It’s been a rough last two months. From health issues and not having much time with the hubby as he feverishly pursues two equally exhausting careers, to work that seems to have hit me like a freight train. I think if you measured my stress/anxiety on a Richter scale, it’d be magnitude 6.9. Not off the charts, but enough to do some damage.
Just yesterday, my coworkers asked me if I was looking forward to my upcoming trip to Cancun. I couldn’t help but beam. “Yes,” I said, “I am very much looking forward to me time.”
The second the last two words left my mouth I felt a familiar twinge of guilt. The idea that time should be dedicated to yourself, feels very privileged or self centered. As if that little phrase implied that the sun and moon and other planetary systems revolve around the great gravitational force that is me. It feels entitled, lazy, perhaps even spoiled. The voice in my head tells me…you don’t deserve “me time.”
I hear the phrase “me time” a lot on Facebook. Often from the frazzled, spent mouths of mothers who pour themselves entirely into their families. An outward spilling of everything they have, as if a vacuum for positive energy is attached to every utterance of “mommy…” throughout the day. For those moms, I believe that they need “me time” as their survival and competence as a parent depends on moments to remember their identity as a creative, graceful and strong woman separate of her family.
As a woman without children, I find that I cannot own this phrase “me time.” I have plenty of it. Pretty much every night. I fill the silences of my moderately sized home with TV shows that help me disengage my brain from the heavy thoughts that strain it during the day. I drink a glass of wine (or two), I sometimes get a massage, I even pick up a book once in a while. And I spend the majority of that time by myself. So when I said to my coworkers (who are both mothers and full-time educators) that I was looking forward to “me time,” I felt guilty.
Theoretically, if I have a lot of this “me time,” then why do I feel royally exhausted all the time? How come I need to disconnect with my immediate world and reconnect with my soul? Well, it’s because I exist in a world where the quality of an educator is directly related to how much of themselves that they sacrifice on a daily basis. The measure of which is a car in the parking lot long past dark and an “I’m surviving” response to the question of “how are you?” Go, go, go. Give, give, give. Passion, drive, to-do lists, problem solving, whatever the cost. A false perception that the very survival of the world rests on your shoulders and whether or not you have answered all your emails and submitted the grant proposal by the five o’clock deadline.
In efforts to not appear selfish in this martyrdom world, I mentioned to my coworkers that I don’t really need “me time” because I have a lot of time to myself. Almost immediately, one of the women (who has an unflappable ability to keep calm and carry on) assured me that I do. And then she said something that struck me. “If you constantly pour your energy out, you need some time to tend to the well and replenish who you are. That’s what ‘me time’ is really about.” I had never thought of it in that way. “Me time” doesn’t have to be alone time. It is time to tend to the well that is your soul, and replenish that which has been lost over time.
So here I am, sitting at an airport, awaiting the second of three legs for a flight to Cancun. The first part was a little bumpy. I read, I rested, I eavesdropped on others’ conversations. Minutes ago, I wolfed down a sub par hamburger (no cheese, no bun) and some fries. I spent $5 on orange juice and $3.99 on a movie that is downloading (with over 1,000 minutes remaining on the download time predictor). Imperfect details. And this is all…perfectly fine with me.
This week I plan to disconnect from the work that I often think solely depends on my perfection. I plan to drink a margarita, laugh a lot and hopefully dance. But mostly, I plan to clasp my hands behind my back and watch how easily the world goes on without me actively trying to intervene. I am tending to the well.
© 2013 D. Willson