Here I am once again, dancing around the kitchen, squeezing my insides with everything I’ve got. I’m up on my tippy toes then bending at the knees. Sweating, I think. Yes, sweating. Contorting. Panting. Anxious. All edges. And I have no idea why, not consciously anyway.
So I keep at it, these staccato movements across the kitchen, choreographed to an urgency I can’t quite place.
And then it happens. My body finally gets my attention, and I realize in one stricken second that if I don’t sprint to the bathroom, I will absolutely have an accident right there in front of my kids on the kitchen floor.
I did once, you know. Pee my pants. In the car. I knew I had to go before I started driving, but I decided to override that familiar sensation because who actually has time to use the bathroom? And then there was an accident on the freeway and I peed in the car with a man in a semitruck next to me looking down into my passenger window.
See ya later, dignity.
Still, I seem to have forgotten the directions to the bathroom. One more load of laundry. One more stir in the pot on the stove. One more text message. One more sweep through the house for the flotsam and jetsam that spontaneously reproduce when I turn my head. One more item jotted in my planner. One more thing. One more thing. Just one more thing.
Because the list is long and the time is fleeting and who in the world has the margin to attend to such trivial matters? And so I twist and corkscrew and prance and hold my breath and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze and suck air through my teeth. My kids are watching now. What is wrong with mom?, they must think, as they watch me trot around the house.
When I finally make it to the bathroom, it is barely in time, and I discover – maybe for the very first time – that I cannot keep going through life like a panicked show pony. If the people around me are ready and willing to take their potty breaks, if this is like a social norm, what is my deal? What if my refusal to pee isn’t really about going pee at all? (Because when is it ever just about going pee or just about getting sleep or just about feeding ourselves?)
My body is trying to flag me over to the side of the road, trying to call a time out, trying to help me sit the freak down. But I won’t listen. Potty breaks are for the weak. I am a mother, for crying out loud. I must be strong. I’ve got to hold it all together by holding it all in. There is no time for me to have needs.
When I see what’s really going on here, I see that this isn’t new territory after all. This is just one more example of my refusal to be a human with a body and with needs. How utterly disgusted I am at some level that I cannot maintain perfect control. Not even over my own body.
So I decide to do something absolutely radical. Subversive, even. I decide I will pee when I have to go pee. I will remind myself with every trip to the bathroom that I am not superhuman. I am not God. I am not infinite in what I can hold.
And wouldn’t you know? It’s a real relief. If you do one thing this season, do this: pee. You could even say a prayer while you do. Something like: Hey God, here I am, on the porcelain throne, feeling like a queen, attending to my needs, to this body you gave me. Thanks for holding the universe together while I take a potty break. Given how much coffee I’ll likely be drinking in the next hour, I’ll probably be back to chat again soon. Stay awesome. Amen.
Leeana Tankersley is the author of “Brazen” and “Breathing Room.” She lives in San Diego, California with her husband, Steve, and their three kids: Luke (7), Lane (7), and Elle (4). Learn more about Leeana’s work at leeanatankersley.com.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Hello, Dearest. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.