Julia was six months old, waking up five or six times a night, and I was sick. Dyami was gone for two days, and we were moving in three.
I was beyond bleary-eyed.
Our sweet neighbor volunteered to watch our girls for an hour while I tried to rest. It didn't work. In other words, both girls were fine, but I lay awake in bed, heart racing, trying to talk my anxious body into sleep. After about fifteen minutes, I gave up, more tense than before, and thought about going and retrieving my children.
Instead, I turned on our new Wii and popped in the Mario Cart disk.
I'm not much of a video game fan. I have little patience for the learning curve, and my type-A personality feels guilty wasting time on something so unproductive. But I like some video games, and Mario Cart is pretty fun. You can't die, you don't kill anyone, and a lot of the courses are set in sylvan meadows or maple groves, with funny characters and banana peels trying to get you to crash.
I had laundry to do, a house to pack, and a neighbor I was imposing on. I felt guilty turning on the TV. But I did, and I played for a a good twenty minutes. I maneuvered my go-cart down the course, with my little character, Toad, fist-pumping any time I managed to hit an opponent with a turtle shell. I tried a new course, Rainbow Road, a thin ribbon of track surrounded by an expanse of starry sky. I kept falling off the road, and going down in flames like a comet. At first, I gritted my teeth, then I started laughing at my own incompetence. The game rates your performance at the end of each round, and I got an E, which is polite for "failing." It was a relief to fail at something that didn't matter.
I finished the game, turned off the TV, and walked across the street to retrieve my children. I was still horribly tired, behind in packing, stressed about the move, worried I wasn't going to sleep that night. Mario Cart hadn't solved anything.
And yet I felt better. Somehow, taking time to be purely frivolous, to be irresponsible, helped me feel better. I would have preferred a nap, but since that wasn't possible, I took the Mario Cart cure.
Ah, for a Mario Cart cure everyday, to take myself less seriously, to laugh, and to do something for myself that doesn't absolutely need doing.