Not too long ago, I read a book called Fair Play by Eve Rodsky. In this book, the author details ways to more equitably (not necessarily equally) divide household tasks between partners, even going so far as to create a “game” complete with cards and rules. An interesting concept to be sure, and one that sparked some meaningful conversations between my husband and me.
While we haven’t officially dealt the cards, there is one concept I am interested in pursuing further in this new year, and that is what Rodsky defines as “unicorn space.” According to the book and the subsequent one that focuses exclusively on this idea, unicorn space “is the active pursuit of something you love, something that brings you joy and makes you who you are.”
Well, that sounds pretty amazing.
Many examples of what this looks like in real life are described in the book, like turning a hobby of baking into a side hustle or returning to a past love such as headlining a band. As I read about how empowering unicorn space could be, it struck me that I had no idea what I would consider my unicorn space.
You see, unicorn space is more than just self-care or a hobby. I have plenty of things I like and need to do (although I have written in this space about not really pursuing hobbies at this stage of my life), but I’m not sure any of them qualify for this seemingly mythical pursuit. It’s in the very name, for goodness sake!
Years ago during some educational professional development, I became familiar with the theory of Flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (I’ve always thought his name sounds like a sneeze) “discovered that people find genuine satisfaction during a state of consciousness called Flow. In this state they are completely absorbed in an activity, especially an activity which involves their creative abilities. During this ‘optimal experience’ they feel ‘strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities’.”
During this training, we were encouraged to help our students find this flow. It struck me even then that I was hard-pressed to think of something that I could become so absorbed in that I would lose total track of time. I have seen this happen multiple times to my husband and my kids, and even though it can be frustrating to me (who is constantly aware of the clock), it is really quite beautiful to witness such focus and determination.
So, to bring it back full circle, it is not solely this busy stage of motherhood that is keeping me from this flow or this unicorn space. Something is holding me back: a perceived lack of time? The idea that I have to complete my work before I play? Therefore, as I move through my days, I’ve been trying to identify the activities that bring me intense joy and satisfaction.
I love to read and have been known to get sucked into a book, but I don’t think that qualifies because I’m not exactly doing anything with it. I enjoy being the family archivist and expend much time and energy in organizing pictures and creating photo projects, but that doesn’t seem quite right either. I would love to crochet afghans to donate to the homeless, which is a worthy project for sure…except I don’t know how to crochet (yet).
I’m getting closer, though. Over the summer, I participated in a mom’s night out that involved taking a Zumba class. I used to take these Latin dance fitness classes regularly but hadn’t done so in many years. As soon as the music started, however, it all came back to me. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt so alive and energized. This particular class was fairly high intensity with multiple instructors rotating in and out, but I don’t think I stopped once. I was having too much fun!
But reality. Have I taken any classes since? No. I am publicly stating here that I plan to change that in this year. Does merely attending Zumba classes qualify as unicorn space? I don’t think so. But it does make me think that my flow state will have to do with dance in some capacity.
Case in point: when I was proudly watching my daughters perform in Nut Remix this past holiday season, I felt “it” again. Once the orchestra started playing and the dancers took the stage, my foot started tapping and I began to discreetly boogie in my seat. Yes, my engagement was due to my daughters, but it went beyond that for sure. I need to dance!