Musings
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The Magpie Diary: May 19, 2024.

By: Jen Shoop
I am disciplined, sometimes to a fault, but what am I a disciple of, or to?

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On one of my runs this week, I noticed a thicket of roses spilling over a picket fence. Wayward and adventurous, they tendriled around one another, the wooden stakes, neighboring trees. I thought to myself: Jen, it’s OK to let yourself spill over sometimes. I’ve been flirting with this theme the past few weeks, longing to go easy. I’ve been slowing down and indulging myself in a more protracted process of exercising, showering, drinking a green juice in the backyard, caring for my hair, going to bed earlier. But sometimes these routines can veer into their own category of discipline: I am finding myself determined to complete my fitness videos every morning, and get to bed by 9:30, and drink enough water. What new logjams have I built for myself in the name of taking up more space in my day? Is this really what it’s like to “go easy”? Am I manufacturing something best left to organics?

I’ve been reflecting on this the past few days in the context of our collective grooming routines — how much time and effort and discipline we put into our own self-maintenance. Most of this is healthful, I think: we are keeping ourselves in good condition. We are treating ourselves with care. As one Magpie put it: “Being a shadow of myself can’t be of service to anyone.” But at what point do these rituals become a kind of obeisance?

Here is the pith: I am disciplined, sometimes to a fault, but what am I a disciple of, or to?

Landon frequently reminds me that I love to make up rules and then hold myself accountable for them. I routinely imagine regulations and deadlines that have never once been mentioned to me. I can be terribly inflexible with myself. Some of this stems from the work ethic I inherited from (or modeled upon) my father. You could call my Dad at 11 p.m. and launch right into a business problem, and he’d nod receptively, tenting his fingers in thought, and then dive right in. He is famous for shoehorning in a meeting or a work call or matter of business when everyone else is in wind-down mode. His energy: “Onward and full speed ahead.” Frankly, I admire this, and always have. I bring a similar intense determination to my own work, and to seeing things all the way through. This approach brought me great success in school and in my first few professional jobs, and was later corroborated by my work in multiple start-up and entrepreneurial environments, where I learned that if you don’t have a bias toward action, someone else will eat your lunch. There is a well-greased start-up philosophy on this point: “first mover advantage.” Andale! Carpe diem! Always be shipping (or cheesy product riff on “always be closing”). I internalized these lessons and have never quite divorced myself from them, even though my current professional and creative niche are a different kettle of fish entirely.

Another Magpie brought this schematic full circle when she wrote this week: “A few of your posts on allowing life to happen, even in the mundane tasks actually helped me shake my routine to make it easier. For example, I love to start the week with an everything shower but Sundays are always tough to carve out a pocket of time for myself: football Sundays, beach Sundays, running errands/meal prepping Sundays and I also just love to cook a “feast” of a meal and spend time with my family before starting the week. I started waking up a little earlier on Monday mornings (I WFH so it’s not too stressful), I start the masks/oils/potions part and after dropping my daughter to school, I finish off with the shower, I LOVE this new routine but it took me a long time to change it just bc I felt like this had to be done on a Sunday! Sometimes I am so rigid with myself for no reason ha!”

I think she’s put her finger right on the x. We can live in a routine, but we must make those routines work for us, not the other way around. The next time I find myself knotting up around a parameter, I’m going to take a beat to ask whether we’re looking at a garden stake or a great wall. Can I fudge it a bit? Can I get to this task tomorrow? Can I skip the last few minutes of the workout to make my life a little easier today? Can I rearrange my appointment so I can get to school without rushing? Etc.

What are your thoughts on this, Magpies? How and when do you let yourself spill over?

Also this week…

+The only time a pile of laundry brings me joy: when I’ve finished a full work out and am stepping into the shower. Its own kind of reward. Also, I’ve shared these Nikes so many times, but I do adore them. Every detail! The color, the support, the lightweight-ness, the smile on the insole. I just ordered these trail running shoes for Colorado and beyond, and love these lightweight, dri-fit caps — I never run without a hat. They keep sweat and sun out of my eyes, protect from UV rays, and kind of hide my make-up free face.

