In My Own Time
One of the first things you learn as a mother is that the restroom is no longer a place of rest.
It’s “a hurry up and get what you need to get done before someone walks in, bangs on the door whining, or screams ‘Moooooom!” room.
The place where you once luxuriated, adored your assets or blemishes in the mirror, painted your nails or playfully practiced styling your hair in new way has now become your own personal Nascar pit station, sans the attentive crew. Pit crew of one, you now speedily apply deodorant, while brushing your teeth, while scrambling for a scrunchie, while praying you can find the right size tampon at the bottom of the nearly empty box.
You don’t take your time in the bathroom, because, as a mom, there is no time to take. And if you start to believe there is, your kids remind you otherwise by bellowing with an ear-splintering shrill, “She hit me!” just as your bare bottom hits the cool round porcelain.
My kids are teens now, but I still tend to operate with the same pace when I visit my pit station. I haven’t down shifted yet. Not here in the bathroom and not much in life, either.
I remember a time when there was a different, slower, more restorative pace to life.
Back then, be it bathroom or bedroom or backyard, I could take my time.
I would sashay into said space, twirl around and appraise my surroundings with gleeful curiosity. With nowhere to be and no one to take care of at all, I would instead take advantage of the facilities available to me, be that with a long shower, a snuggle under the covers in the middle of the day or an Army crawl underneath my four poster bed to explore what I’d shoved down there. I’d poke through my toys and books to see if anything grabbed my interest anew or sort through the nail clippers, half-used mint dental floss and the almost empty nail polish in the bathroom drawer. In the backyard, I’d scoot behind the shrubbery where no one else could fit and conduct a stakeout on my family from a hidden distance.
With this sort of meandering time, the imagination could take hold.
I could transport myself into the empty mind of a mundane task or into the sparkling world of a made-up adventure.
Sometimes hidden away behind the oleanders at the back of our yard long enough for the light to change, I would wish someone might suddenly be alarmed at the lack of me and shout out, panicked, “Emily!” It never happened.
The end of that kind of leisurely pace began eroding the moment I went off to college and shared space with a total stranger. Steadily declining after that, it disappeared completely when I became a mom, and thus, a fully committed adult.
It made a guest appearance when I watched my children become absorbed in their imaginative games: playing restaurant or cooking show or house.
As I fumble around trying to find my stride mid-life, I am beginning to remember with awe and respect that leisurely automatic setting my life once had.
I observe my teens lounge without care in their rooms or on the sofa. I notice with admiration how they spend hours dawdling in the bathroom or trying on outfits in their bedrooms or speaking to friends on Facetime about nothing in particular, all of this while there are sinks full of dishes, recycling that needs to go out, dog hair to sweep up and laundry bunched in glum piles waiting to be folded on the dining room table. Major distractions for me, this does nothing to disturb their leisurely focus.
Most of the time, I’m not actually annoyed by this.
Observing, some interior chord in me rings like the obscured name of a long-forgotten classmate I’m trying to bring into focus. I begin to have vague, sensual notions about what it was like to take my time in a space.
Like learning to walk or speak again after a stroke, I am slowing regaining my ability to dawdle, to do nothing, to take the time it takes.
It’s not coming easily. Not with bills to pay and endless choices to make, and mouths to feed and clients to care for, and a company to lead. Not with the constant pressure to do more, be more, go quicker, hurry up and achieve right now.
But I’m growing increasingly adamant that taking my time is going to be one of the skills I will need the most in the years to come.
There’s a lot to reckon with as you approach life transitions. As a woman in her early 40s, I am daily wrestling with the state of my career, the state of my body, my general desirability, the thickness of my hair, the quality of contributions I have made to my children, my husband, my family, my community, fellow women, my industry, humanity and the planet.
It’s overwhelming. A couple of times a month, I buckle mentally under the weight.
I feel heavy, uninspired and a bit desperate for something I can’t name.
In this space, not a lot can help move me from my sluggishness.
It’s almost as if I am being pointed into it. This, like the worries above, scares me. After all, I have no intention of become a sloth or slowing down in life. If anything I feel more motivated to do what matters than ever before.
But maybe this impulse to lay back, to tinker, to do not much is life’s way of reminding me of the magic of leisure time and encouraging me back to enjoying it.
And so instead of pressing myself toward the sink of dirty dishes, gathering up that next load of laundry or deadly sorting through the tipping pile of junk mail, I pull out my laptop.
Roving through the ideas that bounce around my head, meandering through the poignant notions and salient odds and ends, I write.
This act is about more than writing. It’s about more than ignoring the urgent for the important.
Ultimately, it’s an act of delicious rebellion against the crushing mundanity of the world.
It’s about holding time for my creative spirit to blossom, to bloom. It’s about returning to an elemental me, my creator. It’s about reclaiming some unbridled soulful part of me I stopped finding time for, in my own time.