The Loft Born of Experience.

By: Jen Shoop

Every few years, I revisit Patti Smith’s excellent essay on performing at a Nobel Prize ceremony honoring Bob Dylan, and every few years, I retreat with something new. At first reading, I took heart in her musings on “the humiliating sting of failure.” I, too, have experienced that prickly heat, on daises far less renowned and interesting, but public nonetheless. I am thinking specifically of a pitch to a famous Chicago tech investor. I was nervous, I was rushing, my heart was beating out of my throat, and he stood up in the middle — while his peons looked on placidly — and casually threw an apple core into the trash bin, pausing to linger at the window, at what desultory street happenings might temporarily interest him. I’ll pass, was the message at the end. You’re an idiot was the subtext. There were many other fumblings in front of investors, customers, and audiences, and — later — many rounds of humiliating conversations about ending our business. My face still burns at these memories, as if cinders bearing residual and permanent heat. When I was closer to the events, I found umbrage in Smith’s reminder that we all fail: I wish I would have done better, I said. No, no, they replied, none of us wish that. For us, your performance seemed a metaphor for our own struggles. Just so.

A few years later, I found myself fixated on her statement that: “Time does not heal all wounds but gives us the tools to endure them.” It called to mind Tonkin’s “Growing-Around-Grief” model:

I took kindly to the principle that we may never “get over” or “erase” or “work through” or “quiet” our experiences with challenges, losses, and failures, but we can evolve to live with them and create more space to grapple with other matters as time passes. That has proven true in issues great and small in my life, whether grieving the loss of a friend, mourning the closing of a business, or recovering from any manner of minor heartaches and setbacks.

On this most recent reading, though, I sat in awe at the passage: “And all the things I have seen and experienced and remember will be within me, and the remorse I had felt so heavily will joyfully meld with all other moments. Seventy years of moments, seventy years of being human.”

I am awestruck by her grace in this statement. Frankly, I am awestruck at her grace in the video footage of her performance of that Dylan song at the Nobel ceremony, too. “I’m so sorry,” she says, when she can’t go on. She tries again, for a bar, then — “I’m so sorry. I’m so nervous.” Then a self-deprecating laugh, then a starting-again. “Seventy years of moments, seventy years of being human,” she says, and I imagine a soul moving steadily along its bumpy path, faring ups and downs but consistently returning to the midline axis. But her grasp on the long-view, her simultaneous resolve and apology, suggest a line graph of a different sort: here is the perch afforded by age, the loft born of experience.


+Most of the time, we are our own loudest critics.

+On returning to the posture of the novitiate.

+I also revisit “Wild Geese” every year or two. So good.

+On being humbled in a different way.

+”Don’t grow a wishbone where a backbone ought to be.”

+On the notion of blooming where we are planted. (For the record, I was/am a late bloomer.)

Shopping Break.

+Half-zips are having such a moment — I love the ones from La Ligne (<<currently on sale in ver limited sizes) and J. Crew — but this under-$30 score in the olive green nails the trend for less.

+And, I mean, this half-zip sweater dress….!!!!

+MZ Wallace lookalike for $25!

+This blouse gives off major Zimmermann vibes, but under $100. So chic for fall!

+Pretty fall napkins at a great price.

+Not really a jumpsuit person but I saw this and…! Like, do I need to go away to a cabin in the woods one crisp fall weekend and wear this while reading and sipping coffee? Yes, I do. Would be cute with high-end sneakers. (Lots of those in this post.)

+WOW this corduroy mini. So so chic.

+This dress, in the burgundy print (labeled inscrutably “bercafl” in the description), reminds me SO much of the SEA dress I wore last Thanksgiving. So chic with a little cardi over the shoulders and a burgundy padded headband.

+These quilted suede ballet flats for a little one are under $20 and absolutely adorable, and so is this $20 embroidered cardigan!

+I have a pearl-dotted sweater similar to this Sezane that I bought from Zara a few years back that I still wear every single winter! A fab piece.

+This bag comes in such chic color combos.

+This fleece wrap sweatshirt situation is on sale for $30 and looks heavenly. I’m going to buy but can’t decide on a color…

+Matouk vibes for a little less.

+YES to this top. Stow away for a festive holiday gathering!

+People love these $20 running shorts. Come in tons of colors! More fall athletic finds here.

+Into white tops like this to pair with jeans when I’m just not inspired. I throw on all my favorite accessories at the moment and go. Currently, those accessories are: corduroy headbands, caramel shades, and heart necklaces.

+I’ve had a couple of queries about whether I’ll be testing the shacket trend. I do like it a lot and have been waiting for one in a simple neutral oatmeal color I think…but this blush gingham might be just the ticket. I like that it’s not super long (I’m only 5’0 and some styles would totally dwarf me)!

+Love the bows on these pointed toe flats from a new-to-me brand! (More great shoes for fall here.)

+These hyacinth chargers add depth/structure to a tabletop.

+Love this elegant sconce.

+This $25 sweatshirt comes in the best blue-gray color and reminds me of the Free People one I mentioned last month.

+This coat is fall perfection.

+Ordering these mittens for winter.

+Another amazing statement sweater.

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10 thoughts on “The Loft Born of Experience.

  1. That is such an enlightening thought (and visual) about grief — thank you.

    Those Larroude flats — wow! The shape looks so much like Prada! That’s the brand by Marina Larroude, right? I browse her IG from time to time, she is so chic.

    1. Truly so chic! They remind me so much of Prada, and I LOVE the colors.

      I also found that visual so helpful, both for grief and any other major event/challenge/setback/issue that consumes a lot of energy in the immediate term.


  2. I found your blog when I was looking for Christmas gift ideas for my daughter. I’ve continued to read along because of the honesty and nuance and inspiration in your writing about the challenges and joys of living as a parent, spouse, friend, daughter . . . and just plain old human. And, BTW, I live in Chevy Chase and have been meaning to post to say welcome home.

    1. Hi Alex! Wow – thank you so much for the kind note, and for your readership, and for your gracious welcome! I so appreciate the words of encouragement. Thank you for sticking around, and happy (lucky!) to have you here.


  3. That Alex Mill jumpsuit is so chic! I love it. But you don’t need to go camping to wear it…I’d tie a scarf inside the neck or unzip it some and add some pretty necklaces, add pointed God pretty flats and pick up the kids and walk into Starbucks all with a big smile on my face! Alex Mill is really killing it lately.

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