+First warm weather s’mores with friends.

+I was digging through my archives looking for the photo of myself wearing my HHH Cosima dress (re-released this summer in a similar, fabulous blue stripe — you must buy! So flattering and elegant and surprisingly versatile!) and found it (first photo below) but not before finding the two snaps adjacent to it, spotlighting my Tilly Girl. I can’t believe she was ours for so long, and now she’s gone. I did not have pets growing up and had no idea how intense or enduring the grief would be. Mr. Magpie and I were watching Wyatt Earp last weekend — one of Mr. Magpie’s favorites — and there’s a part where Wyatt watches his brother die in front of him. Out of nowhere, I started to sob. It’s not even a particularly poignant or intense part of the movie, which I realize is a strange thing to say given the subject matter, but the death is handled in a very quick-moving, big-Western way. Mr. Magpie looked over at me, startled. I told him that I still fixate on the moment that Tilly died in our arms. One second she was blinking between my palms, and the next, she was gone. I am haunted by the immediacy of her passing — it felt like the cruelest trick of time. Just one millisecond more. I feel, perhaps strangely, proud or satisfied in some abstract way that I was there with her when she went. What if she’d passed away while we were sleeping? In some ways, this might have been gentler on my heart, but in other ways, I feel that I owed her my presence, and I’m glad I was there, petting her ears, telling her “It’s OK, Tilly girl,” over and over into that black midnight. I realize these are intense thoughts to sandwich in after happy photos of s’mores, but this is the way of grief, isn’t it? Defying all logic and decorum. It will wallop you on a whistling Wednesday.

+Random bites I enjoyed this week: shrimp chips, procured from an Asian grocer (I love visiting international groceries and perusing the snack sections) and Van Leeuwen’s Affogato ice cream. My brother in law has an espresso machine and will often make affogatos for me for dessert when I visit — it is the most outrageously delicious and sophisticated dessert (he usually does a decaf one so I’m not wired for hours) and reminds me so much of him. I loved the connection.

+Two beauty products I am obsessing over at the moment: Roz’s hair serum (15% off! and my current go-to for detangling and priming before using my hot tools — all my fav hair care products here!) and Osea’s body oil. The latter is divinely lightweight and quick to absorb, but leaves a gorgeous sheen. I love its delicate citrus scent. (All my favorite summer skin products here.)

P.S. Always updating my Shopbop hearts.

P.P.S. Writing this while wearing this silk jogger set. Divine. DIVINE!

P.P.P.S. My updated Amazon storefront.

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10 thoughts on “The Magpie Diary: May 19, 2024.

  1. Your posts have made me so emotional lately because I see myself in them. I too am working through unwinding perfectionism and my internal worship of work ethic. It’s left me feeling unmoored and confused about my own self-perception and “value,” but I know the work is important even if it feels destabilizing. I’ve had to realize how actively unkind to myself I am in the pursuit of progress. I’m trying to lean into the thought, “what would success feel like if it were framed through joy and pride, rather than self-recrimination and guilt?”

    Sending you lots of love in solidarity. This isn’t easy but it’s important

    1. Thank you, friend – these are such beautiful thoughts, especially the way you are seeking grace for yourself in this evolution. It’s inspired me today, too. Thanks for the empathy, friend. Right there with you!

      xx

  2. It is such a difficult needle to thread – discipline, rules, freedom, spontaneity, Going through a somewhat challenging time, I have found my self imposed rules provide both some comfort of routine and sense of accomplishment. With that said, I keep my rules within a framework as opposed to a rigid schedule. For example, I keep a moleskine planner where one side is the days of the week for appointments and things that must be completed on a particular day or each day, and on the other side is a blank page with things that I want to accomplish that week as time etc. permits rather than tightly scheduling everything to a particular day. I also have a theme for each day i.e. Monday is laundry and grocery, Tuesday is baking and cooking ahead day, Wednesday is errands / appointments day, Thursday is banking, paperwork day and Friday is anything I didn’t get to this week day. Interspersed is of course workouts, kids homework, school events, home projects etc. but the framework remains. It works for me and makes me feel more ‘in-control’ but with some flexibility. I repeat
    to myself a phrase my French friend used a lot – ‘C’est moi que decide’ – ‘It is I who decides’ to remind myself that I am in control of my rules not the other way around.

