As much as I love people, I also crave alone time. And none of this once-a-week stuff; daily downtime takes precedence over a multivitamin. It’s a win-win situation; I don’t often get into arguments with myself, and I don’t have to share the remote. To make time for these self-dates, I plan my manic phases, often on Mondays. I do not, however, sing along with the Bangles as I rapidly annihilate items on my "have-to" hit list.
The carrots dangled in front of this work horse are movies to watch, books to devour, writing with no distractions, or sitting on my couch listening to nothing but my breathing and two dogs snoring, a beautiful harmony. While Flash is at work, there’s no click, click, clicking away on a keyboard like a lumberjack chopping down a tree. And when Cowboy is at school, the guilt factor plummets to zero since I’m not neglecting him.
So, I sprint through chores to get to Nirvana. Using my superpower, multitasking, I update the budget, catch up on dish washing, do laundry, pick up clutter, return phone calls, make appointments, finish any pending paperwork, answer emails, review my calendar for the week, make social plans for the next six months, and paint the house, before breakfast. Then, it’s time for errands. Often, I eat only one meal on Manic Mondays.
A perfect day is when I get everything done by 10 a.m., and the next 300 minutes are mine, all mine. But those days are dangerously close to extinction in my home.
It was a Monday. My 10 a.m. deadline had come and gone while I was in the Land of Walmart. I had gone to buy a couple of necessities, laundry detergent and chewy caramels, and was rounding aisle 14 to the home stretch with, as usual, 75 unplanned items in my basket. Swerving to avoid an infant in a stroller and stopping just short of an assault charge involving a senior citizen, I was down to 12 minutes to get to home in time for one Columbo episode before Cowboy’s bus came. I was desperate for my daily dose of detective drama. As I glanced down while racing to the nearest empty lane, I spied shoes that were not fit for public viewing.
I’d never be caught dead wearing those things. Never say never; the horrid footwear was at the end of my ankles. That’s right. I deserved a high-priced violation ticket from the fashion police. Rather than my stylish black wedge sandals, my piggies were clad in house shoes. House shoes. Their name tells you where they are to be worn. They are not store shoes.
Don’t panic. Women 40-something can get away with this stuff, I thought. We don’t care what other people think. We’ve survived Watergate, we’ve survived Sonny and Cher’s breakup, we’ve survived pantyhose, for Pete’s sake. I rationalized that because I had dashed out of the house wearing moccasin-style house shoes, rather than my fuzzy cow-head slippers, and because I had kept my childhood vow of, "I will never wear curlers in my hair in public," I was still ahead of the curve.
Now in my 50s, shoes are the least of my concerns. Now my goal is to be fully dressed and have fresh breath before leaving my house. I have, on several occasions, made trips to Walmart with next-day-bed-head-that-should-have-been-redone hair. That's when the likelihood of running into an old high-school friend rises to 98.8 percent. If I want to push it to 99 percent, I leave the smudges of yesterday's mascara under my eyes and venture out wearing the same yoga pants and 20-year-old tank top that I slept in the night before.
On a 99-percent day in Walmart, another Monday, I saw her dead ahead. She was coming straight for me, between the grocery section and the pet food aisle. There was no avoiding her; I’d been spotted. She came trotting, her pearly whites blinding me as the florescent lights bounced off them. I averted my eyes quickly, praying it appeared I did not see her. But then, I heard her. It would’ve been expecting too much for her to believe I was both extremely near-sighted and hard of hearing, given that she was two feet in front of me.
"Hi! How are you?" She bubbled and cooed. Obviously, she had miles to go before menopause. I could only hope her perkiness was Lexapro-laden.
"I'm great. You look great," I told the woman who looked like she walked out of a Max Factor ad. "You look the same as you always have," I lied. I don't know why I say stuff like that; it's verbal auto-pilot. My 89-year-old mother points out that it's not such a compliment when someone tells her she looks the same as always. "I hope I didn't look like this in my 30s" is her response.
"You look great, too," the former high school beauty queen responded, but her "too" had that lingering question mark tone that trailed off at the end and hung over our heads, telling me she was also lying.
"Oh, please. Thanks anyway. I just rolled out of bed and didn't do my hair, and these clothes, ugh, and I just was hurrying in for a few things. That's when you always see someone from high school." I chuckled as if it were truly funny.
"Oh, I know what you mean,” she said. But she didn't know. She hasn't had a naked face or crazy hair since her first day of kindergarten in 1968. She never leaves home without full face armor and a helmet of perfect hair, ready for battle in the war against aging. Her shirt was blingy and her jeans were clingy. And nothing, I mean nothing, sagged on her. Clearly, she’d had work done.
We exchanged a few more pleasantries and then said we had to get home to fix dinner. But I knew in my heart my family would be served cereal for dinner that night; I’d lost my mojo by the Ho Hos.
As I got into my car to leave, I caught a glance of my face in the rearview mirror. It was worse than I’d thought. My lipstick, which I’d applied quickly after pulling into my parking spot earlier, had missed the mark. It went above the top lip and below the bottom one. I looked like I was on my way to an interview with Barnum and Bailey. The only thing that could bring my post-accidental-meeting-with-a-beauty-queen humiliation lower would be….” Yep. A stalactite was hanging in my right nostril. And Miss America was much taller than I.
My depression rising, I pulled into the driveway and began unloading groceries. The time was 1:34.
After quickly throwing all the frozen foods into the freezer, I realized I’d forgotten the mayo, yet again. To say it’s merely a staple in our home is calling oxygen a suggestion. Normally, given the choice between a condiment and that hunky television detective in a trench coat, I’d choose the latter. But I had a good excuse to return to the scene of my crime and redeem myself before it was too late. I changed into my sexiest non-muffin-top-inducing jeans and a clean tank top. I sprinkled my unwashed hair with baby powder to make it fluffy. I cleaned off the old mascara and applied new. It was 1:39 p.m.. Four minutes later, I was back at Walmart, ready to prove myself. I searched high and low, but my nemesis was nowhere to be found. I’d thought surely she would’ve been in the hair color aisle a little longer.
My ego trailing behind me with its head hung low, I drove back home, without the mayo. I resolved that perhaps Monday was not the best day to work so diligently. Yes, that was the problem! It was the wrong day of the week for all that running around and such. A little more R & R after the weekends is what I need. I served myself a bowl of ice cream; it had been a hard day. Monday will be my new “day of rest.”
I put Columbo in the DVD player. My spirits lifted after watching the murder, and I soon heard the squealing brakes of Cowboy’s bus. I ran to the door to greet him, now in my pajamas. We cozied up on the couch and ate the Rice Krispies I’d bought for dinner. He typed on his iPad, telling me about his busy day, and I changed the DVD to a movie of his choice.
I smiled broadly as I thought of my new resolution. Beginning next week, I’ll make Wild Wednesdays my chore days. And if that doesn’t work out, maybe Frantic Fridays will be better.