At one of the events leading up to my brother’s wedding, I arrived at cocktail hour dressed to the nines and one of the wives of my brother’s friends looked me up and down, squintingly, and said: “Why are you so dressed up?” Distaste dripped from her like honey. I laughed, or something. My sister squeezed my arm and whispered under her breath, “Why are you so dressed down?”
I pay regular visits to this memory, not because I would go back and change my response, and not because it was a particularly injurious barb, but because, for a split-second, I doubted myself. The world went wide and then thin. I found myself itching to adjust my collar, my hem, my hair. And then, just as quickly, I snapped back into myself with a kind of reassurance that insisted: “No response required.” (My sister’s firm grip on my arm — and the situation — helped.)
I think about that exchange when I need to galvanize myself. When I need to remember what is core and what is periphery. When I find myself adrift in my (inevitably skewed) interpretations of how other people perceive me. People will say things. Some of the time, they mean nothing by them. Most of the time, they are coping by way of projection. Very occasionally, they intend to hurt.
None of that is my business.
I am not for everyone; that is OK.
I can only answer for myself.
What does it mean, to answer for yourself? I write those words and find it impossible not to imagine a Judgment Day scene. I imagine a babel of voices, a commotion of hands and arms, each straining to be seen and heard. Regardless of the movements of the crowd, when my name is called, I will need to stand up and speak clearly. I will need to own myself, the parcel of thoughts and words and actions that have together defined me during these wild and precious days. There will be no diversions, no vaguenesses, no explanations, no do-overs. I will be lit up clear as day.
What do I want myself to look like?
These are big, scary provocations, edge-gilded in finality. But this is no thanatopsis*. I don’t write to alarm or menace. I write to remind myself that today is another opportunity to seek alignment between my movements, my choices, the way I structure my day and time and home, and the version of myself I want to be. I write them to remember to let everything else slide right off my back, right out of my home.
*Or, perhaps, this is it’s own kind of thanatopsis. W.C. Byrant:
“So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry-slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”
+This is my favorite holiday candle. I burned it all last season!
+A well-priced half-zip for little boys.
+This pearl knit from Zara is 10/10.
+Well priced linen napkins!
+I just discovered the brand Material Kitchen and love the idea of these $25 mini cutting boards (dishwasher-safe, too). We have a few of these small cutting boards from Epicurean that we use multiple times a day, whether preparing a sandwich, dicing up a piece of fruit for the children, cutting lemons or limes, etc., but they aren’t dishwasher safe. Wondering if the boards would be a good stocking stuffer for Mr. Magpie!
+They also have sets of colored juice glasses that are reasonably priced — $50 for a set of 4. Fun for a holiday table!
+J. Crew has some really fun fair isle cardigans — of course I love this embellished one, but this long-line one is intriguing — the dimensions are interesting — and I feel like this navy one would be perfect over my plaid dresses.
+Ordered my children these Grinch MagnaTiles for holiday season.
+Of course I swooned over this velvet smocked dress for a little one.
+Love this gold cocktail dress.