    1. Wow – absolutely love these frameworks, especially the use of one notebook for “must dos” and another for “if I have time.” Like you, I bucket activities — laundry days, admin days — and this helps me feel better about “putting off” things like filing paperwork, submitting forms, etc because I know I’ll get to it on Friday (admin day).

      xx

  3. I’ve been pondering on this theme of how discipline, ease, and slowing down all knit together. I tend toward being more scattered and am always seeking to be more disciplined. I need less letting go and more holding tight, ha! The busier I get, the more I operate in a “last in, first out” way, and I get so frustrated by the end of the day realizing I’ve totally missed on my priorities. The funny thing is that I’ve found that slowing down a bit and simplifying allows me to be more consistent with the discipline I try to cultivate – not wasting groceries, skincare habits, keeping a house cleaning routine… As an added good, I’ve been enjoying so many of the small moments in the past year or two. I’ve learned the names of our post office employees and watched wrens build a nest in our yard while I water plants.

    1. LOVE these outcroppings from your commitment to slowing down. I mean, isn’t this what life’s all about? One of my girlfriends told me “life happens between the drumbeats,” and it’s so true. It’s not the sporadic big stuff (the graduation, the party, etc) but rather the small, incremental things we do or don’t do that make up the vast majority of our lives.

      Thanks for sharing this perspective.

      xx

  4. Two thoughts: Dealing with serious physical health issues over the last year has taught me a lot about resilience, which is I think what you’re gesturing towards here. I think it’s good to have routines around things like health, but if you hold to them too tightly, you will fall over when they are taken from you. Cultivating resilience will help you not fall so hard. Second, I think it’s a good test to continually interrogate the “whys” of your self-imposed rules. You may uncover something deeper that needs addressing that the rules are merely bandaids for.

  5. Well, the Tilly anecdote got me as always! It’s been nearly 6 years since my papillon died (loved the papillon reference in your fiction! But I was like nooooo not the baddie’s spirit animal, lol) but it’s still hard to think about that day. I had a similar emotional response years ago watching Friday Night Lights when Tami gives birth. Suddenly I was sobbing and my husband was like what is going on?? It was less than a year since my youngest was born, and apparently there was tenderness hiding right under the surface!

    I have a very rigid workout schedule, completely made up by me. And I’ve been struggling lately with re-arranging it due to the busy May we’ve been having. But since I work out at home, there is no schedule of classes and I know if I don’t set something up ahead of time, I’ll never do it. Or I’ll spend my allotted workout time just choosing a class from the VAST on demand library. So, like so many things, I think it’s a continuum on which it’s not healthy to be too rigid or too loose. And it’s best to move back and forth as life’s demands change. But I am still resistant to changing it! Mainly bc things are packed so tight that changing the workout means changing something else, and so on. But all will be well! Even if I have to skip a ride altogether 🙂

    1. Aw – sorry to hear about your papillon (and apologies for demonizing him — ha), and thanks for the solidarity. I can’t believe how deep the grief has been. Life is full of surprises…

      I love your thoughts on this, especially: “I think it’s a continuum on which it’s not healthy to be too rigid or too loose. And it’s best to move back and forth as life’s demands change.” Amen. It feels like the true gift of maturity/age is discernment in this matter — when to push, when to let go. When to stick to a rule, when to flout it. It takes confidence, experience, intuition, to make these judgment calls well and routinely.

      Thanks for sharing!

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