This is part of a weekly series I’m writing in 2016 to focus on one of my three words for the year: beauty. At the start of nearly every week a post will explore some aspect of beauty that I’ve been considering. Read more about my focus words of the year.
I occasionally marvel at the English language and how the same phrase or grouping of words can mean two totally different things depending on how they are read or understood. I think the latest book-turned-movie Me Before You, is a perfect example.
When I first heard about this book, I figured the title meant to say this is how I was before you came along. That, I assume, was the author’s purpose in creating that title. But now, after I’ve read a lot about the movie/book and how it hurts and offends those with disabilities I realize the title also has a more ominous meaning. Now every time I see the title I don’t translate it in my head as the author intended but rather, I am more important than you and your feelings; I will always put myself before you. And that is a shame.
In any relationship, while it should be a mutual giving of persons, the best relationships are ones in which we think of the other first and ourselves second. Imagine if everyone thought of themselves first – mom’s wouldn’t be getting their children breakfast before school, but rather perhaps lounging in bed with a book and cup of coffee. Spouses wouldn’t make an effort to make it home in time for dinner with their significant other or family, opting instead to constantly work late or head to the bar after a long day. Teachers wouldn’t bother to lesson plan with their students in mind, and would instead probably show movies every day in class.
And yet, our culture tends to push the me before you mantra, making this book and its message not so shocking. ‘Take me time,’ we hear. Take it often. Take it daily, perhaps multiple times a day. You deserve a coffee, a cupcake, a drink, a vacation – for you. You. You. YOU!
But what about the others? Usually, I think we humans feel more fulfilled, happier, more content when we spend time with and serving others. Sure, I love sipping a refreshing peach green tea lemonade while reading in a little nook at Starbucks. But that joy is fleeting. The drink empties before too long and the high is lost. On the other hand, being with others, serving those around – lets say visiting someone in a nursing home – that’s a longer lasting and more real happiness, even if it feels painful at the time. I leave a moment like that and feel like I was refreshed by this elder and feel, too, that I made her day with a visit.
You before me. The other before our self. At the same time, I’m not saying we need to be constantly pouring ourselves out in the service of others to our own personal detriment. There is a time and a place for ‘me’ time, but those moments shouldn’t be all about us, but rather a time to refresh ourselves so that we can keep loving those around us. We need moments of silence, moments to ourselves so that we can love others better and stronger.
There is a serious beauty in those who are able to do ‘You Before Me’ rather than ‘Me Before You.’