It’s the motto of every woman’s magazine article that ever was. It’s the demand of every commercial that stumps for yogurt, birth control, a gym or a cup of coffee. “Me.” “Time for me.” “Me time.” as if all those other minutes are selfless and as such, this little oasis must be carved out of the world to ensure sanity. As always, the world has it backwards. These little emotional get aways are in addition to the theoretical mandatory 55 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes reading, and 8 hours of sleep that we’re all supposed to get every day. Weren’t those me moments too? How much is the daily recommended amount of time we’re supposed to spend on others? It isn’t that people don’t need sometimes the silence of isolation to think or to rejuvenate or to organize, but who loses during that “me time?” Whoever the you is, in your life. What does me time really mean?
“Go away because I’m sick of serving you?” “Get out of here because I don’t want to give the emotional investment you need right now?” We’re not supposed to seek “Me time.” We’re supposed to serve summa –all. We’re supposed to wash the feet. We’re supposed to pour out our lives like blood and water, to empty everything, to surrender everything. And no matter how often we might have done it, or how easy we might think it is, sometimes it’s not just hard; it’s excrutiating.
A life of love is a life of sacrifice and it isn’t just little things like coffee breaks and uninterrupted writing and reading of good books or watching a favorite television show, it is 1000 sublimations in a day, getting up before we want to, foregoing a shower, fixing food for others, unloading the dishwasher and reloading, making the bed forgotten, turning off the lights and emptying the trash including the apple core and hidden pudding cup and 10 foils from chocolate kisses. It is not going out in the evening because a child needs to talk, it is not talking when a child needs to talk. It is reading one more bed time story and holding a baby that only wants to be held for hours and hours and hours.
It is running the errand to Target and to Walmart and then to Michael’s on Sunday night (to allow for a project that got forgotten) to be finished. It is reading with the same enthusiasm for the 1 billionth time, Green Eggs and Ham and Harry Potter and those deadly summary of the plot line by line Disney books that you bought back when you could get suckered into those 1 cent book clubs. Dreams of degrees and being world famous don’t die overnight. There isn’t a moment when we say, “Die dream..Die!” because it isn’t a death, it isn’t an abandonment, it is a surrender of the self. Surrendering of the self is a perpetual struggle. Telling yourself “This will have to wait.” because they won’t doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting, doesn’t mean it doesn’t tempt, doesn’t mean it doesn’t remind one’s self that this is a sacrifice, this is a gift. Further, the battle has to be won again and again and again because the ego doesn’t like taking no for an answer.
Surrender of what one wants begins with marriage, with falling in love. That surrender continues and it extends and grows as a marriage grows, and as a family begins. The radical sublimation of the woman’s body to another is a mirror of what the soul, all souls, are supposed to orient themselves towards becoming. Every cell in a woman’s body goes into overdrive trying to protect and feed and nourish the baby, even allowing for the depleting of calcium from one’s teeth to make sure the new bones grow. Nothing is withheld even if the mind and heart of the mother is not yet fully on board.
Then we see that little face and wonder how we could ever love so much, how we could bear not looking at him or her, how we could bear not holding them, how our hearts could bear so much love and not burst for joy. Time stops for a moment, when the heart and mind finally catch up to the body that has just delivered everything that it had. The rest of life is learning to reorient all three towards that perpetual complete surrender and the battles of appetites and prior selfish habits to reassert themselves. It is ugly, halting, clumsy and fierce. Even when we think we’ve reached a moment, we haven’t. We’ve just come to a momentary plateau. More surrender is in the works. There is always more to give, always more to surrender, always less we could demand for ourselves. Absent love, it would all be drudgery and frustration. Love changes everything. Love makes even the most meaningless of tasks –like laundry and dishes and diapers, meaningful, because it makes those acts gifts of time, of attention, of sublimation of self.
This isn’t to say that a life so ordered won’t be filled with feasts or epic moments of sheer awesomeness, only that we aren’t called to make our lives such that they read like an Epic or a Resume of the beautiful, successful and accomplished. We’re called to live for others, to be successful at creating beauty, to accomplish the beatitudes today and every day, and that if fully embraced, leaves no “me time,” only time for others, and a cup brim filled of memories of the daily labors of love.