of your usual serum from the regimen, I find it more legitimizable. (Still, I’m going to stick with La Mer in the short term because it was originally designed to minimize scarring on burn victims!) Finally, the plastic surgeon gave me a tube of SkinMedica’s scar recovery gel, which I have applied to the scar twice a day. She told me that women with darker shades of skin benefit from using Vitamin E oil and cocoa butter, but fairer skins fare (ha!) better with this silicon gel formula. The entire regimen is not cheap but — it’s my face!!! Not an area I want to skimp on.
  6. Slow down. The biggest lesson from all of this: just.slow.your.roll. Pressure is a choice and there was absolutely no reason why I should have been racing around my apartment on a random Saturday evening.
  7. Keep a sense of humor. I was painfully self-conscious about my forehead for the first few weeks after the fall and in fact wore a steri-strip over it for weeks, feeling better when the wound was covered. It was paradoxically easier for me to call attention to it — “oh, this bandaid? I tripped and fell and had to get nine stitches!” — than to wonder whether so-and-so was sitting across from me, wondering what had happened to my head. That said, I would often follow up my quick explanation with the admittedly funny context for the fall, which was that a pizza from Joe’s had just arrived and I was literally sprinting to my room to get something so I could eat. I was four months pregnant and HANGRY. #PREGNANTWOMANPROBLEMS. I always get a good laugh when the headline is: “Pregnant Woman Sprints to Pizza Dinner and Winds Up with Nine Stitches.”
  8. Be demure in asking others about their well-being. Between my pregnancy and my head wound, I felt as though my body had become a public space: strangers would comment on my belly, on my forehead with regularity. (“What happened to you?” asked a cashier when I really did not want to talk about it.) I felt as though the tenderest parts of my life were on display, ripe for public commentary. I hated it. I have always known not to ask a woman whether she is pregnant unless she has previously established it and I trust myself to be a reasonably sensitive and discreet person in general, but the experience was a reminder to be consciously demure in my interactions with others where their own well-being and health are concerned. Wait for them to broach the subject.
  9. Time heals all wounds. An oldie but a goodie. I will always have a scar on my forehead but am astounded by how unobtrusive it has become. When my mother visited me a week ago, I asked, “How does my scar look?” She paused. “What scar?” She was being generous, but I have to admit that sometimes I look in the mirror and barely notice it. With a good pot of concealer (<<my current favorite; it is super thick but easy to blend and good at adding dimension/highlight to your face, as I think many people use it for contouring, which I known nothing about), a consistent regimen of high-end moisturizer, and time, the scar has dramatically improved in appearance.
  10. Be grateful. If I could go back to my scar-free forehead, I would. I know people say that scars give you character and that wrinkles are reminders of a life well-lived, but but but. Let me be honest: I’d rather not have this scar. Mine is not even an interesting story; there’s no “I fought off a wild boar while defending my child.” It’s just random clumsiness. I so wish I had been more appreciative and less critical of my blemish-free face. So now I’m checking in with myself, channeling gratitude for my ache-free bones and scar-free limbs.

OK, and I’m done. Please forgive my over-indulgence on this topic, but there we are. Vanity, thy name is woman.

Post Scripts.

*Note: I know you have loved the carousels in my most recent posts and I will pick these back up! Our sweet nanny was out last week and I am behind!

+I’ve developed an Instagram crush on Lauren Gores, the founder of cult skincare line Summer Fridays. She recently added this R&R mask to her collection and it is getting rave reviews. Immediately added to cart! She recently wore this fluffy Reformation bomber (seen above) and I immediately wanted to recreate her 70s boho look! How chic? Get the look for less with this.

+Loving these Goyard-esque pouches (check out the squared/shadow-blocked prints), personalizable with monogram! I think I am going to order one in the pink print with my initials in white for summer.

+A great tie-dye snag for $35 if you’re into the trend.

+Love this white bootie, on sale. Pair with ankle-length mom jeans for an of-the-moment vibe.

+A sleek everyday mule for $35. Love them with this dress.

+A great indoor activity for minis during these lingering cold months.

+Pretty and simple. Wear with a delicate gold necklace (or several).

+Dying over these for micro.

+Don’t know why but my favorite pair of non-designer-glasses-that-look-like-designer-glasses are only $48 here.

+Really good home finds.

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15 thoughts on “Legends of the Fall.

  1. I’m SO happy you connected with Dr. Naidu and found her to be a useful resource! Isn’t her demeanor so, so great? I find that really does make a WORLD of difference in a doctor. So glad you are on the mend and feeling better about the whole situation. I once had to see a lung specialist during an uncertain and scary period of my life, health-wise, and she just seemed so uncertain herself in a way that really ratcheted up my anxiety about the whole situation. Finally at the end of one of our appointments, her boss (the head doctor, I guess?) came in, reviewed my files, looked at me, and said “I’m not worried about you, so you don’t need to be worried.” That was all I needed to hear- it was a huge weight off my shoulders.

