Eight months ago my 5 year old daughter got glasses.
I will never forget the moment, standing in the vision center, as she tried on frames that appealed to her. On the 7th attempt, she placed a pair with glittery pink rims on her face and peered in the mirror.
My typically smiley girl, who all along was merely a bud, exploded into full bloom.
Sunflower on steroids
While most people, adults and children alike, often flinch, cry, or curse at the first sight of themselves in obtrusive eyewear, my child delighted in it.
As she clenched the mirror in her small hands, glowing in response to her own reflection, unexpected tears sprung to my eyes. Then a deep sigh of relief escaped my lungs; I was grateful that she liked her glasses, but more importantly, that she liked herself in them.
And throughout the past eight months, nothing has changed when it comes to the glasses.
Each morning as I gently buff the lenses with a soft cloth, my daughter stands there in eager anticipation of the beloved spectacles being placed on her face.
By her enthusiastic expression, you would think I’m about place a crown of Oreos on her head or hand her a certificate that says, “Actually, you CAN suck your thumb for the rest of your life.”
But it’s just the glasses.
And it’s that same explosion of happiness upon her face.
Sunflower on steroids
There she stands, displaying utter and complete joy as she looks at life through those little rims.
And I am in awe … and a tiny bit jealous.
“What the heck does she see when she peers through those things?” I wonder to myself every morning.
I thought for sure we would have had to replace those tiny designer spectacles at least ten times by now—resorting to buying economically priced eyewear in bulk at Costco or perhaps resorting to a strap around her neck like an absent-minded professor.
But my five year old child, the one who forgets to turn off the water after washing her hands, has never lost her glasses. She cares for them; she loves them.
For months, I’ve wanted to write about my child and her spectacles. I knew there was something there—a huge “Hands Free” lesson just waiting to be revealed.
But I couldn’t figure out what it was. The truth is, I wasn’t ready for that lesson; I hadn’t become “Hands Free” enough.
I was still holding onto distraction, which on this journey comes in the form of both external and internal distraction. And the internal distraction called “perfection,” specifically the desire to please everyone, is something I’ve been holding on to with a death grip.
But recently I made some progress.
The progress occurred the day after my guest post on the popular parenting blog, “Scary Mommy.”
I knew this short post would hit my subscribers’ inboxes around 11:30 a.m. So around that time I half-heartedly worked on a new post while nervously anticipating the dreaded email “ding” notifying me of a subscription cancellation.
Two people decided they no longer wanted to subscribe to “Hands Free Mama.”
Instantly I wondered what I had done “wrong.” I mentally reviewed my post section by section as if I could figure out where I had offended. Shortly thereafter came the feelings of rejection, disappointment, and shame.
And because I was focused so intently on the two subscription drops, I failed to delight in this:
- the 57 positive comments that followed the post, as well as the encouraging remarks that flooded my inbox
- the fact that the post was shared 5,576 times on Facebook
- the gain of 45 new subscribers to my blog
- the fact that the post was tweeted by fashion designer Liz Lange and nationally acclaimed parenting expert Dr. Harvey Rotbart to their followers on Twitter.
All these beautiful reactions to my post and I couldn’t see them.
All I could see was that two people unsubscribed to “Hands Free Mama.”
Wait a minute.
Wait just one pitiful minute.
While my “Hands Free” inner voice is mostly gentle with its powerful reminders, sometimes it becomes necessary to tell me to get a grip. The voice continued …
Aren’t YOU the “Hands Free Mama” who tells other people to “grasp what really matters”?
Now here’s the really sad thing: Being notified when a reader unsubscribes from my blog is NOT automatic. I actually CHOSE that setting in order to gain this information. In other words, I deliberately chose to subject myself unnecessarily to feelings of rejection and failure.
Pretty ridiculous, now that I think about it.
So I finally did what I had thought about doing for months; I put an end to it.
I went straight to my subscription services and triumphantly unchecked the box that read: “Send me an email when people unsubscribe.” Then I turned on my iPod and blasted Gotye, cathartically singing the band’s catchy little tune “Somebody That I Used To Know.”
The fact is, I will never know why someone decides he or she no longer want to receive my posts. It may have something to do with what I wrote, and it may not. But even more importantly, it doesn’t matter. I must continue to write in this space I call “Hands Free Mama” because this is what makes my soul come alive; this is what I am meant to do. And knowing someone does not want to read it (for whatever reason) only causes me to second-guess my abilities and hinders me from living the life I am meant to live.
In order to “see” clearly, I must stop cluttering the promising view of my life, my work, and my purpose, with external forces that bring me down.
Let me put this in more universal terms to which we can all relate:
If looking at pictures of your friends’ lives on Facebook causes you to feel inferior, incomplete, or unattractive, stop looking.
If reading Glamour, People, or Cosmopolitan magazine causes you feel anything less than the beautiful person you are, stop reading.
If being around certain individuals causes you to feel inadequate, unappreciated, or devalued, distance yourself.
If certain objects in your environment remind you of someone you will never be or a time you rather forget, discard them, destroy them, or burn them.
You cannot grasp what matters in this one precious life if your view is cluttered by that which DOESN’T matter one single bit.
The morning after I unclicked the box on my subscription service, my daughter and I were going through the morning lens cleaning ritual. As usual, she was staring at her glasses in eager anticipation of their arrival to her face.
I took a deep breath knowing it was time—the lesson of the little glasses was about to impact me like a double rainbow in the sky after a long, hard rain.
Because now I was ready.
So I asked her, “Why do you smile so big every time you put on your glasses?”
There was no hesitation from my curly-haired, freckle-faced love:
“Because I can see … I can see all the beautiful things.”
Oh dear God.
It is so damn simple.
There are so many beautiful things to see.
But I have spent too much time focusing on the things that are insignificant, meaningless, harmful, and debilitating. It is no wonder I too often experience feelings of failure, disappointment, insecurity, and anxiety. It is no wonder I question my abilities and my purpose.
The lesson of the little glasses is a powerful one, but you must be ready.
You must be ready to surrender the desire to please everyone.
You must be ready to surrender the hope of being liked and accepted by everyone.
You must surrender the fear of making mistakes.
You must surrender the habit of making your life decisions based on what other people think.
I don’t know about you, but I am ready to surrender. I am ready to live my life doing what I know is right for me, doing what makes me happy, fulfilled, and alive. I am ready to make mistakes and get back up. I am ready to be unapologetically me.
And now that I’ve surrendered, something miraculous has happened.
The weight has been lifted.
My shoulders and head are held higher.
My voice embodies a new confidence.
And I’m smiling—smiling like a beautiful 5 year old girl when she puts on her pink spectacles.
Smiling like a sunflower on steroids.
Because when you are looking at the life YOU are meant to live without negative factors obstructing your view, you just can’t help but smile.
As you were reading this post, did any negative factors in your life come to mind?
While some of the negativity in our lives cannot be removed permanently or instantly, we CAN begin to take steps to distance or limit their influence in our lives. Start by identify one damaging factor and take a step toward reducing or eliminating it …
Stop looking at that which brings you down…
Distance yourself from those who bring you down…
Discard, destroy, burn items that bring you down…
You deserve a clear, unfiltered view of the beautiful life you are meant to live.
*This week on “The Hands Free Revolution” I will be sharing specific strategies and inspiration geared toward reducing or eliminating negative factors that hinder a positive view of your life. Simply go to this page and click “like” to receive updates in your news feed. Thank you for supporting this inspiring community!