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.

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#5TF: Heroes and Cheapskates

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 7 – August 5 – 11, 2017

I finished reading a pretty good book this week by Jeff Yeager – The Cheapskate Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of Americans Living Happily Below Their Means. It’s kind of like The Millionaire Next Door in that it’s a collection of tips and stories about cheapskates (not millionaires) from across the country. Though it was written right after the economic downturn of 2008, many of the suggestions are still applicable today. You won’t find anything ground-breaking in the book but if you are also a cheapskate, like we are, you’ll be able to benchmark your cheapness and possibly pick up a few new tools of the trade.

Since reading the book, we’ve started using a rinse bucket for our hand-washed dishes (as opposed to running water to rinse them) and we are hanging up more of our clothes to dry (as opposed to using the electric dryer). I also tried renegotiating our internet price with Comcast…which we’ll get to in just a moment…and I’m trying to remember to unplug “energy vampires” at night. We already do fairly well in the food waste department but need to elevate our game when it comes using a crock pot and making meals (or at least ingredients for meals) ahead of time. This seems to be the hallmark of a true cheapskate and since we aspire to be both The Minimalists and The Cheapskates Next Door, we have some improving to do 🙂

Speaking of Comcast…at the end of this month our internet bill goes up from $19.99/month to $49.99/month. In a conversation with them on Wednesday, I inadvertently cancelled our home internet service. Panic immediately set in LOL.

I need to let go of the delusion that I’ll ever be able to live without home internet. It’s a wonderful thought but not one that I think I can do. Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists does it and he’s a productive writer, blogger, etc. but me, I’d be nuts within a week. My inner cheapskate (and the fact that I’m a bit of an introvert) makes working at a coffee shop nearly impossible. In my head, I start thinking: $2/day for a cup of coffee x 4 working days per week x 48 work weeks = $384. That doesn’t include gas to drive to the coffee shop or the fact that I’d get hungry being around all those bagels (or frustrated being around all those people). So go to the library you say. Nope, our library is only open 3 of those 4 days.

It might be different if our sole income was not derived from a remote, internet-driven job. But since it is, I made a very valiant effort to negotiate our rate with Comcast. In the end, we settled on $29.99/month for another year. That gives me 12 months to figure out a workable plan in case I can’t renegotiate a decent rate again next year.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was having my mom over for breakfast on Sunday. 99% of the time we go to her house to eat so it’s always a treat when she comes to ours. We had a great breakfast of whole wheat pancakes, blackberries, and sausage from the Farmer’s Market. After breakfast, we sat outside for a long time just talking and then walked next door to Aldi so my mom could do a little shopping. It was a very relaxing day capped off by a scenic drive in the evening, where we found a new picnic spot and lots of grazing deer.

We made progress on the usual suspects: food preservation, decluttering, and cheapening our vacation plan. We put away more peppers and onions, another quart of spaghetti sauce, 2 more servings of okra, and a half dozen ears of corn. We cleaned out 9 items from the shed at my mom’s house. And we found a way to get to the cruise port from the airport for just $2.75 – the local bus!

We also put up a new antenna for our TV. Since moving to this apartment, we’ve been able to get 3 channels, and none of them facing in the same direction. Last football season, it was nothing to find our flat indoor antenna taped to the ceiling in the morning and threaded through the blinds of the patio door in the afternoon. There are so many pushpin holes in the walls around the TV from mounting that thing in so many different positions that we may need a whole tube of toothpaste to fill them one day. The new antenna is very “old school”. It looks like one my grandparents had back in the day but it really works. No more playing Twister to watch the Texans (um…I mean the Titans) play!

On a much different note…

I am grateful that we have a home. I may not always like where we live and I may wax philosophical from time to time about the high cost of rent in this low-rent town but I am glad we have a clean, safe roof over our heads. What prompted this attitude of gratitude was the fact that once again my niece has found herself bouncing between homes. This time, she and the little one, along with her boyfriend, their roommate and her 3 children were all holed up in a hotel for the better part of the week while trying to sort out their living situation. Though she declined our offer to stay with us for a few days, we made sure all of them had food during this ordeal.

It breaks my heart to see anyone homeless, especially children, and of course, I want to leap to the rescue. However, this is the 3rd time in a year they have been kicked out of a residence and the underlying mentality is one that I can’t correct by being a hero. They actually think that they do not need to work and they should not be required to pay anything to live in someone else’s house. This incident could have all been avoided if any one of the 3 adults in the situation had paid the $40 that they were asked to contribute to the month’s utility bills. Being asked to fork over $40 was a slap in the face, yet the fact that they just paid more than $210 to stay in a hotel to avoid paying $40 in utilities somehow escapes them.

And back to something joyful…

The funniest thing that happened this week was when Ticky snuck into the neighbor’s kiddie pool, fully clothed, all while being supervised by 3 adults. At first, she gingerly dipped her socked toe into the water and looked around to see if any of us were watching. The pool is one of those hard plastic things with a slide. Since Ticky is crazy about slides, she just couldn’t resist trying this one out. As firm believers in doing spontaneous things like jumping in the ocean with our clothes on, neither Angie or I said a word. A few minutes later, Ticky was standing in the middle of the pool splashing the neighbor boys. She had such a good time and it only took a few minutes to change her into dry clothes. It was so worth it just to see her laughing and playing.