Imagine a child’s bedroom. The floor unseen. Toys scattered about. You know carpet covers the floor. At one point you’d seen the carpet. Except, all you see now is a cocktail party of Barbies, plastic bodies tossed haphazardly, their clothes strewn about, a pink convertible in pieces, doll houses wrecked, all as if a hurricane had come through the party and left chaos in the wake. The hurricane also brought bent board game boards from a dozen games, all the player pieces, dice, spinners, and property cards mixed together. G.I.Joe and He-Man action figures with melted limbs are here and there. Step carelessly or else you’ll find the sharp pinch of a Hot Wheels car digging into your foot. Compared to the Barbie doll clothes, a giant’s shorts, shirts, socks, and several pairs of shoes–not one having a mate–cover any remaining space of floor.
This is life with a child. A messy room with little to no space on the floor for you to sit or lay down.
As an adult, the room is a single day’s worth of time. Twenty-four hours filled with not just a job but also trying to eat three meals, find a few hours to sleep, and rummage around for your sanity. You used to have space for the activities to sustained that sanity, patches of carpet among the job, the eating, and the sleeping. Patches for watching your favorite television shows, there’s too much good stuff on these days. Reading part of a new book, knocking down that To-Read stack. Checking Facebook for new posts about what your friends ate for lunch today. Going to the gym. Whatever.
Except now you can’t find those patches of carpet. Those spare spaces are filled with changing diapers. Rocking little humans. Feeding little humans. Getting up to sooth those little humans when their cries seem to echo to your own primal understanding that the world is a cruel storm in which they require shelter, they require you to buffer them until they can stand against the storm.
My wife and I have two little humans in our house, recently arrived. Blessings, for having children is something we can’t have naturally. Two house guests whose needs have filled up the places on the floor where I three weeks ago had spied carpet.
As an aspiring writer, my spare time–some of those spaces of carpet–I use for writing. I also run. I read and watch movies too. I spend time with my wife and the dogs, though these last parts of my life I often consider as important as going to work and earn money to make sure the lights are turned on and the bank doesn’t ask me to vacate my home.
To be good parents to these two house guests, who we’re not sure how long will stay with us, my wife and I are placing the needs of these two house guests in places of spare carpet where we’d go to find our sanity. Over the previous few weeks, late each night when I’m rocking one of the twins back to sleep after they jerk awake or feel the need to let me know they’ve woken in a place they find foreign and strange, a new place not as comforting as the home they’d been yanked from, not yet, I’ve often looked around and wondered… When an I going to write? When will I go running now? Heck, when will my wife and I spend quality time together with each other or the dogs? Will I ever sleep again?!
The last three weeks have felt like one long day. One long day with short naps every one and a while.
Tonight I went up stairs to respond to the cries of one baby. As I rocked her, I found myself thinking about “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. I’m a nerd, give me a break. [Ahem] Not to spoil a major plot point and twist from “The Prisoner of Azkaban”, but one of the characters has a magical artifact called a Time Turner, which allows her to go back in time after spending time in one class room so she can go to a second class at the same time. Effectively this character’s traveling back in time provides her with two hours instead of one hour, to be in two places at once, to stack her tasks on once patch of carpet (to continue my earlier analogy).
I wish I had a Time Turner. After rocking a child for an hour until he or she goes quietly back to sleep, I could then go back in time and work on my newest story during that hour that I’m also upstairs soothing the child back to sleep. Heck! A third me can use the Turner a third time to watch the newly arrived “The Force Awakens” while a second me works on my novel in another room and the first me is upstairs with the baby.
Alas, life is not a Harry Potter novel. Unfortunately.
As new parents–foster or otherwise–my wife and I are learning to practice time management. Time management is something all writers struggle with, especially the aspiring types with day jobs. Like myself. As I enter this new phase of my life, begin this journey, I’m contemplating the meaning of finding and making time. Two terms often tossed around, usually when talking about activities we humans can’t get muster the energy to experience because of a cluttered floor on which we can’t find carpet space. Those twenty pounds you need to lose to hit your New Years resolution? You’ll make time, next week or the week after that. You also want to read that book people’ve told you to read for years now. You’ll find time, or so you keep saying. Except life is filled with the clutter atop the carpet. Watching the fifty television shows stored on the DVR. The five hours of overtime needed to get a project at work completed. Taking care of two six-month old house guests who need your love and support and safety.
Neither good nor bad, some things we just tend to put on the bare spots of carpet as opposed to other things. And we can’t stack responsibilities on top. In this way waits an avalanche of Barbies, baby clothes, dirty diapers, and Monopoly pieces being chased by two Hungry Hungry Hippos.
Taking care of our house guests is important for my wife and I. More important than anything. But in life we (I) need to find sanity.
Making or finding time? In the last few weeks I’ve come to realize both are the same. Both are the act of looking at the bedroom floor, seeing all the clutter, and deciding which items to pick up and set aside to reveal the carpet of sanity, to place there the activities and things most important to use. There are less patches when life puts more responsibilities on the floor. We need to make the most of the remaining patches.
Now, if you’ll excuse me… it’s after midnight on Friday night, well, Saturday morning now. It’s my shift to listen to the baby monitor while my wife sleeps. Instead of watching television or something else, I’m going work on my current novel. I’ve cleared a little space and found some carpet.