Understandably, many people want to talk to me about distraction. More specifically, they want to tell me about the distraction incidents they witness in their neighborhoods, at restaurants, parks, and pools. They want to tell me about the texting drivers sitting next to them at stoplights. Many well-intentioned people want to tell me how sad it makes them feel to see distracted parents ignoring the pleas of their children.
I must admit, these comments make me uncomfortable.
My mission for sharing my “Hands Free” journey is not to bash the distracted people of the world. My mission for sharing this journey is to bring awareness … namely, self-awareness … the kind of self-awareness I was lacking a few years ago.
Because you see, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think about where I came from.
I was that distracted person ignoring her children.
I was that distracted person texting at stoplights.
I was that distracted person who made excuses as to why I was too busy to spend quality time with my family.
I was that distracted person who couldn’t see my beautiful life slipping right through my fingers.
But I can assure you the judgment was harsh. The judgment was cruel. It was downright unbearable at times. But this condemnation didn’t come from an outside observer, well-meaning friend, or loving companion. Oh no, this ridicule came directly from me.
If you have read my “About Hands Free” page then you know that taking an honest look at the way I was living (or more accurately, not living) was a necessary step in my “Hands Free” life transformation. In fact, meaningful efforts to let go of distraction would have never happened (or lasted) without honestly evaluating the cost of my distraction.
But despite the fact that assessing my behavior was a vital step in changing my distracted ways, living in regret was not. I’ve come to realize that continually berating myself over what I missed is a waste of time. Self-forgiveness and healing have been just as much a part of this journey as have my difficult truths.
But every now and then, I get waves of remembrance … a taste of “life overwhelmed” … just enough to sting me … just enough to bring tears to my eyes.
It happened the other day. I had stayed up too late writing the night before. I had several article submission deadlines to meet, and I was not as close as I hoped on any of them. I had committed to volunteering every day at Vacation Bible School. I needed to get the kids to a swim meet. We were late. My website was having issues. I was tired. The word “Mama” began every single sentence that came from my children’s lips whether I was actually needed or not.
And there I stood in front of the pantry, unable to remember what I came there to get. Part of me wanted to shut the door to that little space, huddle under the boxes of Fiber One cereal and cry.
That’s when I heard it.
It didn’t use the exact phrase that originated in the years of my highly distracted life, but it came painfully close.
“You are a bad mom” was the token phrase my cruel inner critic liked to whisper during my highly distracted, over stressed years—in those times when felt like I was falling short in the parenting department. I had almost forgotten I used to say such awful things to myself.
But then again, I don’t think I will ever completely forget.
I gave up on whatever it was that I intended to get from the pantry and told my children I needed a moment. I went to my bedroom and turned on my fan for soothing white noise and began reminding myself.
I reminded myself that The One who loves me, The One who took my hand and started me on this journey, still loves me even when I fail miserably.
I reminded myself that I am not perfect and that even the “best” parents have their moments of self-doubt and frustration.
And then I reminded myself of the lesson of the tornado. For that was as close as I have come to knowing the kind of parent I am. It was the day I knew that despite my shortcomings, failures, and imperfections, I would sacrifice my body to protect them.
I would run through fire to spare them.
I would beg kidnappers to take me in order to free them.
I would offer my plasma, my organs, and every single one of my limbs to save them.
I would sacrifice my life without hesitation, without question, if it meant allowing my children to live.
Even in my most distracted, overtired, stressed-out, neurotic state, I still love them more than my own life.
Once I was finished with the reminders, I turned off my fan and expelled a heavy sigh. I centered my disheveled, puffy-eyed self directly in front of the bathroom mirror and said one word.
As in: Give yourself some, Rachel.
A few minutes later, my children and I were on our way to the swim meet. I turned on one of our favorite songs, which happens to beautifully articulate the value of human scars and imperfections. I suddenly detected the slightest smile upon my lips as I listened to my daughters belt out the chorus from the backseat:
Makes for better conversation
Loses the vibe that separates
It’s good to let you in again
You’re not alone in how you’ve been
Everybody loses—we all got bruises.”
I felt better.
I just needed a moment.
Don’t we all?
I think we all do at some point in our day … our week … our life …
Need a moment.
And so when I hear someone describing the behavior of a distracted person, I can’t join in the condemnation. I once was that person and occasionally still am.
My intention for sharing my “Hands Free” journey is to spare someone from the same mistakes I made. You see, when I was living distracted, I missed a lot. Two years of precious “Sunset Moments,” in fact. And I began sharing my journey as a means of continually looking inward—and that by doing so, I might help another person to look inward, too.
I envision someone reading my blog and saying, “Oh wow. That’s me. I am missing something I can never get back.” And after the tears, I envision that person then saying, “But if there is hope for her, there is hope for me; I am starting my ‘Hands Free’ journey today.”
Someone who I love and respect as a parent and human being said something to me the other day, and I know this was also meant for you, my companions on this life-changing journey.
My mother said, “Rachel, even at your most distracted, you were always a good parent.”
With those words, my inner light of self-forgiveness shined like a beacon for my misdirected soul.
Even on days when I can’t tear myself away from my distractions …
Even on days when I raise my voice and lose control …
Even on days that I obsess over bulges and wrinkles and things that don’t matter one damn bit in the end …
Even on days when I want to lock myself in the pantry and weep …
Even on days when I am at my worst, I remain that parent who would sacrifice her life to spare her children from pain and tragedy.
Even at my most distracted, I would.
So when you see that less-than-perfect woman or man staring back at you in the mirror … or the one at the restaurant who can’t quite seem to put down the phone and see the gifts in front of him or her … I ask that you extend grace rather than judgment.
We are not the sum of our distractions.
Sometimes we just need a moment.
And every moment is a chance to start anew.
I would like to conclude this post with a word of gratitude:
I am grateful for every personal story of distraction struggle or triumph that has ever been shared with me. Thank you for taking an honest look inward and admitting your own difficult truths. With each personal testimony shared in the comment section, on “The Hands Free Revolution” page, or through personal email messages, I am fueled to continue sharing mine.
Thank you for extending grace to yourself and others.
And thank you for allowing me to keep things real.
The The Distracted Person I Was and Still Am by Hands Free Mama, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.