This is not your typical Valentine’s Day post. You may not feel warm and fuzzy when you read it. In fact, some parts might be downright uncomfortable to read — it was not easy for me to write.
But on this Hands Free journey, I have found that by going to painful places and seeking difficult truths, there is healing. And that is when I grasp what really matters in both hands.
And today seemed like the perfect day to share with you how I came to know the real meaning of love — and with it came a real chance at living.
My five-year-old learns a new song on her ukulele every few months. The song she is currently working on is Taylor Swift’s “Ours.” After dinner in the evenings, she strums her tiny ukulele with purposeful, small hands and sings these lyrics:So don’t worry your pretty little mind, People throw rocks at things that shine. Life makes love look hard. The stakes are high, The waters rough, But this love is ours.
I sit next to her feeling my eyes well up with tears.
Because while I’m pointing to the notes, smiling into her eyes, sitting peaceful and still, I remember this isn’t the way it used to be.
This is my story …
At the height of my overcommitted and highly distracted life (pre Hands Free), my youngest daughter began taking ukulele lessons.
If you’ve never assisted a small child with playing a musical instrument, I can assure you it is a test of extreme patience, even for someone who doesn’t possess a Type A personality.
I quickly discovered that in order for her to “play ukulele,” I was required to constantly adjust finger positions and point to notes as she strummed – which meant I was not able to multi-task for ten whole minutes.
There was no making dinner while she practiced; there was no list-making going on in my head; there was no “just a second, I’ll be right back,” as I throw in a load of laundry, clean the toilet, and answer an email or two.
When my daughter picked up that miniature instrument, I was forced to focus on one thing and one thing only. In order for my daughter to create any musical sound whatsoever, I had to be in the moment.
I clearly remember sitting beside my child on the ottoman — my impatience revealed in my left leg that jiggled nervously. With clenched teeth and frazzled hair, I watched in angst as my child stumbled through “Kookaburra,” the first song she ever learned.
It was the long pauses between each note that tested my patience more the chatty cashier in the checkout line, more than waiting for the left-hand turn signal to turn green in rush-hour traffic.
Imagine five-second pauses between every note as her uncoordinated fingers struggled to find their home. Eventually, I would have to cover her tiny finger beneath my own to get a clear sound, only adding to the Grand Canyon-sized lull between each note.
For a woman whose life was based on product, checklists, and visual results, ukulele practice served as a form of slow, grueling torture.
It soon became my most dreaded ten-minute period of the day.
I will admit, I once tried folding laundry while she practiced. My compulsive drill sergeant inner voice urged me to at least try and get something (anything) accomplished during these laborious sessions.
In ten minutes, I got one small towel folded.
The control freak inside me could not win this battle. I grudgingly accepted the fact that for ten minutes each day, I must only focus on one thing.
Ukulele practice was cramping my multi-tasking style.
But I did it anyway.
I did it because my daughter loved that little ukulele, and when she sang, her God-given purpose filled the room and radiated on her joyful face.
In other words, I did it because I loved her.
That’s when I thought love was in the “doing,” just like my life was all about the “doing” – like it doesn’t really “count” or hold value unless you can check it off.
But a few months later, everything changed.
Just as an overused guitar string eventually snaps from being stretched beyond its limit, I broke.
I painfully acknowledged the reason I was able to magically “do it all” was because I missed out on life — the parts of life that really matter. You can read about my painful life-changing breakdown here.
From that moment, I started doing something completely foreign to my constantly driven, industrious nature — I began to take pause.
I took small steps to let go of distraction and created designated times of the day to be FULLY present with the people I love.
It started with small changes like:
*Putting my phone in the glove compartment or inside my purse when I drove so I could have meaningful conversation with my children.
*Turning off all notifications on my phone while in the presence of family so I wasn’t summoned to check it whenever it beeped.
*Placing my endless to-do list in a drawer for the day and reminding myself there is nothing on that list more important than spending time right now with the people I love.
*Letting go of the need to constantly be doing something, like jumping up to clean the kitchen as the last bite of dinner is taken, and instead relaxed and conversed with my family.
*I also began turning my computer off until the kids went to bed so I would not grab a quick check at email or Facebook and then get sucked in for an hour.
I started by letting go of some of the immediate distractions in my daily life, and then moved on to the bigger distractions by creating a life mission statement – you can read about it here.
But above all, I began seeing every opportunity to spend time with my family as a gift – even ukulele practice.
And on the day of my child’s spring concert, almost a year into my “Hands Free” journey, I really “got” it. I finally got that last piece of the puzzle – the piece that was keeping my heart from being fully content … that piece that was prohibiting me from living life to the fullest.
Just before the concert, I videotaped my daughter’s performance at home so I could send it to out-of-state family members who could not be in attendance.
I pushed “record” and signaled her to start.
Then in the middle of possibly the most glorious rendition of “Amazing Grace” I had ever heard, my child yawned.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like …”
It was a huge, hearty, man-sized yawn, which she even took a moment to savor before she kept on singing …
“ … me. I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind but now I see.”
Although my finger rested on the video camera’s red “stop” button, I surprisingly did not push it.
In fact, my hands began shaking and tears sprung to the corners of my eyes.
In that moment when my child yawned, I experienced a revelation that would forever change the way I would live the rest of my life.
And now I want to share it with the world:
I always believed that love was in the doing, like something I must squeeze in my to-do list or juggle into the hectic schedule of my day.
Love had always been something I could see with my eyes, do with my hands, or hear with my ears, like the musical notes on my daughter’s ukulele.
Love had always been in the doing.
But real love, the kind of love that connects you, sustains you, bonds you, and in my case, saves you, well, that kind of love is in the pause.
Talking in the sanctity of a dark bedroom with my oldest daughter …
Grasping my love’s hand as we watch a sunset in peaceful silence …
Asking my seventy-two year-old father questions and listening, really listening …
Holding my five-year-old against my chest in the middle of the ocean …
Love is in the pause.
The act of loving someone cannot be checked off a list, nor can it be marked down as “accomplished” for the day.
The act of truly loving someone comes in between the actions and the tangibles of our busy lives. It comes in the sacred moments when we stop, take pause, and connect with those who are precious to us.
My daughter’s most recent song has six lines and several three-finger chords. Occasionally she grows tired before she makes it through the whole song.
And when her delicate fingers can play no more, she simply lays her ukulele gently on the floor and crawls up on my lap.
As I hold her, I remember the days when I used to agonize over the pauses.
But now I cherish them.
For it is in the pause that love is found and that, my friends, is what makes life truly worth living.
*To see the life-changing video, including the yawn, click here.
Today’s challenge is simple: Take pause with someone you love today.
- cuddle together
- marvel at the beauty of his or her face
- have a conversation and listen to every word
- take a walk and gaze at the stars
- listen to his or her heartbeat
- hold each other in silence
Time spent with being fully present with someone you love is not wasted time; it is priceless time.
*And happy Valentine’s Day, my dear friends of the “Hands Free Revolution.” YOU make my heart happy.
The Love In The Pause by Hands Free Mama, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.