When was the last time you were alone with your thoughts?
As someone who’s about to embark upon a new chapter in life, I can’t help but think about the many things that’ll change. It’s no longer about me and my life now – it’s about him, looking after him, looking after myself, looking after us. I’ll have to make adjustments for my better half, and together, we’re gonna have to work to live the life that we want. Great weeknight dinners, tennis rallies, the occasional getaways, kids, and a spoiled little puppy. It wasn’t that long until the fear creeps up on me: Say buh-bye to me time.
For all my life I’ve been a closet introvert that now, the closet’s essentially the larger sum of me. I mean, I used to pretend I’m extroverted for many reasons, but that’s a blog post for another day. As far as I’m concerned, even though I’ve thrown away all the things that no longer serves the life I want, I couldn’t imagine myself juggling wife and motherhood responsibilities as best as I know I can if I no longer have me time.
I have tried discarding that slot from my schedule at one point in my life, but found that whenever I do burnout, the one that suffers are the people I love and love me most. You almost always take it out on them, which is unfair. Yes, I always do the extra mile at work and yes, excelling is what drives me, but it also makes me go insane. You can only remain unstoppable for so long until you scour for an outlet to let it all out. Without a certain amount of space, a boundary set just for you to figure things out and just breathe, all your anger, your frustration, your worries and headaches and all those held-back emotions snowball over time and turn into this giant time bomb that explodes when you least want it to explode.
What is it about time spent for ourselves that makes us feel guilty? I’ll be like, I should’ve prepared the week’s meals instead of getting that massage, should’ve taken the dog out for a walk instead of sitting here, having tea, reading Elle, should’ve gone for a workout instead of snacking on these cookies, etc. It all feels like time we “steal”. Time we feel ashamed about later if we spend just a few more minutes primping before leaving for work and put on 9 different skincare products before going to bed. It feels selfish. Like a soundless voice that tells us we should’ve taken that extra time on others instead than ourselves.
But when is more ever enough?
Something tells me it’s going to be even more important from now on to put myself first before taking care of the rest.
When I was in my depression, I deliberately took the “me” out of all my time. Ended up in debt, almost homeless, failing all my classes, losing friends, and constantly worried. I wanted to start making money while in college, wanted to know what’s going on in the world, how I can help as many children as I can in Africa, volunteered at children’s libraries and old folk’s homes, doing more stuff that, you know, “matters”, thinking ways I can lose myself even more, cut even more time out of my own life, depriving all the things in life I used to enjoy, so that “me” is out of the equation and “I” can spend my lifetime helping the other 7 billion people in the world. Infinite thoughts (plus depressing news headlines) concerning world issues ran through my head from the time I wake to late at night, mostly to sleepless nights. What can I do, when none of those issues even had anything to do with me. I missed my period for over a year, and grew determined that I’ll never get married because at that time of my life, I think that working for personal happiness doesn’t make me useful. I thought that giving even the slightest attention and care to my soul will only lead to greed, and eventually, a self-indulgent life.
Fast forward to the next couple of years. I was better, but somehow learned to get all apologetic for things I don’t have to feel sorry for. Always giving a sh*t about what other people think, always an hour early (sometimes two), always prepared and rehearsed in case of the worst, pretty much always working that extra mile. It’s taxing my physical and mental abilities, literally, and guess what – it doesn’t help anyone. Not others, not self. I exhausted myself only to realize, life’s a whole integer and not a divisible sum. You possess an irreducible significance that “matter” just as much as the next significant person, only “mattering” in different ways and thus living different lives. Just because you genuinely want to take yourself out of the equation to allow more time and space for others doesn’t mean you can actually do that. In fact, it’s a sickening thought. It got me so sick, I played around with countless ideas of ways I could to take my own life. At that point, I really just wanted to die. It’s just not possible to get out there in the world and extend your hand like Mr. Fantastic without understanding your own limitations (even Reed Richards had to know the limits of his own powers before using them) – what’s in your ability and what’s not – as well as having some kind of boundary, for basic self-preservation and for your loved one’s wellbeing. Your sphere of influence is only so big, you can’t expect your hand to reach a million light years when you can’t even get a hold of yourself.
As I’m writing this, I’m holding a difficult question in my head: What’s the quality of my reach? Is it real or does it feel like an obligation? Am I truly reaching out or is what I’m doing a momentary distraction? How do I make a lasting impression, and, is my existence worth the while, for both the people I know and love most as well as the strangers and passers-by? The more you hold those thoughts in your head, the more you think about the 1001 things you could’ve done to feel good about answering the questions … and the more you feel insignificant.
Well, this was where my train went.
After receiving Christ as my Savior and a couple other recent life events, it seems as though widening my reach matters less than the reasons I have behind it. Those reasons are usually far from “logical”. Statistics can tell you the deadliest disease and the most probing issues all they want, but your cause is usually something that is closest to your heart. Eventually, I stopped doing what I did everyday. I stopped skimming depressing headlines to see things that “matter” and pinpoint what’s the most pressing issue of the day, then die my way to reach out and attempt to solve that world issue, even if it takes not only all of my time, but all of my heart, my mind, my soul. I lost myself there, and I will never want to lose myself again.
Me time is like a sacred place for you to nurture your heart. For me, it’s a daily ritual where I can unplug, disengage, and escape from the world for a moment and in return, it allows me to come back composed, focused, more creative and more in control. It’s things like reading, napping with a facial mask, getting a massage, painting toenails, slowing down, sipping tea, sniffing plants, sniffing oils, stretching, running slow and long, taking in the fresh air, renewing, recharging, making Pinboards and getting inspired. Somewhere between the grind and your fatigue, you’ll realize that no matter how much time you spend on doing stuff, whether or not those stuff “matters”, you’re really just a woman who deserves as much love from yourself as you give to others.
What about you? What does me time mean to you? What are the stuff that you do when you unplug, and, God forbid, have you ever felt guilty carving out that time for yourself?