So You’ve Decided to Take Some Time for Yourself

by Mallory Ortberg

The candles are lit in a flickering perimeter around the bathtub. Cable-knit sweaters of all shapes and sizes await your appointment under the big bay window as a dozen steaming mugs of tea steep quietly on the sill. Your breathing is relaxed and even. Your spine is straight and supple. Your pelvic muscles are engaged and your internal organs are as clean as the day you brought them home from the store. You’re taking time for yourself.

You start by clearing out your schedule, watching page after page of familiar scrawl dissolve into a sea of perfect blankness. You’re finally turning down all of the commitments you never wanted to make, and the word “no” has never sounded so good. All of a sudden you hear a knock at the door. It’s your boss! The moment she sees your face, her normally composed and professional expression collapses.

“All this time I could have been nurturing your unique and particular talents,” she chokes out, “and I wasted it on asking you to fulfill a series of tasks necessary to keep our business running. Could you ever forgive me? Please,” she says, her hands reaching for yours, “forgive me.”

“Go in peace,” you tell her. “Forgive yourself. This is my time.” A sudden and glorious revelation dawns in her eyes and you know that she will never be the same. She slowly backs away from the threshold, smiling radiantly through her tears. You go into the kitchen to put the kettle on for some more tea, but a barefoot and loose-haired Carole King has already prepared it for you. Her face is full of compassion and wisdom as she hands you you an earthenware cup of rooibos chai and places her own lilac shawl around your shoulders. You hear the first few chords of “You’ve Got a Friend” as you lean out the window and drink in the evening air.

As the sun sets, you pad thoughtfully along the loose stone path winding through your backyard to the driftwood fence separating your home from the beach. You begin to practice a series of yoga poses on the sand, when suddenly you see figures moving on the horizon. What’s that? Why, it’s your children — and they’re completely self-actualized adults! “Thank you, mother,” they murmur in unison as they form a Tibetan chanting circle around you. Your daughter — your beautiful, poised daughter who only hours ago was a cheese-smeared seven-year-old — raises her heavily lidded eyes to yours and smiles. “Because you took time for yourself, I was able to put myself through school by ghostwriting all of Jonathan Franzen’s novels. I could never have done it without your example.” She bows gracefully and turns into a being of pure light and energy, shimmering for a moment over the water before disappearing from your human field of vision and transcending space and time forever.

Your sons step forward, both gentle and tall. “I sew all of our clothes,” says the one on the left. “I grow all of our food,” says the one on the right. “From the soil and the sun and the sky we make our living, and we want for nothing.” They delicately rest their foreheads against your own. The one on the left produces a small book bound in cloth. “Mother, we solved the Grelling-Nelson paradox for you. The answer lies here within these pages.”

“Children, I thank you,” you say, cradling the book carefully in your hands. “But now it is time for you to go, for it is still Me Time.” Your beautiful boys smile brilliantly and continue strolling on down the beach, arm in arm. There is a flash of light, an acute rush of wind, and two new stars blaze into the purpling night sky. You are perfectly and resplendently alone, breathing in and breathing out, self-contained and free. You are both queen and country. You are untouched and unchanging. You’re taking time for yourself.

Previously: So You’ve Decided to Drink More Water.

Mallory Ortberg is a writer in the Bay Area. Her work has also appeared on Slacktory and Ecosalon.

Photo by Amanda Boutcher, via Shutterstock