The Myth of 15 Minutes

fifteen-minuterule

You Can Do Anything for 15 Minutes! encouraged the meme on my friend’s timeline. Its simplicity caught my eye, as did the background picture of a kitty in a cheerleader costume.  Aha! Of course! I can do anything for 15 minutes!

The joy and hearing loss of spending summer with my children was spoiled by the nagging internal whisper that I needed to be writing. Every day. My ideal writing scenario is several easy, uninterrupted hours to moodle, drink coffee, and put words in some sort of order. Yet, the all-summer thing with three children between the ages of three and six takes any ideal scenario and smacks it with a makeshift light saber while grinding fruity snacks into the carpet.

But if I could find three blocks of 15 minutes a day, I’d maintain writing momentum.  After all, as another beautifully decorated meme on Facebook told me, A Writer Writes. No Excuses (background: ink-tipped quill pen).

I factored in the busy house distractions and my inability to write coherently after 8 pm.  And, I cleverly reasoned, if I can get those 45 minutes in before everyone in the house wakes up, I’ll start my day feeling accomplished. Happy Mama/Writer could then set up lemonade stands and do maypole dances and whatever else good mothers do in the summer.

Giving myself some time for a cup of coffee and contemplation of the dazzling miracles of a quiet sunrise, I set my alarm for 5:15 AM. I woke ready to work. I was fulfilling my destiny, just like that picture on Pinterest: If Not Now, When? (background: aerial view of the Golden Gate Bridge.)

I knew if I stepped on one omnipresent Rice Krispie, it would snap-crackle-pop my sleep-averse progeny out of their sleep; my trip to the kitchen became something akin to the Ocean’s 12 laser dance.  After Capoeira-ing myself to the coffee maker, I quietly chanted while making coffee.”Don’twakethechildren don’twakethechildren dontwakethechildren.”

I poured. I inhaled. I opened the computer. Today is the day! (Background: wood grain)

I felt magic just at the tip of my fingertips. I pondered for 14 minutes, then typed 27 words, the start to a beautiful essay that would elicit nothing but jubilation and praise from all internet commenters. And my mother.

I heard the padding of little feet coming to see me. “Mama!” I hugged the owner of the feet and asked if he can maybe go back to bed. Was that the derisive laughter of millions of parents I heard in the wind? “No, Mama. I’ll just sit and watch you work, ok?”

He sat across the table. “What are you playing, Mama?”

“Nothing, love. Mommy needs quiet.  Can you be quiet?”

“Yes, Mama.” He sat there just…breathing. Breathing and staring at me and I can’t write under those conditions.

I exhaled, loudly and with emphasis. I was sure I could find 44 minutes later in the day. Or, really, 30 minutes. Those first 14 minutes thinking about writing still counted as writing brainstorming, and that’s practically a first draft!

I planned for a morning writing session while the kids did their chores and an afternoon session while they watched tv. Or maybe just a morning session, because really, between the brainstorming and the time already spent writing, I only needed another 15 minutes to make my daily goals! And I can do anything for 15 minutes!

The children asked to go play outside.

“Of course! You know, maybe put on something over your underpants. I’ll be here inside, writing. Hey, also, maybe snow boots aren’t the best…no, that’s fine. You can wear them. Just put them on the right feet. No, now. NOW. Oops. You’re fine. You’re fine. You’re not bleeding. You just fell down. Get up. You don’t need a band-aid. You don’t need a band-aid. Please stop crying. Ok, I’ll get you a band-aid, then please just give me 15 minutes. ”

I tended to the wounded child, sent her outside with her brothers and moved the cursor back to where I’d left off. Three-year-old returns.

“Mama! I have a butt emergency.”

“You have…I don’t even know what that is.”

There is no meme for Butt Emergencies.

For the next ten hours, there were ongoing “emergencies,” gluteal and otherwise. Never the same emergency twice, but a revolving and slamming door of troubles that needed my immediate and unwavering attention: laundry, dog vomit, bug bites, perceived injustices both large and small, sibling boundary violations, Mac n’ Cheese Crisis (“noodles, not shells!”), and one story told about a classmate, her boogers, and a cracker. That led to a little segment we like to call “Life Lessons with Mama.” Today’s lessons? Gossip, trust, and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD CAN I PLEASE GET 15 MINUTES?

I clicked on an email. Beyoncé Has the Same 24 Hours in a Day As the Rest of Us! (Background: An impossibly awesome Beyoncé.)

At 1 PM, when I had not showered, brushed my teeth, nor changed out of yesterday’s Wu Tang Clan shirt (to the sheer delight of the UPS Man, my neighbor, the meter reader, and the Girl Scout Cookie Pushers, all of whom rang my doorbell within the span of two hours), I relented.

“Ok! Bonus screen time! 30 minutes! Any show! Ask me for snacks now, because I’m unavailable for half an hour!” I pushed my friend’s favorite meme to the back of my mind, “Children Will Never Remember Their Favorite Day of Watching Television! Make Memories!” (Background: happy kids resting their lice-free heads on their mother’s shoulder)

The children turned on the television. Apparently my years of loud behavior redirection damaged their little ears. The volume was set at “Dolby Surround Sound Check.”

Fortunately, Elmo at highest volume was drowned out by the landscapers who, in a remarkable effort, coordinated their schedules to simultaneously scape all the lands in the neighborhood with what sounded like amplified helicopters.

I focused. Just Keep Swimming! (Background: Dory.)

I kicked off my shoes for a refreshing new perspective. Shake it up! (Background: A Minion for some reason.)

I exhale and…

…hear my phone beep. My husband who never texts was texting me.

“Hey. Do you know any place that makes soup?”

I put the phone down and take my laptop toward the bedroom for some quiet, managing to step in another puddle of dog vomit, which would have been gross enough if I’d kept my shoes on moments before.

I wash my feet, ask the kids what they’ve been feeding the dog (Flaming Hot Cheetos), and sit down to work.

“Mama?”

“What? What? What is it?”

“Will you watch me play?”

Enjoy Every Moment. In the Blink of An Eye They’ll Be Gone. (Background: Old wistful lady person sitting on a porch drinking Country Time Lemonade.)

Three-year-old changed into a pair of Crocs and her bathing suit. She grabbed a whiffle bat and hit a home run off a tee. She ran the bases counterclockwise while providing her own color commentary. It was hilarious and precious, as were the many games and activities that followed. By 5:00, I’m exhausted and the house looks and feels like a giant game of Clutter Jenga.

After this, dinner, stories, hectoring of children to brush teeth, go to bed, really go to bed, shut off the light, go to sleep, stop giggling, yes-I’ll-kiss-you-again. It was 8:30 pm and my brains were leaking out of my ears.

I dragged myself to my computer. I had quiet, yet I had absolutely nothing to say. No satire, political commentary, artistic truth, or even sassy feedback.

Blocked.

I fiddled around with the drawing program and make my own meme.

Of Course I Can Do Anything for 15 Minutes — Except Find 15 Minutes to Do Anything. (Background: photo of me banging my head on my desk.)

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