The phone is ringing. The baby is crying. The dog is barking. The food is burning. And the frazzled housewife yells, “Calgon! Take me away!” and is magically transported to a bath tub. A bath tub? I guess the phone goes to voice mail, and the baby and the dog are left to fend for themselves as they eat their scorched supper.
God knows, I feel like I am stuck in my own Calgon commercial. My house is a mess. Kids are fighting. My mother-in-law is glaring at me and saying “Ay-ay-ay,” but won’t tell me what is wrong beyond that. The thing is, I don’t want a bath. That would require that I pull all those bath toys out of the tub, and once I’m in the tub, it’s not like my mother-in-law will fall asleep while happy children clean the house for me. My problems will follow me into the bathroom. I know this from experience.
No, in my Calgon-moment, I want a time-machine. I want to go back to a time before my mother-in-law fell, before I met her, before I met my husband, and so, long before our children were born. I want to park the time machine outside my old apartment, breathe deeply, and go inside for a glass of wine and Chinese take-out. I’ll watch what I want to watch on TV or just enjoy the silence. Maybe I will read a magazine and do my nails. And if I still need to unwind, maybe then, I will take a bubble bath and in doing so will be reminded of the one thing I hated about that apartment—the bathroom fan was on same switch as the light. So, while I would want to sit in the tub and read while listening to soft music, I really couldn’t. There was always the noise of the fan. In retrospect, that’s not much of a problem, but it infuriated me back then.
I have to be careful with the time machine because I don’t want to go back too far. I have no desire to visit my twenties, for example. I was a bit of a mess back then. No one could tell, of course. In fact, people often commented on how incredibly together I was back then, and I believed them. In truth, however, I worried a lot about…well, what did I worry about? I don’t know. I was just always worried.
Quite literally, the question of “what should I do with the rest of my life?” kept me up at night. Should I have children? Should I go back to school? Should I change jobs? Change careers? When will I find happiness? How will I find happiness? What is happiness? Why do I feel so behind where I thought I should be by now? Do I need counseling?
Yeah, if I time-travel back to my twenties, I’ll have to find the younger me and knock some sense into her. I’ll have to yell, “GET A GRIP! THIS WHINING ABOUT ‘WHAT SHOULD I DO WITH THE REST OF MY LIFE’ HAS GOT TO STOP!”
You know what is amusing to me now–even when I am trapped in a Calgon-moment? I never, ever agonize over what I should do about anything these days. I just do it, and if I can’t make my mind up about something, I shelf it. I stop thinking about it because clearly, it’s not very important and no decision needs to be made today. I’m not going to wring my hands and get frowny over all the what-ifs.
I don’t wait for life to happen anymore. I either let it happen—events just naturally unfold and I find God’s grace in them—or I make something happen by making a decision, sometimes forcefully. Even as frustrated as I get over my mother-in-law’s care, I don’t think about what to do about her. It seems very wrong to do something about other people.
If I had a time machine, I might even be tempted to kidnap the 20-something me and bring her to the present. My goal would be to show her how easy she has it. All her time is me-time. She thinks people demand a lot of her, but in reality, it’s all in her head.
Of course, I know that plan would backfire on me in the most wonderful way. She would look at my messy house and say, “Wow! We live here? This is our dream house. Yeah, we need to hire a maid and a decorator, but we’ve always wanted hardwood floors and a huge fireplace. Five bedrooms? On two and a half acres? That’s not too shabby.”
She’d see my children and say, “We did it? We had kids? And look at them! They are funny and smart and normal and they really love us. I guess we aren’t the terrible mother I feared we would be.”
“Oh, my God! And we have a master’s degree in historic preservation? That is so cool! And we worked in museums? We’ve even done some archaeology? We had our own newspaper column? Former colleagues still get in touch with us just to ask our opinion about work stuff? That’s just so professional. We’ve had all my dream jobs!”
“And we have great friends. Some we’ve known forever and some we’ve just met.”
“Our husband is that really handsome guy who smiles a lot? And he adores us? He reads the same books we read and he dances, too? Damn, girl! Not bad.”
I can’t imagine that there is much about my current life that wouldn’t impress a much younger me. I think she’d feel relieved, safe, satisfied in knowing that despite some serious ups and downs, we’ve persevered and what we have today is greater than anything she ever imagined.
In the end, the current me–the grown-up me–would be the one who would benefit from such a time-machine adventure. I’d see I had come a long way and despite all these Calgon-moments, my life really is a pretty awesome. It really is greater than anything I have ever imagined.
Okay, I’m ready for that hot, hot bath. Calgon, take me away.