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: Saying Goodbye

Five Thought Friday Challenge:  Week 2 – July 1 – July 7, 2017

This was a very bittersweet week for me, filled with both joy and sadness. On Monday, my paternal grandmother passed away. She was 91 years old.

Granny and I were always very close, even though I long ago fell out of touch with my dad. The exact reason why we lost contact eludes me now but I’m fairly certain it had something to do with my divorce and subsequent exit from the proverbial closet. Coming out is a very hard thing to do in a Southern family. My mother’s terrible reaction made me very reluctant to tell anyone else, including my Granny and my dad. Being 2,200 miles away then, it was easy to hide the truth from them while also living my life as I wanted. It may not have been the wisest of choices at the time but it was the one I made.

Granny’s funeral provided an opportunity for me glimpse the life that my dad has lived over the past 12 years and it seems to have been a good one. He and my step-mother have been married for more than 30 years and seem to love one another as much today as the day they got married. It was nice to see other people happy.

One thing I really enjoyed this week was getting a big hug from my nephew, who I haven’t seen since he was 7 years old. His hug was genuine and sincere and showed in that brief moment that he had grown into a kind and caring (and very handsome) young man. He is a sophomore in college now (at my alma mater) and works next door to where we live. My nephew was born when my brother and his girlfriend were only 16 years old so my dad and step-mom played a huge role in raising him. One hug was all it took for me to know they all did a wonderful job.

I am grateful for all the many things my Granny taught me – from how to make a quilt to how to haggle at a yard sale. She was an amazing woman and I will always treasure the times we spent together. I am grateful for Angie being beside me at the funeral. Though Granny had not been well in almost a year, her death hit me harder than expected. Without Angie’s support (and never-ending supply of Kleenex), I don’t know what I would have done.

This week, my sister celebrated her 40th birthday. (She’s the little kid in the photo above with Granny.) I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share her big day with her and her husband during a quiet lunch at a new Mexican restaurant in town. She also went with us to the funeral home to say goodbye to Granny. Though she drives me nuts on most days and I often cringe at her outspokenness, I am grateful she was there to carry the conversation when I couldn’t find the right things to say.

I need to let go of my habit of second guessing everyone. I have no idea what my dad would have said all those years ago if I’d talked to him about my life. I assumed he would react just as hatefully as my mom did but his reaction when I introduced him to Angie told a different story. He simply shook her hand and said, “It’s about time, isn’t it?” I still to this day second guess other people’s reactions and tend to avoid a lot of interactions based on what I think may happen. This is something I need to work on so that I’m not standing beside another casket one day wishing I’d done something different.

We made progress on our hiking goal, adding 16.4 miles to our combined total – in one day! We were off work on Monday for a long holiday weekend and had decided to hike the Bryant Grove Trail at Long Hunter State Park. It was on our unofficial “Summer Bucket List”. We completed the hike in 3 hours 21 minutes – with the last 4 miles hiked in the pouring rain. 

We also made unexpected progress in other areas of our life. Mending fences was never on our list of happiness goals but in seeing my family again, I can’t help but think that it is going to be an integral part of that process. I feel there’s a story there that I need to hear and probably more than a few happiness lessons we can learn from.

The funniest thing that happened week is best illustrated by the picture below. We had made it to the midway point of our 8-mile hike. The sky was blue. The sun was bright. Our plans were to set up our hammocks, take a swim in the lake, and have lunch before heading back down the trail. Just as we emerged from the woods, the sky quickly darkened and rain began to fall. Never one to be deterred, especially when hot and sweaty and in need of a good soak, Angie jumped in anyway – clothes and all. I followed her, just after I snapped this shot.