Ramparts + Talismans.

By: Jen Shoop

*Image via Aurelia Demark.

I did not know how much I craved

the door closed, the final word, the circle back.

Was it intactness I sought? Some staged, even ersatz, gesture of closure? The fruition to which every good narrative appeared to progress: “the end” in droopy script letters?

Was this why I never understood Borges? Could not bear the asymmetrical, the dangling? (There are rules to follow — didn’t he know?)

But there are no straight lines in nature,

And real life bends and refracts according to its own temperaments.

I think a part of the wisdom earned by age is accepting that not everything resolves to a fine point. We may never get the the resolution, the explanation, the apology (or forgiveness, as the case may be). We may not find the caesura.

And yet —

“Everything is OK,” is what I tell my daughter when she is flailing and upset, whether she has been the culprit of the drama or its unsuspecting victim. This is my way of saying that feelings are not facts, that this, too, shall pass, that beneath the piercing intensity of the moment is the soft landing of her everyday life, in which her stuffed animals lay on her bed, and her shoes sit by the door, and her parents will read her a bedtime story each night before she drifts off into that hard slumber of childhood. Everything is OK — the reassurance to which I so often cling myself when I am upset, too. Not to erase the emotions, but to remind myself that I will make it through. To re-center. To draw all the good bits of my life about me, ramparts for the wounded. A girlfriend of mine wrote me a note when I was going through a tough situation in which she said: “I feel like objects of devotion are important in these times — like something you can wear around your neck or keep in your pocket to touch as a reminder that life is happening, you will feel things, and you will survive, you know?”

So, two strategies for this Wednesday, and I apologize for the heaviness of this post during this season of merriment, but perhaps you need it, too? First, to remind yourself that everything is OK, even when you are lost in irresolution; and second, to find a talisman to remind yourself “that life is happening, you will feel things, and you will survive.”

Onward, Magpies!


+Foliage consumes stone.

+On apologies.

+It’s never the cream, is it?

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Shopping Break.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the links below, I may receive compensation.

+My large Paravel tote is on sale for 50% off. It is SO good. It’s not waterproof but I do use it for pool days (also great for travel, picnics, park days) because it carries so much, is lined inside, and has pockets that you can use to zip up wallet / phone / etc. Really good for any situation you’re schlepping a bunch of gear.

+I know a lot of you bought this cult-following tee last week after I mentioned it (now only available for pre-order — keeps selling out!) — I have this turtleneck from the same brand on its way to me. You know I live in a turtleneck in the winter months.

+I have still not found my ideal Christmas Eve dress! I had been eyeing this Damaris Bailey but it sold out in my size, and now I think I’m drawn to this patterned velvet? Or maybe do something a bit different and go with this black dress (the bows!)?

+I wore this sequin skirt to a holiday party last weekend and got so many compliments on it. Two people separately referred to my outfit as “fabulous” and someone came up to me and said, “You must be in fashion.” HA! I was so flattered! The skirt is a winner. I paired with this J. Crew turtleneck and burgundy heels similar to these.

+Another good under-the-tree pick for kids: a wall calendar. My children love them and they are great for helping them visualize/conceptualize how far we are from certain dates (start of school, play dates, birthdays). My children like to x out each day just before bedtime. A lovely kind of ritual. This year, I bought this one for my daughter and this one for my son. One of my favorites from a year or two ago was this Snoopy one — comes with really cute stickers my daughter loved to affix to the appropriate date.

+I need some upgraded loungewear. This past few days of illness has made clear I’m set in the pajama department (though I do really want to add these to the lineup), but I am very light on winter loungewear (specifically bottoms) outside of true performance gear for running. Eyeing these from Vuori, and these from Mate the Label. Also loving these sweatshirts from Left on Friday?

+Love these puffy gold heart earrings.

+I wildly underestimated how incredible these acne patches are from Rael. Not only do they help minimize and get rid of acne very quickly, but the waterproof cover means you aren’t constantly touching the area and exacerbating the problem. A must-have.

+My favorite, most-worn half-zip is now available in the chicest blue color. The material is crazy soft.

+An easy formula for NYE: this $28 top and black jeans.

+This ring of hair clips is sparking joy.

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9 thoughts on “Ramparts + Talismans.

