I received a box in the mail a few weeks ago and was delighted to open it up and find unexpected treasures inside. I was honored when Rachel Stafford contacted me, asking if I’d be willing to read and review her book, and as I’m familiar with her work, I quickly agreed. I wasn’t expecting such a thoughtful and inviting presentation. And I looked forward to reading The Hands Free Life…you know, just as soon as I got some other tasks out of the way.
A few days later I was overwhelmed by all the “things to do,” so I just went to bed. I was tired, and the thought of washing one more dish or folding one more shirt made retreating to bed seem wonderful. I lay there unable to sleep and unable to motivate myself to get up, so I grabbed my new copy of Hands Free Life and read her first chapter on “filling the spaces with songs of life.” Of course, I was hardly filling my evening with “songs of life” by laying in bed to avoid the dishes and clothes. So I surprised myself when I was suddenly motivated to hop out of bed to wash to address the dishes and laundry. I chuckled too because it seemed antithetical to engage in these mundane tasks after reading about ways to enhance our daily lives – housework is DEFINITELY not a song of life to me. However, undistracted time with my daughter is one of my greatest pleasures. And when I took a moment to reflect on all the beautiful moments I enjoy with my daughter, I knew I didn’t want to wake up in the morning and be distracted by the everyday tasks of laundry and dishes. So I cleaned up, put away, and set out some invitations to engage with my daughter for the next morning. I was inspired to do something differently and for different reasons than having things done.
Don’t get me wrong, my life wasn’t transformed in that moment. I still get overwhelmed and choose to go to bed (and I’ve been at this “awareness” gig a few years). But this was another nudge in the direction towards less distraction and more presence. And now when the bed feels more inviting than the tasks, I can reflect on these stories to help me finish a few small tasks. Likewise, more often I am able to simply notice what needs to be done when I’m with my daughter, and that noticing allows me to stay present rather than being distracted. In the midst of the dishes and laundry piles and emails I simply notice, and then (try) to stay present with my daughter as she talks about what she’ll do at school and with her friends. I stay present as she asks to play “one more game” of hide and seek, as she swings from the living room swing “one more time,” and requests “one more” story before school or at bedtime.
Transformation is about taking one step at a time, whether we’re stepping toward being more present or responding more peacefully to our children. We can only take one step at a time. And when we stumble, when I stumble, I try to give myself grace and understanding. No one learns in the milieu of degradation and punishment. We learn from our mistakes by giving ourselves understanding, compassion, and the opportunity to try again and again and again.
The first chapter was a reminder of the beauty in staying present and appreciating those moments when we’re almost too worn out to cuddle for one more minute, or play just one more game of hide and seek, or watch with thinning patience as our child tries on one more pair of pajamas. It was a reminder for all of us that these intimate, and sometimes difficult, everyday moments of their childhood are fleeting, and never to be experienced again (insert mixed emotions here).
The chapter that really made my heart sing was “Take The Pressure Off.” Of course, from the title I knew I going to breathe a sigh of relief (because while I agree with the idea of putting less pressure on myself, implementation often eludes me). But what gloriously knocked me off my “yay” campaign and into full throttle “yes!” was reading her story about her daughter who chose her own way to participate and define success in spite of the expectations of other people. Rachel recognized the raw power and freedom in her young daughter, a power and freedom that eludes so many of us as adults. And she celebrated her choice, which was perhaps very different than many of us would expect. Can you imagine if we could actually shrug off the expectations of others and instead get clear about what is important to us?! This lights my heart up as a child advocate, mother, and individual. It’s what I absolutely want for my daughter, and what I want to be able to model for her too. And so I will continue my journey focusing on what matters and taking note when I’m getting caught up in the pressure. When you read this chapter, please let me know where it takes you. How can you begin to recognize your children’s choices as empowering and important, rather than unremarkable? This is what’s important – recognizing the power and beauty as it is, beyond expectations and pressure.
I would also love to hear more about your own habits that help you overcome distraction so you can live better and love more. What do you do? Let me know on Facebook with the tag #handsfreelife!
If you haven’t read her first book, Hands Free Mama, you can receive a free digital copy of it until September 7, 2015 by preordering Hands Free Life. Click HERE for more information.
You can read more of Rachel Stafford’s work below:
Children Who Shine From Within http://www.handsfreemama.com/2014/04/29/children-who-shine-from-within/
The Loss of Life Beneath Your Skin & How to Revive It http://www.handsfreemama.com/2015/07/20/the-loss-of-life-beneath-your-skin-how-to-revive-it/