Let’s Talk Turkey

In just a few days, many of us will sit down to a festive meal with our families. A lot of turkeys will be served, maybe a few hams, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and possibly an assortment of pies and cakes. Growing up, I remember spending Thanksgiving with my grandparents. My reclusive uncle and aunt would put in an appearance, usually late, and my parents would spend the better part of the day just chatting with them while we played in the den. The day was priceless…phenomenal food, good company, and nowhere to be but there.

After my parents divorced when I was a teenager, I don’t really remember very many specific Thanksgivings and Turkey Days as a young adult were hit or miss for me. Some were spent at my Dad’s house, some at my Mom’s, some at my own house, where my Mom, my Granny, and I would work all day to prepare the meal, and even a few took place at the homes of friends. Back then, Thanksgiving was simply the gateway to Christmas; kind of like a kick-off party for the “real holiday season”. Only in the past few years have I really learned to observe this day for what it is. Of course, only in the past few years have I really learned the importance of gratitude as a daily habit. (Thanks, Minimalism! You did that for me.)

Now, that’s not to say that I’ve spent my whole life being ungrateful. I like to think I’ve done a fairly good job of counting my blessings and taking very little for granted. But in all areas of life, there’s always room for improvement. For us, one of those improvements was in our observation of the 4th Thursday of November. Instead of a day to feast and fantasize about the month ahead, a few years ago we started spending our Thanksgiving just doing simple, quiet, fun things with one another. Why? Because, the most important part of our life, the things we are most thankful for, are just that – the times throughout the year when we spend our day together doing absolutely nothing other than what we want to do at that moment. And so we thought, what better way to show gratitude than to relish in those things that make us most happy.

One year, we made a tiny version of the traditional Thanksgiving meal and ate it while watching football. Another year, we walked the beach and had lunch at Cracker Barrel. And still another year, we ate ham sandwiches and read books on the balcony of our Florida apartment, while watching little alligators sunning in the yard below. In doing this, we not only allowed ourselves time to reflect and enjoy, but we also turned a previously hectic and sometimes stressful holiday into a peaceful celebration that we actually looked forward to each year. Thanksgiving was no longer the opening act for the spectacle we call Christmas. It was a day of gratitude, as it was intended to be.

When we moved to Tennessee, we tried to incorporate my family into our simple celebration and I’ll be honest, it has been a real challenge. Last year, per my Mom’s request, we made a traditional meal and invited everyone to her house. Only my niece and the baby showed up, so we had dinner for 5 and lots of leftovers. Angie watched football, my niece slept in the recliner, my mom reminisced about Thanksgivings past and fussed about how she was “never going to go through all the trouble again” since “no one appreciated it”, and I played in the floor with the baby. I remember thinking that we had somehow missed the point of this day. Here we were, a small family, but a family nonetheless, gathered together but still separate. We were there out of an obligation to celebrate an occasion rather than to celebrate the simple joy of being together. I don’t mean to imply that it was a bad day. It wasn’t. But it just wasn’t the day that it could have been.

This year we are going to try flipping the script. We’re celebrating Thanksgiving at our house. There will be no turkey, no gravy, no cranberry sauce. And no expectations.

Our door is going to be open all day to all members of our family. In fact, the invitation even says, “drop in anytime, stay as long as you like”. We’ll be here all day. There’s no dress code, no requirement to bring a dish. We are serving chicken (probably a pot pie) and a garden salad. The food will be here until it runs out and even then, we can always make a sandwich. Football will be on the TV and a fire in the fireplace. The toy box will be open. The patio has plenty of seating. The well of hot coffee and tea will never go dry.

Simple. Warm. Inviting. Home. That’s Thanksgiving to us.

The holidays are stressful enough as it is so we are hoping to replace that sense of obligation and pressure with the opportunity for others to enjoy a few of life’s simple pleasures –  delicious food, quiet moments, and good company – even if it’s just for the day.

Will this be the start of a new family tradition? Probably not. In all likelihood, it will be remembered as the year we tried to minimize everyone’s Thanksgiving (LOL), but I still have my fingers crossed. As Ghandi so fondly said, “Be the change…” 😊

**As a side note, the turkey pictured above passed away this week. Freckles was 12 years old. She lived a long happy life on Angie’s parent’s farm in Texas. She loved watermelon rinds, pecans, and giving kisses. 

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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.