Originally the plan was for me to have Free for the whole vacation week. Newman head north with his sons for their annual ski adventure, and I was looking forward to some downtime with Free as well as banking some childcare credit that I plan to cash in for my Caribbean getaway in April. (I’m sorry if the “childcare credit” concept seems cold. It’s not meant that way; it’s just that my post-divorce co-parenting schedule only exists on paper, and any vacation I plan without Free has to involve cashing in the credit and having backup coverage just in case.)
Free and I did get some quality time in Vermont together, but the week was cut short when her dad organized a short ski getaway for them with her best friend. She was beyond excited for the trip, and I found myself with a couple of Me Days.
Me Days, for the uninitiated, are days where you are only beholden to yourself. Some of you parents will remember these fondly from before marriage and children. (If you’ve never had kids, you have surely experienced Me Days but may not fully appreciate them or recognize they are deserving of a title with capital letters.) Because I’ve learned to count my blessings in a post-divorce life, I fully appreciate surprise Me Days and have shed the guilt that used to accompany the rarer version that I knew when I was still married. Maybe it’s just because I’m in my late thirties that I appreciate them fully; I now tend to apologize less for the good things that come my way.
I may not be able to magically give you any Me Days, but I am here to share some tips on how to more fully experience and appreciate one that might come your way.
1. EMBRACE THE POSSIBILITIES
When a Me Day sneaks up on you unawares, you may feel initially experience a negative reaction. Here are some examples (all best expressed in a whiny voice):
“But I had a plan. Now what am I supposed to do?”
“Why can’t he drop everything to be with me today? Doesn’t he love me?”
“No-one’s around to get together! Why don’t I have more friends?”
“I can’t do anything I need to get done! If only I had seen this coming!”
If these voices start to infiltrate your subconscious, STOP whatever you are doing and hold still. You know how we tell kids to take deep breaths to calm down? Well, do it yourself. Recognize that most negative reactions are rooted in fear, and choose to respond thoughtfully rather than react. Counter those voices with more rational thoughts (picture Maggie Smith voicing these in one of her awesome Downton Abbey wisecracking moments:
“Yes, whatever shall you do without a plan? Here’s a suggestion: perhaps it’s time to re-consider that hair-style you’ve had for the last fifteen years.”
“Well, if he does love you, it’s not for your intelligence. What ninny would give up a perfectly lovely day alone to listen to him all day, especially if it’s just for the chance to make yourself untidy?”
“Friends are best enjoyed when money isn’t available but misgivings are.”
“Oh yes, I’m sure we’d all be remarkably impressed with how the world would change had you just had a week’s notice to arrange everything.”
2. DON’T LET IT GO
The worst thing you can do is to turn a surprise Me Day into a Get Everything Done Day. If you’ve had a day planned to accomplish lots of stuff, including things like errands and cleaning, then count it as the latter. That’s not a Me Day, unless it’s your passion in life to clean and run errands. I don’t hate cleaning or running errands, and sometimes a little of both shows up on a Me Day, but it doesn’t take it over. It’s OK to use a Me Day to do something help you catch up or get ahead. (I did my taxes today. Impressed? You should be! It’s not even the end of February!) That sort of action acts as an effective guilt cleaner to get you closer to your real task for the day, but DON’T lose sight of the core value of the Me Day. Remember, if the day was a surprise gift, you’re not losing anything by cashing it out to yourself. What you stand to gain, however, is significant.
3. INDULGE YOURSELF
How long should it take you to get over the fear of being lonely or the guilt of not attempting more on your list? As long as it takes for you to slip into a hot bath, turn on a reality TV marathon, head outdoors for a nature walk, or open that book that’s been giving the dust a place to settle next to your bed. Need some inspiration for how to indulge on the cheap? You’ll have your own favorite ways, but here are mine, tried and true:
- Head to TJMaxx, Marshall’s, or some other discount store and buy the best pair of socks $10 or less can buy. I promise, it will feel totally luxurious. My toes are stretching into a “hand wash only” cashmere blend right now. Hand wash socks? What crazy fool is gonna do that? Maybe the guy who irons his boxers. But even if mine don’t come out quite right in the wash, it will be worth it.
- Clean our your closet. (Bear with me on this one.) Have you ever had a shopping day where you felt too lazy to try stuff on and nothing was on sale anyway, so you just walked around the mall, got tired, and then went home feeling depressed? Yeah, me too. A better option, if you’re feeling energetic, is to go shopping in your closet. If you’re anything like me, there’s tons there that you don’t wear. Figure out how to wear it. Use Pinterest to figure out how to wear that funky vest, take pictures of a new outfit you put together, throw out some junk that doesn’t work, and get cleaning credit too!
- Clean out your bathroom vanity. My friends love manicures and pedicures, but spa services are expensive and tend to leave me unsatisfied. (See my Massage post for an example.) A better substitute is to go through your products. If you’re like me, you’ll find something that screams for experimentation…if you have the time. Well, guess what. You do!
- Buy your favorite cup of coffee or dessert. It can be whatever you like, but don’t cheap out on the crap. The Little Debbie Swiss Roll stash that hides out in my freezer doesn’t count. Those are only for emergencies of the life crisis variety. If you’re going to kill your workout with a treat, do it well. I recommend browsing at the Whole Foods bakery. $5 for a cupcake? You betcha! Totally worth it.
4. SLOW DOWN AND ENJOY
Speaking of a workout, don’t ditch it. Just make it more pleasurable. Take your time. Walk or hike instead of run. Bring a magazine into the stretching room of your gym and do some leg-lifts leisurely while you read about the Kardashians. There’s no hurry. You’ve got all day.
After the workout, you may feel hungry, so head to the grocery store to shop while you’re still feeling healthy and alive. Buy the ingredients to a favorite meal. Mine is tomato, mozzarella, basil, and avocado with a robusto Italian dressing. I could eat a HUGE plate of it. If you’re hungry for something meatier, go for it, but prepare it yourself. You normally may not have the time, but now you can. Again, go to Pinterest for inspiration. Make sure there’s music and a glass of wine nearby while you cook. Put on those new socks and shake your booty a little in the kitchen. Remind yourself that you did your taxes. If you didn’t do your taxes, remind yourself of whatever you did today, or yesterday, that was productive. If you haven’t felt productive in a while, simply remind yourself how much the world around you may benefit from you taking good care of yourself for a day.
5. RETREAT, RELAX, AND REFLECT
These days, there aren’t just people around us calling for our attention; there are gadgets everywhere calling us too. It’s OK to answer the call or share if that’s what helps you relax; I’m blogging right now, aren’t I? Just make sure it’s happening on your terms and that you’re not responding to everyone‘s needs except your own. Try to retreat into your own private space, whether you define that space in physical, intellectual, or emotional terms–or in some other way.
Breathe deeply. Tune into your body. Reflect on the world from your own point of view; spend a little time getting back in touch with what that perspective really is. Let what comes of the day come, and don’t judge it by anyone else’s standard but your own. That’s why they call it a Me Day. (Well, it’s why I call it that, anyway.)
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