September Recap

Fall is my favorite time of year. There’s something about the cool crisp air that makes me feel alive and I want to spend every possible moment out there enjoying it. I want to hike. I want to camp. I want to sit around a bonfire with all my favorite people. I want to decorate pumpkins and get lost in a corn maze. I even want to rake leaves. Oh yes, I love Fall.

As much as I try to relish every day of this magical season, it also seems that Fall is the time of year that flies by fastest for me. October is just around the corner and I’m still wondering where September went. What did we do with our month?

We celebrated Caesar’s 15th birthday with a trip to the vet for his booster shots. He got a clean bill of health and the new vet couldn’t believe he’s a senior.

We started thinking about a tiny house again. 

We walked/hiked 41 miles and enjoyed 5 picnics.

We found 2 ride-on toys in the dumpster and repaired them for Ticky to enjoy.

We took Ticky to a kid’s festival in our community. She and Angie even made the newspaper! This was Ticky’s first time to ride a pony and she did not want to get off when the ride was over. The entire festival – food, rides, and prizes – all FREE! We had a blast.

We decluttered 21 items from the front hall closet.

We earned $65.65 from Easy Shift, made $30 selling on OfferUp, and $160 from extra grant work.

I think this was the first month this year that we’ve actually felt unhurried. Summer was a blur of food. Between gardening and picking up 2 CSA baskets a week, it seemed we were always up to our eyeballs in preparing or preserving fruits and vegetables. It was fun but exhausting and the result is probably more than what we can actually eat by next Spring. The lesson learned for next year – just one basket and a few tomato plants in the garden (not 32 of them!).

On Sunday, we set off for our road trip/camping adventure in Canada, followed by a 7-day cruise along the New England/Canadian coast. We are very much looking forward to this time away, unplugged, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t somewhat worried about being away from home for 1/2 of the month. My niece is still homeless (for more details on thatsee the I am grateful section of this post) and my mom is still nursing a new fracture in her spine. I know deep down that foregoing this trip would not fix either of those things but the thought did cross my mind…as did taking Ticky with us.

The thing that we’ve struggled with all year (and what prompted our Happiness Project in the first place) is this vortex called “family drama” that we continually get sucked into. If you’ve ever been there then you know how hard it is to break free, even when breaking free is what’s best for everyone. When we sat down to write out what a year of happiness would look like, travel was a priority for both of us. So this trip is important. My mom is tough. The fractures are a recurring condition that she has lived with for years now and she assures me that she will stay off of ladders and out from under things while I’m gone. My niece, well…she doesn’t think homelessness is a problem in the first place and whether we are here or in Canada, that is not likely to change.

So we’re going to go and have fun. We’re going to keep worry in its proper place and we’re going to return all the better for having stayed true to ourselves and our goals for happiness this year.

Happy October!

Having Me Time vs. Living a Me Life

Though it didn’t start out to be, this was our actual to-do list from yesterday:

Originally, it was just a scrap of paper where I jotted down the words “free breakfast”, “Kroger freebie” and “feed the ducks”. When Angie later added “take flowers to cemetery”, an official to-do list was born and I carried it around with us all day.

It was there when we walked to Chick-Fil-A. It was there as we sat leisurely sipping coffee for an hour. It was there when we did an Easy Shift at Walmart and scanned a few items into Shopkick. It was there when we decided to make stuffed peppers in the crock pot for dinner. It was there when we ate our picnic lunch and went for a walk. It was there when we stopped to visit with my mom and put new flowers on my grandparents’ grave. And when I took it out of my pocket last night, I was so happy to have had such a great day, I posted it on Facebook.

The post received a few likes, which is fine. I’m not in the business of curating my life on Facebook anymore so like or no like, it’s all good to me. What bugged me though was the call I received this morning from someone I work with. “I’m glad you were able to enjoy some me time on your day off,” she said.

Me time? I was a little confused. Isn’t all of my time “me time”?

