Run Aground.

By: Jen Shoop

I have been feeling untethered. I have been busy with the ends of things (the school year, my sister’s wedding behind us), busy with things-half-done (planning for my son’s birthday, at-home projects), busy with the logistics of the sprawling summer ahead, busy with the news cycle. Drafts of discarded posts have piled up in heaps, as though clogging the creative gutter. It seems that I can draw nothing to completion. The screen blinks blankly, or perhaps I blink blankly at it, and the usual romance between us has gone leaden.

It is not interesting to write about this. I know this even as I type it. A plumber does not regale you with stories of “when he couldn’t figure things out.” So forgive me, even as you permit me to talk for a minute about feeling depleted, and ask how you find nourishment when you have run dry? Running dry, by the way, can pertain to any number of domains: creatively, spiritually, professionally, emotionally. How do you go about it?

Usually, when I am stuck, I lean on the voices of other writers. I read. I poke around websites. I go deep in hyperlinks. Earlier this month, I spent an entire afternoon reading about the Celtic goddess Etain, who represents rebirth, change, transformation, digging in some dusty corners of the Internet, on websites built circa 1999. I usually emerge from these navigations charged with new thoughts, prompts, words. I have several shoddy drafts of things touching on Etain that are currently and likely permanently living in unpublished limbo. Earlier this week, I found myself bizarrely reading the transcripts from the ongoing Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard case, and — well, let’s just say there is nothing inspiring there. What I mean to say is that it has felt as though I am trying to squeeze rainwater from rock. And this has never happened to me before. It is as though the usual sources of nourishment continue to apply themselves, and my mind has developed a sudden and hopefully temporary allergy to them. I can’t tell whether this is because I am too crowded with other thoughts and emotions or…what?

Desperate, earlier this morning, I shut down my computer and opened my devotional and the message of the day was: “One great Hallelujah!” It did not feel right. I nearly closed the book. I had hoped for something more probing, even accusatory.

And yet.

My mind immediately jumped to my son. For the past three months straight, he has been obsessed with a song he learned at school. I’d never heard it before and can’t find any lyrics resembling it online, but it goes like this, at least in the version he sings and re-sings ad nauseum at home:

Hallelujah, sing it in the morning

Hallelujah, sing it in the noontime

Hallelujah, sing it in the evening

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

There are fetching dynamics and movements that accompany this ditty. He will crouch down to his feet during the morning part — then rise halfway at noontime — then stand at full staff and lift his arms in the air in the evening. His voice will get progressively louder as he does this.

It is adorable for many reasons, not the least of which is that he still has trouble pronouncing the Hallelujah. I think he adds about four or five extra “l’s” and sometimes his mouth seems to get stuck curving around the vowels. We have heard this song morning, noon, and night for months, his jaunty performances a reification of the song’s message. Sometimes, he will just yell out: “Hallelujah!” when he likes something he is eating, or when he sees a squirrel darting across the lawn, or just because. On the Mother’s Day “Mad Libs” Mr. Magpie had him fill out, next to: “my mom loves: me” (profoundly true) and “her favorite place is: the couch” (could not be more of a falsehood — I am not sure he has ever seen me sit on it, and I don’t appreciate the implication of my couch potato status thankyouverymuch), it reads: “mom always says: hallelujah.”

Here is something round and fully-formed: a shape that fell right out of the tree into my palm. Here is a repetition, a return of something that I have needed to hear, and yet have willfully tuned out. My own son has been its messenger and conduit, literally shouting it at me. My mom always says hallelujah.

May it be so.

I am rounding this final corner of May reminded of how I attempted to begin it: in prayer, in gratitude, in the hope of carving out the channels for a slow and reflective life.


+I suppose my son has enabled me to round out this month of good vibrations in just the right way.

+On meaning-making.

+On the beauty of writing letters.

Shopping Break.

+These are surprisingly good pillows for the price — I use them in our guest bedroom and they are very comfortable. A set of two is $42 but currently on sale for 40% off.