  1. Beautiful and poignant. Accepting that not everything resolves to a fine point is a work in progress for me! Reminded me of something (who knows what) I was reading recently about how an emotionally mature person can accept that there is both good and bad in all people and all things. Sounds simple, but I’ve been turning it over ever since. I think it takes a certain level of healthy integration of emotions to cultivate a realistic views of life: sometimes there is no closure, nothing is perfect, etc. Thanks for writing!

    1. A work in progress for me, too! It is a practice rather than a state of mind I think…

      I so agree with you on the “there is both good and bad in everything,” and we aren’t going to toss an apple out for a bruised spot, right?


  2. This is so relevant to my life right now. I can’t express how grateful I am to you for articulating what I am thinking but have been unable to say. My mother-in-law said some very unkind and downright vicious things to me in a major meltdown moment over Thanksgiving and has yet to – and likely will not – apologize. I cannot stop stewing over it. I need to tell myself “everything is OK.” Thank you for this beautiful post.

    1. Oh Alison! I’m so sorry – that must have been so painful, and of course you’d be replaying it and dissecting it over and over again. Only natural! I am learning that being able to accept that irresolution also means putting up a kind of boundary. Not, like, a wall or a closing-off — but just observing the scenario in which you were hurt and figuring out how to avoid similar. I’m glad these words found you at the right time. Sending you love!!!


  3. Needed to read this! I remain in a workplace with a very challenging former boss who – I’m fairly certain – tried to get rid of me and at the very least scapegoated me to distract from errors in her management and judgement. (Though we all play a part in these dynamics!)
    This executive-level boss will no longer look at nor acknowledge me around the office, which is odd and uncomfortable (somewhat for me but more for her?). I didn’t “do” anything except put up a boundary about the amount of work that I was doing. The conversation went something like, “I can’t do five jobs at once,” and the quiet response is, “you can’t do your job, so time to find a new one.” I did in a different part of the org where interaction is limited.
    Anyway I do not owe an apology and I’ve not wanted to leave the org because I like my workplace. But also, I now risk never advancing because of this (powerful) individual.
    This is a helpful reminder to bide my time and put one foot in front of the other, holding something tucked in a pocket – five yr sobriety chip? – to remind me I’ve survived worse and made it to the other side of that too.
    I forget that when mentorships or relationships of any kind go unresolved, grieving that and accepting the unfinished nature of it helps us grow.
    Thank you, thank you for this reminder.

    1. Oh my gosh – this sounds like such a fraying and unfair situation! I’m so sorry to hear about it. I love several of your insights, here, though: “Remind myself I’ve survived worse and made it to the other side” (yes!) and “Grieving and accepting the unfinished nature of it helps us grow” (yes yes yes!). The early phases of grieving something are so acutely painful. But you must let yourself feel that wide gamut of feelings in order to really process it / not just deal with it at surface level or bury. Like I think you will ultimately find more peace if you permit yourself to go deep and intense on those emotions first. Even to feel mixed about things, like “I regret saying that” against “I can’t believe how unkind that was of that person to do.” Let it all air out. Then you can move forward. It is SO true.


  4. Jen, your words were so timely this morning. I’ve read and reread a few times already and know that I will be pondering this all day (week?!). “To draw all the good bits of my life about me, ramparts for the wounded” made me pause. Words I will be coming back to over and over. Thank you for sharing your lovely essays.

    On a lighter note – a soldout tee look for less is the Uniqlo U Crew Neck short sleeve. The white and black tees were staple pieces for me this summer and after many, many washes the white is still so crisp and clean looking. The white is so thick and not see through in the slightest and the thickness of the material makes it feel higher quality than the $15 price tag. I find they run snug so recommend sizing up one or even two sizes depending on the look you desire. I normally take a XS in most brands but went up to a M for a more relaxed look.

    The Lake pajamas have been calling to me ever since you first linked them the other day. I may need to treat myself!

    1. Hi Nicole – I’m so glad these words arrived at the right time for you / struck the right chord. It’s funny because I hesitated last night, worrying it was a bit heavy for the season, but then I always know there will be one reader out there who is drawn to the same sentiments I’m mulling over myself. It has literally never been the case otherwise. So I’m glad I hit publish and this spoke to you.

      LOVE those Uniqlo tees — I own multiples. Thanks for drawing the comparison between these two! Great “look for less.”

      Have a great day, Nicole!


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