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As published in 2021, Chicken Soup for the Soul anthology series, Making “Me Time” and republished in 2022 in the book, Your 10 Keys to Happiness.

The Birds and the Bees by Kat Gottlieb

The timer was set for 10 minutes. I sat down on a soft pillow, crossed my legs with hands resting on my knees, palms up, eyes closed. “Ok, time to center myself, inhale, exhale. Relax … Re-lax … RELAX!” I cracked an eye to check the timer. 30 seconds had passed. Oh boy, this “me time” was going to be difficult!

As a working mother, my years went by in a blur of family-oriented activity without time for relaxing. When the kids were finally out of the nest and I was able to retire from my full-time career, I thought “Now I can take some time for ME! Of course, as a lifelong list maker, I did my research. According to the lifestyle experts, there are many things to do within the “Me Time” genre! There were relaxation activities like yoga, meditation, getting pampered at a spa, exercise, socializing … I was determined to find the one thing that truly filled my soul, and so began my “not so smooth” journey to finding myself.

Meditation was the first to come and go. I never fully understood how to shut my mind off for any length of time. I always felt like I was just waiting for it to end. Next, I tried “Teatime as Me Time.” At first, I was very enthusiastic about this dainty endeavor! I envisioned sitting across from a dear friend, sipping from delicate cups and nibbling tiny sandwiches, but that is as far as it ever went. I have the fancy tea set (never used) and a pantry shelf full of tea packages that I will never consume (I prefer the electric jolt of coffee in the morning!)

The pampering stuff wasn’t for me either. I like being productive; sitting around feeling special doesn’t feel special to me. So, I immediately scratched off those ideas. Exercise is a highly recommended me-time activity. I liked to exercise, so why not double up my workouts and plan some exciting fitness goals? But after a week or so of training, exercise time felt more like torture time.

Many other me-time experiments that left me wanting less of them, not more. I felt like a failure at this relaxation thing, especially when I found myself procrastinating to begin a Me Time routine. I would chastise myself for “wasting” precious hours, daydreaming on my front porch with my two dogs, watching the big, fuzzy bumblebees buzz about my garden. In those moments, time stood still. I could wile away the morning watching the bugs, birds, and critters do their thing. I would delight in the seasons- Mother Nature birthing and dying in her perennial cycle.

A profound perspective is gained when noticing the small details of this miraculous world! My self-absorbed human concerns were really nothing in the grand scale of things! Taking the focus myself was a relief! Because I realized all of the shoulda-woulda-couldas of living my best life placed more expectations on me, my relaxation and my performance. Ironically what I discovered is that I truly desired less emphasis on me altogether.

Maybe the experts had this me-time thing all wrong and it had little to do with “me” or “time” as I was defining it. Perhaps we are too concerned with how we spend our time, instead of enjoying the nothing-ness of simply being? Instead of viewing it as a void, a hesitation between activities, we can shift our conscious into embracing timelessness. Witnessing simple, humble moments of nature re-centered my soul better than anything else. Maybe a better version of “me-time” is simply “be time” ...
or better yet, “bee time”!

I just watched a young robin sunning its outstretched wings in the afternoon warmth. He closed his eyes as if to fully appreciate the moment and I wondered if he was taking a little Me Time for himself? I watched until he flew away and I am not sure how much time transpired; it could have been a minute or ten but I enjoyed every second of it. However, I do wonder, “Does it count as me time when you watch a bird enjoying his?”

I think back to all of those busy years when I did not take a moment to appreciate our intricate natural world. Even when I rushed to make the 5:00 yoga class, to learn how to stretch and ground myself… while earth’s bounty was dancing outside the door. Now, I realize that Me Time is highly overrated IF it makes me feel more pressure to fit one more thing into my schedule especially if it takes away from the time I would have to simply… be.