    1. It is SO true. I need a doctor who seems calm and confident! At a recent OB appointment, I was mentioning something I’d noticed and my doctor listened, nodding, and then said: “Do not worry about that at all. I promise you. Drop it from your mind. Totally run of the mill and normal.” I loved her emphasis on banishing all my fears! I guess she can see what kind of (worry wart!) patient I am.

      Thank you AGAIN for the referral!! I mentioned your name and she was very appreciative!! xo

  2. Love all of these skincare recommendations! I’m glad you’re well into the healing process, by the way — injuries are never fun, especially when they’re silly (I once tripped up an escalator while looking for my MetroCard and the escalator lacerated the front of my ankle, requiring stitches (and a tetanus shot!) I was so embarrassed to tell people the reason for the injury, so I can relate to you in that way 🙂

    Thanks for the tip on the La Roche-Posay sunscreen! My mom is a devotee of another one of their products, but I haven’t ever bought my own. Admittedly, I am terrible about using sunscreen (until now, I’ve coasted on the SPF15 that’s included in my moisturizer) but this is making me reconsider. I think I need to start using an additional sunscreen as well, esp. before I turn 35!

    P.S. Have you ever tried the Summer Fridays Jet Lag mask? My sister-in-law swears by it, and I’m intrigued…

    1. Yes!!! Can’t say enough food things about the La Roche Posay. SO good. Just a solid product all around. I have not tried the Jet Lag mask but there has been SO much hype around it. I don’t know why but the R&R one was more appealing to me!! Let me know if you try either!

      And OOOOOF that accident on the escalator sounds like a nightmare!!! Poor thing. UGH.

  3. 1. A+ blog post title
    2. If I hadn’t read this post I would have forgotten entirely bc you could not see it at ALL last weekend!

    1. Hehe – I wondered if anyone would appreciate the throwaway reference to one of my favorite high school-era movies. (Brad Pitt was such a smoke show back then…)

      Thanks, also, for saying that!!! That makes me feel very reassured 🙂


  4. There’s so much I love about this post, and I really needed the reminders today. I have been going through a lot of change at work, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense in MY plan for my life! I think we truly need to remember we are not in total control, yet play an active part in our lives. One thing I also need to remember as well is, at times, to “wait and see how the matter turns out.” This does not apply to medical emergencies, though!

    I love the skincare product recommendations and tips, and you have me reconsidering La Mer (the price tag!) xo

    1. Do it! You won’t regret it 🙂 It’s a pricey habit but I figure I can scale back in other areas (i.e., a new resolution to ONLY buy a new product when I’ve completely finished my current version of it).

      So glad this reached you at the right time. xoxo

  5. Last year, my small group at church read Adam Hamilton’s bible study, Half Truths. One of the “half-truths” explored was the concept that everything happens for a reason (from a Christian perspective, that everything is part of God’s plan, even if we can’t tell at the time). Hamilton suggested that biblically, we know that everything does happen for a reason … but sometimes that reason is that humans go against God’s wishes! Additionally, he suggested that if we credit God with every single thing that has ever happened, we must include the objectively bad, and that doesn’t make sense (to me, at least). This actually brings me more comfort than the idea that everything that happens is part of God’s plan, especially with the truly awful stuff that happens. Hurricanes that cause death and destruction? I don’t believe God sends them. Our negligence to take care of creation probably has a lot more to do with that. But I know God can and does use those things as opportunities to make good from the bad.

    I don’t share this to try to take away any sense of comfort. This is just so much closer to how I’ve known God to be, and has helped me in understanding the fate vs. agency struggle! Also, we’ll never know for sure (in this life, anyway)!

    1. Hi Meredith! Yes, this makes sense to me, intellectually. It feels a little difficult to imagine that there are certain “spheres” where God does not play an active role, but then again — how do you reconcile instances of childhood cancer, for example?! So I completely get where you’re coming from here. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.


    2. This resonates with me as well. My first daughter was shockingly, unexpectedly stillborn after a healthy and normal pregnancy in which I had excellent prenatal care and took every precaution. The idea that the loss of my baby girl was not some senseless twist of fate but happened for a “reason”? I find that notion appalling. My mom assured me in the days following Eliza’s death that God didn’t do this to me, that He was grieving with me. Since then, I’ve come to believe that the idea everything happens for a reason only works for those of us who are sheltered or privileged enough to think life is essentially a meritocracy… I was that person for nearly thirty years, but I can’t abide by that philosophy anymore. I do think, however, that it is up to us to make meaning from accidents, to take tragedies big or small and allow them to shape and grow us. So my personal approach would to say there was no “reason” that you fell (I can’t believe God orchestrated that anymore than believe He is the cause of natural disasters), but there was certainly a lesson to come from that experience, and perhaps you will take from it what you need to be more centered, more mindful, less hurried. (A lesson I often need in my own life, come to think of it!)

      1. Oh my gosh, Brooke – I am absolutely devastated to hear of your loss. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Thank you for sharing, and for offering your perspective on this tricky subject, too.


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