It's amazing how much time I spend telling people to brush their teeth, says Karin.
For ten days I was away
from my family to see my very aged granny in Berlin and pop in to visit my brother in London. I wish I could honestly say it was hell not being the Person In Charge At Home, but it wasn’t. It was restorative. So restorative, that I came back and surveyed all that I had wrought in ten years and wondered how the hell I’d done it. And how the hell I would continue doing it.
Back there, up in the big northern cities, in my monochrome wardrobe, with my little suitcase, no car, no keys and no kids, my brainwaves flat-lined. In the void that was left where school activities, deadlines, miniature domestic crises and the endless pursuit of that holy grail of motherhood – a little Me Time – usually wrestle over the sixteen hours of wakefulness, there was nothing. Zero. A hollow, echoing chamber into which I sometimes yelled “Hello?” and all that would bounce back was several hellos strung together. If a deep or interesting or clever thought rose to the surface when I woke like an automaton at 6am, I yawned and curled back under the duvet covers, and watched the thought slip down into the still sediment below.
I went into toilets and bathrooms several times a day and no-one, not once, felt the need to say something
to me while I was there.
If a train arrived at a platform before me, I could make split-second decisions about whether to make a dash for it or wait for the next one, without taking into account relative distance of platform to three varying lengths of legs, three moods and three levels of tiredness.
I never thought about food. Ever. Unless my tummy insisted, and then, quite often, just to be rebellious, I would ignore it. Often, enormous plates of the most delicious food would magically appear before me, prepared by my foodie guru brother or his partner, and I’d be amazed and delighted in equal measure. Even a burnt toast offering would have amazed and delighted me, but instead I was fed the freshest fish and salads into which an abundance of child-unfriendly foods like capers, mustard or peppers had been added. I was momentarily mystified by the provenance of these home-cooked meals, but each not-made-or-planned-by-me morsel was manna.
No-one thrust papers needing signatures under my nose. No-one phoned me about collections for things. No-one required me to bake a cake. No-one thought to bother me with issues such as household toilet paper or bread shortages. I did not co-ordinate any complicated pick-ups or drop-offs or sudden mutual baby-sitting arrangements.
I didn’t tell anyone to brush their teeth. That’s roughly four times a day – around 40 times in ten days – that I did not use my vocal chords to utter the weary sentence “Teeth?”
Do you get that? FORTY TIMES in ten days when I could use the minutes before and after “Teeth?” - and the mental energy and the vocal chords required to utter that boring bloody question - to say or think or do something else altogether.
I didn’t use that time – or the time I use daily to say the million trillion little inanities needed to shepherd the flock from morning bed to night bed – to read a good book, write a great poem, think a deep thought, plan a great altruism or assess an enormous existential problem.
I simply woke, dressed, ate and floated on and off public transport, and into and out of exhibitions and museums, like a ghost, delighted beyond thought that no-one seemed to see me, and that I had no decisions to make.
For ten days, I was an empty, calm, light sliver of a human being. Temporarily unneeded. Temporarily, fleetingly, deliciously, selfishly, ME.If you have a moment for it, what do you do with your ME time?Read more by Karin Schimke