I don’t think I like this term “me time”. In the context it is most often used, “me time” conjures up images of a fast-paced life crammed full of activities and obligations; a life so beyond our own choosing that we feel the need to schedule a moment – and usually a very brief moment at that – to do something for ourselves. “Me time” is supposed to be good for you. It’s a way to decompress and destress, a time to be alone with one’s own thoughts and feelings, but to me, saying that one is taking some “me time” simply begs the questions: If you have to schedule time for yourself, whose life are you actually living?

Time is the only true currency in this world. It can be traded for almost anything – money, experiences, rest, relaxation, and even penance, drama, and chaos. Though we have no idea how much time we are given, we do know one thing – our time belongs to us. Or do we know that? When was the last time you actually got up, faced the day, and felt like every second, every minute, every hour actually belonged to you? If you’re like most folks, I’m going to guess you’re having a hard time recalling that memory right now. Moments where we feel absolutely free to do anything we choose are pretty rare. Which is why scheduling “me time” is all the rage these day.

Instead of scheduling “me time” though, I think I’d rather just live a “me life”.

What’s a “me life”?

Living a “me life” is not a new concept. In fact, I dare say that most of you reading this chose (or are thinking about choosing) a minimalist lifestyle for the express purpose of well…living on purpose. A “me life” is just that – a life dedicated to caring for yourself, cultivating your own happiness, and living intentionally.

But isn’t that selfish?

This is the one misguided thought that bugs me the most. Doing something for yourself is not selfish. Remember: You have to stock your own shelves before you have something to share with others. The definition of selfish is to do something without regard for other people. Taking care of yourself, living a fulfilling life, and doing what makes you happy are not pursuits that disregard the other people in your life. They directly take those people and a whole lot of others you haven’t even met yet into consideration. Happiness is inspiring. It is contagious. When you are happy, others around you will be happy too.

Okay, so how do I live a “me life”?

Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist has a great post called The Helpful Guide to Living an Intentional Life. To his words of wisdom, I would add:

Don’t settle for moments, prioritize yourself first. As I mentioned before, “me time” is comprised of those stolen moments when we finally sneak off to recharge ourselves. Don’t allow this to be your norm. Make caring for yourself your top priority. If your to-do list does not include you, you’re working the wrong list.

Own the choices you have already made. I often hear folks say that they can’t focus on their own happiness right now because they have _____ (the blank being filled in by words like kids, a house, a high-pressure job, debt, etc.). Are those things really obstacles or rather just choices we have already made? At one time or another, we probably thought that the item in that blank was the right choice for us. If that’s no longer the case, and we are able to, we need to change it. And if we can’t, we need to embrace that choice and incorporate it into our lives in a way that does bring happiness.

In 2015, I made the decision to move to Tennessee to be near my mom. Sometimes I find myself saying things like, “When we move back to Florida…” or “When we are free to live where we want…” which seems to imply that we didn’t have a choice or worse, that we can’t be happy until we no longer live here. And that’s not the case. I have to own that decision and build the kind of life I want to live right here, right now. And so do you. Don’t let what’s in your blank hold you back.

Immediately change anything that is not a good fit for you. As minimalists, we’ve gotten good at decluttering the junk from our drawers, our closets, and our garages. When a shirt just doesn’t fit anymore, we give it to Goodwill (or repurpose it as a dust rag). When a job, a relationship, or any other choice we may have made in the past no longer fits though, we convince ourselves that we can make it work. It’s much harder to declutter the intangible “junk” from our lives, yet it is those items that are far more restrictive than physical clutter. Set yourself free. If it doesn’t fit, let it go.

A good “me life” is kind of like one of those choose-your-own-adventure novels we had growing up. You are presented with a variety of equally interesting choices: Take a nap. Go for a walk. Color with your kids. Build a sandcastle. Dance. Watch a movie. Make a cake. Grow a garden. Read a book. Take a class. Start a business. Travel. Write a blog.  The decision is yours. Choose whatever makes you happy and when you’re done, go back and choose again. This is your life. This is your adventure. This is your time to be you.

Do you operate on “me time” or have you found a way to have a “me life”? I’d love to hear about it.