Earlier this week, Mary Oliver asked* me: “Listen, are you breathing just a little and calling it life?“
The words came like a bucket of ice water to the face. I have been splashing myself with their residual chill multiple times a day, which has helped me put up blinders when I am engaged in something that matters to me. For example, my children were at an excitement level 2000 on Halloween, and I fully leaned into the chaos. Our neighborhood puts on a big block party with pizza and wine and candy-crazed children running around missing shoes and tails, and I consciously felt myself “unlock.” I let go of bedtimes, of foisting some kind of sustenance in my children’s bodies, of reminding them to use the toilet. It felt so good to lean into the ebullience of the night with them. Despite the fact that all of the neighborhood children descend on the houses at once, in a big clump (parents basically wink at each other at some furtively-agreed-upon-time and we all rush back to our houses so that one spouse is available to dole out candy while the other meanders behind the children), the pack usually winnows out quickly, with older children charging ahead or meeting up with other pals, and younger ones toddling home. As an unexpected bonus, one of my good friends from the neighborhood has two girls around my daughter’s age and we ended up doing the entire Halloween night together. Our three girls kept cheersing: “It’s the girl gang!” as they strategized about which houses to visit. It was relaxing to have good companionship myself while carrying Emory’s 4,000 pounds of candy. (Hill and Mr. Magpie peeled off early — my son was so tired by seven o’clock! He couldn’t keep up with the group and complained about tired legs.) I was reminded of the incredible gift of good neighbors.
I’m not sure if it was Mary Oliver’s brisk reminder or my wellness-oriented visit to Calistoga (truly, the mineral bath treatment was a profound exercise in mindfulness), but I found myself able to replicate this “unlocking” or rather, “locking in” multiple times this week: at a parent-teacher conference; while helping my mother sort through her closet; while on a call with a girlfriend; while walking the dog. In each situation, I envisioned myself flipping a switch to drown out all noise and interruption and instead hyper-focus on what I was meant to do, and where I was meant to be. I have started implementing small things in my digital life to advance the same agenda. I recently turned off notifications for emails, messages, and DMs on my phone and instead try to batch the activity of checking all of those communication channels a few times a day. It’s imperfect, but it is so much easier for me to focus on what I’m doing if I’m not seeing every single message as it materializes, in real time. I also try to keep my phone out of sight and reach between the hours of 6-8 so I can dial in on family and dinner, and routinely leave my phone at home while taking Tilly for short walks (longer, I take it for safety / just in case). A small enhancement I am trying to implement is completing one task at a time on my computer. I often find I am waiting for something to upload, or print, or generate and in that nano-second of downtime, I’m opening a second window to do something else, or looking at the next item on my task list. This generates an unnecessarily frenetic desk experience that benefits nobody and nothing. We’re talking fractions of a second. If I can’t sit still and wait for a fraction of a second…? At bedtime, I fastidiously avoid interaction with my phone. My next target is avoiding my phone first thing in the morning, too. I do like to participate in my digital prayer circle as soon as I’m awake, but I figure I could also pray myself and send the emoji (which signals to my mother and sister that I am praying at that moment) later in the day.
The one frontier I am struggling with is responding to personal emails, calls, and messages. I find that in my new model of “checking a few times a day,” I will inadvertently focus on the most important messages and often let the lighter-weight ones (or ones that require lengthy thought and response) settle at the bottom…and then go unanswered for days, and sometimes forever. How important is it to respond to a meme or a group thread, for example? And yet, often, as adult women, these are the places we connect, and laugh, and remember one another. I am trying to figure out the correct and kind mnemonic for these interactions. Any tips on good communication hygiene?
*Does it ever feel like an author is writing deliberately to you?
Usually, I share a few photographs from my week at this point in my Diary posts, but I took nearly nothing this week save for a couple of snaps of my children on Halloween. Instead, a black and white prose list will have to do —
+I told Mr. Magpie I was planning to buy those noise-canceling headphones and he immediately jumped into tech research mode. He’s urging me to consider either Sennheiser Momentum 4s or these ultra-splurge-y ones from Focal. (He also put Apple’s over-the-ear model in the running, and he rates all three of those over the Bose set in my cart). Stay tuned…
+Wait — Merit just launched a new suite of products, including a mascara and a brow gel. I need to try everything. (You can still get some of my favorite Merit products at a discount via the Sephora sale, which ends tomorrow. All my favorite Merit picks detailed here.)
+These velvet alphabet ornaments from Parterre are so beautiful.
+La Ligne generously offered to send me a piece from their winter collection, and I chose this sequin midi skirt. I think I will buy the matching metallic turtleneck! (I mentioned just yesterday that I’m into everything metallic right now, and between penning that post and this, I received this opportunity!). They also created a code — MAGPIE25 — for $25 off your first order at La Ligne.
+Also on the festive dressing front: I finally ordered this tulle dress from A+O. It was taunting me and I couldn’t resist. Imagine with a velvet heel and big earrings. Look for less with this or this.
+I keep a small stack of drawings from my children and a photograph of my Grandma Carm right next to my pen cup on my desk. I recently ordered a few of these clear, magnetic frames so that I could line them up in my window sill and see all of them at once (versus in an unceremonious heap).
+Is it just my children, or are your kids obsessed with KidBopz? Mr. Magpie and I hate it so much. Like, why are we listening to a bad rendition of “Thriller” when Michael Jackson’s is so, so much better? I am not normally this strident, but occasionally, I will numbly, accidentally leave it on after dropping my children at school and only midway home realize I’ve been torturing myself. Ha! One thing that is helpful with this in general is my daughter’s HomePodMini — it has safety controls so there is no bad language, but she can tell Siri, in her room, to play KidBopz or Taylor Swift or whatever she’d like. This way, we can tell them “Go to your room if you want to hear that!” We also get them lots of the song-centric Tonies. They are currently fighting over this one.
+Speaking of Tonies: my children love Wild Kratts (my son in particular — he absorbs a lot of detail about the animals!) and I can’t wait to give him these Tonies in his stocking.
+I’ve been testing the Goop affordable clean beauty diffusion line, and this cleanser is pretty damn good. It has a strong scent (fruity / juice-like), but the result is similar to Youth to the People’s formula, which might tie with Motif as my favorite facial cleanser.
+I have two textured ivory sweaters I keep reaching for, morning after morning: this Madewell and this Talbots. They’re simply what I want to wear, over a tee or turtleneck, with jeans, every single day.
P.S. Lots of fun new fashion finds here.
P.P.S. Another set of Mary Oliver words that routinely stir me.
P.P.P.S. Rhythms and love.
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