Musings + Essays

On Recharging During the Holidays.

By: Jen Shoop

Last Sunday, my mother took me to see the Ballet of Monte Carlo’s performance of “Cendrillon” (Cinderella) at The Kennedy Center. I had been looking forward to it, but as the morning approached, I found myself thinking “I wish this were taking place another weekend.” We’d just returned from a busy trip to New York and I felt behind on household admin and various tasks related to the children. We were also about to host two sets of house guests and put on Thanksgiving for ten. On top of it all, I was behind on writing and had been looking forward to spending some time looking at all of the sales happening this week — both for myself (holiday gifts! holiday outfits! christmas pajamas!) and for my Magpies. I carried all of that frenetic energy right into my date with my mother. And then the most magical thing happened:

I sat down on one of the benches in the hallway outside the Eisenhower Theater next to my mother, and felt everything slide right off my plate. It was a nearly physical experience: my shoulders relaxed, my heart rate went down. I had nowhere to be and nothing to do but enjoy three hours next to my mother. There was something uniquely relaxing about sitting in the dark quiet of the theater, asked only to sit as a spectator. Nothing was demanded of me. I could not even check my phone. I sat still and watched what was in front of me, or let my thoughts drift, or glazed over for a spell.

I am so grateful for that pre-holiday pause. I wrote earlier this year that my hope was to find stillness in the season, and my afternoon at the ballet did just that. I told this to my mother on the drive home, and she said: “It’s so important to spend time as yourself, as an adult.” I knew exactly what she meant. The demands of family and work and household consume so much of our daily lives. It is spectacular to step away from all of that and remember we exist as interesting women with interesting thoughts and interesting passions. So much of that can feel secreted away, muffled by the rush of getting boots on little feet, or answering phone calls, or folding laundry. Of course, I treasured the chat with my mom while we waited for the performance, and during intermissions, and in the car ride home, but I think it was the silent theatergoing that transformed my mood.

Here is a provocation for you as we head into this full season: take yourself on a date. Go to a cafe and enjoy a glass of wine or cup of coffee solo, and sans phone. Or take a stroll down Fifth Ave to do some window shopping. Or walk through a museum. Or take in a movie. Something quiet and contemplative that demands nothing of you but your spectatorship and possibly the slow movement of your feet. I think you might just find you’re a good date, and I think you’ll also discover you’ve recharged your batteries.


+What do you do when you’re in a rut?

+On catastrophizing.

+How do you spend time alone?

Shopping Break.

+Lots of sales happening – have been updating this post but wanted to specifically call out:

  • 20% off at Alice Walk. You know I am a HUGE advocate of their knits (you can see me in my knit cape over here). I own and adore this alpaca sweater. My husband and I call sweaters like this “murder sweaters” (affectionately, of course) because they are SO WARM that you cannot wear them if you are going to be inside. You can basically go outside in 20 degree weather and feel fine wearing one of those badboys. This cotton weekender sweater has been on my radar for awhile as a perfect all-year-round piece, and if you’re new to the brand, don’t sleep on their striped pima cotton tees. They are impossibly soft with a decent amount of stretch but hold a really nice shape. Last but not least, these cashmere wraps make a perfect gift for the gal who has everything.
  • 20% off at Merit. You know I was really impressed with their $38 serum ($30 with code) — it really turns on your skin, but gently. Full review here. Was also really impressed with the consistency of their cheek color balm — it truly melts into skin — but I didn’t love the color I picked (cheeky — it’s a bit too brown on me).

+Cutest teddy slippers for little ones. Perfect for pairing with winter/holiday jammies!

+This pearl hair clip is so fun.

+This eyeshadow duo is 25% off and won an Allure award. I generally trust their stamp of approval. Love the color options!

+Kind of digging the return of the original yoga pant (flared) shape. I think the silhouette can be really flattering. These are in my cart.

+Could not be more obsessed with these shoes. Oh my Lord! Velvet, hot pink, bows?!

+Speaking of hot pink velvet: this dress!!! Rhode has made this shape for ages but I just love this new fabric/color option!

+A great gift for a new grandma: these Herend baby shoes. My mother has one for each of her five children and I gave her another after she helped me care for mini when she was born.

+This pilgrim chic dress reminds me of something by Maje — but currently costs around $50.

+At the time of writing this, this Tonies box is 30% off. Seriously such a great gift.

+Treating myself to this coffee table book as office decor. The cover just makes me happy.

+I saw a gal wearing this tartan dress in NYC and she looked so fabulous. Would work with bump!

+LOVE this holiday tabletop collection — cleverly made of paper!

+Perfect short sleeved sweater for layering over holiday looks.

+Have you heard of this little emergency device in case you run into trouble while running alone? Clever.

+If you’re attending a formal wedding this winter, this stopped me in my tracks.

+Obsessed with these glitter Native boots for a little girl — such a fun color.

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4 thoughts on “On Recharging During the Holidays.

  1. Happy thanksgiving! This is a great reminder. Going to a coffee shop alone with a book used to be one of my favorite weekend activities. Much harder to squeeze in as a parent! Although several times a year I do tap out when my husband gets home and take myself to dinner and always order wine AND dessert. In fact, I believe that was my exact Mother’s Day plan in 2022! I will have to plan a few of these in the next month. Another idea for holiday recharging is an advent devotional. I did one last year and really enjoyed the few minutes of quiet re-centering each day. I’m also working my way through The Common Rule and trying a few of those practices on for size. I’m especially feeling the need to turn off my phone lately!

    1. I love the idea of an Advent Devotional — do you have one you like/recommend?

      The idea of dinner solo with wine and dessert sounds incredible!


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