“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden; Or, Life in the Woods
I went to the bathroom because I wished to live deliberately, to sit on the toilet while doing the New York Times Spelling Bee puzzle, and see if I could learn the solution, and not, when I came to die—probably one week from now, smothered by a LEGO avalanche—discover that I had not lived. I would have liked to go to the woods instead, but I didn’t have a babysitter.
When I wrote these words, I lived alone, in the bathroom, three to ten feet from any family member, in a house of solitude which I had built myself, by locking the door, with the labor of my hands only, as well as one of my feet, which I used to gently force my clinging toddler out of the doorway without pinching any fingies.
The mass of men and women lead lives of quiet desperation because they are trying very, very hard to do Gentle Parenting and not yell at their children.
While I am in the bathroom, I discover that I would rather sit on a porcelain seat and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. But if I could have my own velvet cushion, that would be nice, too. Would it be weird to install one on top of the toilet?
I could take a nap in here. Yet to be awake is to be alive. I have never yet met a parent who was quite awake. I can tell I don’t look well-rested, because Instagram keeps showing me ads for Botox and facial fillers. We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake by an infinite expectation of the dawn, since we are all out of coffee, and I forgot to put it on the grocery list.
Is it any wonder I forgot? Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your activities number two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand birthday parties every year. Instead of three meals a day, plus two snacks, plus ten emergency snacks, let your kids feed themselves by dragging a chair to the kitchen counter and figuring out how to use the stove.
I love to be alone. I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude on the toilet. We are, for the most part, more lonely when we go out of the bathroom, among our family, than when we stay in our chambers and yell, “CAN YOU HOLD ON A MINUTE, MOMMY’S HAVING PRIVACY!”
And yet even here, I am not fully alone. You only need to sit still long enough in some attractive spot in the bathroom that all its inhabitants may exhibit themselves to you by turns: the patient spider waiting in the upper corner, the industrious ant toiling near the sink, the other ant near the bathtub, another ant right behind that one—oh shit, we have an ant infestation.
Never mind them. The universe is wider than our views of it, obviously, since we are staring at the shower curtain, and according to Facebook (which we checked after getting stuck on the Spelling Bee puzzle) our friends Joe and Caroline are in Santorini again.
It matters not how much time will pass before my next vacation. Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains, kind of like the contents of this toilet, which I’m just now remembering has been clogged since earlier today when my toddler took a massive dump and it wouldn’t flush.
If life emits a fragrance like… let’s say flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more starry, more immortal, that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. I just squashed a whole bunch of ants with a tissue, and it felt amazing.
After approximately six and a half minutes, I left the bathroom for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, but more likely, it seemed to me that the sibling fight going on outside the door had escalated to a dangerous point.
I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, I mean the bathroom, and endeavors to live the life which she has imagined, I mean a life where she can just sit and look at her toenails for a minute, she will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. She will put some things behind her, like her children, who are trying to sit on each other’s heads, and she will live with the license of a higher order of beings, I mean people without children who can go live in a house in the woods if they want to, or just have peace and quiet for, like, five seconds—I SAID MOMMY IS COMING!