I used to be the world’s worst at taking me time and as a result I believe everyone suffered including me! Me time just seemed like such a selfish use of time, self-indulgent as much as a waste of valuable time that could be spent doing something else. When I was challenged about taking a little more me time I would blame the lack of it on everything else – not enough hours in the day, the children were too young, I was breastfeeding, my husband worked away, I had no support, defending it from the “maybe, but just when I’ve done this” phrase! To my mind back then, my children were my life, my husband always came first particularly as he always had a to-do list burning away the weekend hours that seemed so important at the time, and me time just simply did not happen. Then there was the guilt! If I took a few minutes, maybe went to the gym, took a shopping trip, had a coffee out with a friend, burdened someone else with the children (four seemed a lot to leave with anyone at one time), I would subscribe to feelings of guilt and then feel worse than in the first place wishing I hadn’t taken the me-time in the first place!
Then I became ill! My health had always been on the rocks looking back. In fact my now ex-husband referenced the fact that my poor health had always been a feature of our marriage. Little did we know back then just how much of a “feature” if would end up being but ending up in intensive care and critical care units with little chance of significant improvement, a pacemaker ticking away inside me and a divorce playing out it’s bitter hand at the same time called for a huge reassessment of life! The lack of me-time hadn’t caused the problem but the events of that time showed me just how important me-time is and would become in my life from that time onwards. Strangely too, it became an important part of my daily routine at a time when I was left to look after four children by myself, I literally had no support on a daily basis with no husband to fall back on, the children were at a stage where they needed more time than ever and money was scarce to even consider buying in help, let alone using it to fund me-time treats!
However, the five of us sat there and realised that me-time had to happen and my wonderful children proactively encouraged me to take just a few minutes each day. I still struggled with saying I needed that time, but we devised a system whereby I would put a necklace on my bedroom door which literally meant “Do not disturb”. The doors didn’t have locks and to be honest with my propensity to pass out from the health complications a lock would have been a dangerous thing! The necklace just asked the children to respect the fact that I needed a few moments to myself and to that end I discovered the joy of having time to simply relax, take the weight of my feet and my mind, rebalance and restore an emotional equilibrium, renew depleted energy supplies, de-stress, gain healthy perspectives on what was going on around us and generally chill out.
It was during my me-time that I rediscovered my love for reading and writing! Critically though in those short moments that I had, I learnt more about me, what I wanted in life, what my aspirations were and what was important to me. Blame and judgement about all things in the past went out of the window and a subscription to truth and responsibility implanted itself in my life. In essence I became “me” regaining my soul and love for life which literally seemed to have been missing for such a long time. I actually felt 14 again, with my life ahead of me empowered by a healthy understanding of where I’d been and where I wanted to go. Clearly with the health issues, that controlled my physical life, remained impeded in that sense but emotionally the world became my oyster.
The children noticed too. They loved their new free and, to be honest, more fun Mum. It reflected on them as they too became free to discover who they were, what they wanted, what was important to them and the chance to stand up to a life based on a creed of respect, responsibility and above all love. Everyone started to work together and our little family became a team intrinsically giving each other the space to restore, discover and grow. We even took the concept of me-time to give us-time for a few hours occasionally as a family by introducing “lock-down” – a time when we just enjoyed ourselves as a family unit without answering the constant door bell and phone ringing to play board games, watch a DVD or have a meal together.
Me-time ultimately showed us how important taking a little time out for ourselves is so important as a family unit. For me, I learnt how much I didn’t know about myself and how much there was to find out. Having been battered by an acrimonious divorce, one which I would not have chosen, I rediscovered the part of me that had laid dormant over the years and set about re-establishing a life that I was proud of, happy to be a part of and which left my spirit feeling good.
Taking me-time then was (and still is) a revolutionary turning point in our life. To this day such me-time has led to me writing a novel, an anthology of poems and short stories as well as studying for a psychology degree albeit very often from the confines of my bed when physical health plays its irritating hand. I go more regularly to the gym when I am well enough which is essential for my health and don’t fret if I want to take a few minutes out in a day to have a coffee with a friend.
Me-time revolutionized my life and I believe can anyone’s. It’s not about being selfish because taking time out wasn’t in response to an egotistical, self-centred craving but it was a realisation that if you don’t honour yourself the question remains how can you actually honour anyone else!