+Relaxed fit linen shirtdress. Love it in the natural color for a coastal grandma summer.

+I shared a photo of myself enjoying a cul de sac marg in one of these reusable, shatterproof plastic cups and a number of readers reached out. They are from a really cute Etsy shop! I love these for lawn hangs, evening walks, etc.

+In love with this fun bag.

+Apparently this flattering swimsuit has sold out like 17x!

+Fab H&M find.

+This dress has been sitting in my cart for like two weeks. Meep! I love!

+Some outrageous scores at Outnet up to 80% off — love this Rosie Assoulin top, this Zac Posen gown, this timeless navy blazer.

+Sweet rainbow striped dress, currently marked down to only $40.

+Chic knotted slingbacks. They remind me of the trending net bag from Longchamp.

+My actual dream dress if I were going to a black tie affair.

+This patterned linen dress is a 10.

+Sweaty Betty is offering 25% off orders over $75. Love these loose-fit pima tops, running tanks, and punchy sports bra.

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12 thoughts on “Run Aground.

  1. I can relate to how you’re feeling! There’s so much going on, and much of it is heavy. I’m glad you’re able to find levity and light in your family. What a cute story about your son! I was also laughing at the couch anecdote — my brother said something similar on a Mother’s Day questionnaire as a kid (“My mom can be found: lying down”) and my mom was SO offended (through her tears of laughter!) She was, and still is, always on the go. Hilarious!


  2. This week. And last week. And before, and before, and before. It has been, a LOT.

    But – for what it is worth, my sister and I sang that same song at our daycare growing up and she’s taught my niece as well (complete with the moves!)

    1. Yes – it has been a lot and too much. Sending love —

      And I’m so reassured that others know this song!! I’d never heard it before and it is adorable.


  3. What a difficult week.
    We are pulled in so many directions, and then the weight of this tragedy lays upon our hearts.
    Sometimes you just need your happiness to regain your strength and continue helping others.

  4. May is a busy month. I’ve been feeling much the same this entire month. A week or so ago I took myself out for a hike along a cliff walk near me – it has THE most spectacular views, I hope it’s not rude to share a link to my own blog just to show off this hike – and, incredibly annoyingly, could actually feel dusty corners of my mind firing up again as I walked. Take yourself into nature! is such a cliché, yet it worked (as I say, very irritating).

    No words for what has happened in the States in the last few weeks though. I’m half a world away and yet I still just want to scream and scream and scream in pure rage and absolute disbelief that this is allowed to continue.

    Mangawhai Cliff Walk (scroll down past the tennis and cycling):

    1. It has been such a heavy and intense time. Thanks for the nudge — I really do feel a need to get outside and move my body a bit more. Love the photos you shared! You are buff!!!


  5. I have been feeling this way too and this week — after finishing law school final exams and moving across the country (in the same week!)– I finally had a moment to sit in stillness. I’m in such a blessed, exciting time of my life, both with things I have just finished and things to come in the near future. Recently, however, I’ve found myself increasingly unable to put aside my grief, my anger, my despair, at the sadness of the current events in the US and the world. It is always a privilege, certainly, to silo my empathy as a distraction and not a necessity and I realize that is not a skill I wish to hone. The sadness and heaviness of the past few weeks demand feeling and reflection and action (!) and I never want quick compartmentalizing to be my default response. We can hold two things, I think, sadness and excitement, and let each serve their purpose. I’ve been looking to simpler, truer joys and comforts — a hug from my partner, telling my mother (a school teacher) how much I love her, cooking a favorite meal, reading outside, a cheery exchange with the Starbucks barista, telling a chic stranger I love their outfit, a child’s babbled song lyrics…we will carry each other forward. Thanks for creating this particular channel for reflection– it is certainly a true joy and comfort.

    1. Hi Katherine – Thank you so much for the thoughtful reflection here, and for the lovely finish line: “we will carry each other forward.” Thank you for sharing — xx

  6. Thanks for sharing. Just here to say, “same, girl.” This week has been a difficult one. Cheering you on, always. And wishing you a happy MDW.

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