A Live More/Love More Summer: Getting Back to What Matters Most

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Just because summer is here doesn’t mean life’s demands and daily stressors magically disappear. Digital distraction is more than willing to ruin your family picnic. Perfection is ready to sabotage your refreshing dip in the pool. Pressure is ready to pounce from the bleachers of the ball field, and criticism is prepared to blast lane four at the swim meet. Hurry and impatience are fiercely determined to spoil a day at the beach or amusement park. As you know, distraction, perfection, and social pressures don’t take a summer vacation. They manage to weasel their way into our daily lives no matter what season it is. But it doesn’t have to be this way. How does a Live More/Love More Summer sound to you? Let’s use these precious summer months to get back to what matters most. Here’s how I do it (and by the way, this approach works year-round) … 

As my family makes our final preparations for an upcoming move out-of-state, I’ve been forced to think about what home means to me. I’ve always believed home is a feeling, not a place. But more specifically, home is the feeling of peace and completeness I feel when I am surrounded by the people I love. But recently, my definition of home has expanded.

Home is also living Hands Free.

What began as small, daily intentions to let go of distraction, societal pressure, and perfection has become a necessary way of life. Like water, air, and food, I need time to connect to what matters in some form or fashion each day—time to laugh, listen, and love are daily requirements for me.

Smelling my daughter’s freshly washed hair … feeling sunshine on my face as I wait for swim practice to conclude … jotting writing ideas in a notebook … talking to my husband when the house is quiet at night … fierce hugs before we go our separate ways … my Hands Free moments are home to me now.

But I must be realistic. As much as I would love all moments in life to be calm, present, safe, and undistracted, it is simply not possible. We live in a fast-paced world saturated with duties, deadlines, and devices. In a world inundated with distractions, it is easy to get far from home. Summertime is no exception.

Yet with almost four years experience living Hands Free, I am able to detect when I am getting too far from home. No longer am I willing to push and pressure and yes my way through life to the point I lose sight of everything that matters most.

Here are some of the difficult truths I say to myself when I am getting too far from home. These “red flags” help me realize when I need to say no, re-establish my boundaries, or reassess what matters and what doesn’t.

My distraction radar says:

“You are trying to do too much at once.”
“You are staying up too late.”
“You haven’t sat down all day.”
“You are eating at the kitchen counter.”
“Your heart is racing.”
“You are complaining more than you are being positive.”
“You are easily frustrated.”
“You are bullying yourself.”
“You are overreacting to something that has little significance in the grand scheme of things.”
“You are wearing a scowl.”

When I hear these honest admissions in my head, I don’t ignore them like I used to. Nor do I make excuses or get defensive. Instead, I do one of the following actions to bring myself back home:

  • I lower the bar. I remind myself nothing has to be perfect, just “good enough for today.”
  • I turn away from the outside/online world and turn toward my inner circle of friends and family.
  • I take a short walk. Even ten minutes of fresh air and time for reflection helps me feel rejuvenated and less overwhelmed.
  • I silence my inner critic with three powerful words: “Only Love Today.”
  • I resist the urge to push myself beyond my limits and make a reasonable plan for getting one item accomplished at a time.
  • I throw on a hat and stop fussing over my appearance.
  • I treat myself with kindness and compassion like I would a friend who is going through a hard time and doing her best.
  • I say, “I cannot worry about that right now,” and stop obsessing over things I cannot control.
  • I remind myself that although things might not be going according to “my plan,” something better might evolve if I just let go.
  • I add a ten-minute cushion to avoid being rushed and agitated if I need to be somewhere at a certain time.
  • I close my eyes and recite a prayer asking to be awake to the glimmers of goodness within my day.

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Whenever my distraction radar goes off, I try to do one of those strategies to bring myself back home. These actions help me protect what is most important in my life. They help me be the human being and parent I want to be. They remind me that each moment holds a chance to start over even when I fail miserably. They keep me moving forward on my journey to live Hands Free.

My friends, we cannot control all the circumstances of our life, but we can control some. When faced with feelings of overwhelm, take a moment to evaluate: Is everything I’m trying to do today necessary? Is there somewhere I can lower the bar? Is the feeling of home in here somewhere? And finally, ask yourself: when I look back in September is this how I want to remember spending my summertime?

Each day make it a priority to do something that brings you peace, fulfillment, and meaningful connection—even if it is only for a few minutes. This way, you’ll never get so far from home that you can’t get back to what matters most.

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I conclude today’s post with a printable list you can hang up on your bathroom mirror, fridge, rearview mirror, or anywhere you like. Thanks to all who have requested printable lists of my writings and my friend Kristin of Two Cannoli for making this visual reminder possible because I am not techy. (Just click on the image below entitled “8 Suggestions for a Live More/Love More Summer” and print.)

Live More/Love More Summer #handsfreemama

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Thank you for being part of The Hands Free Revolution—letting go to live more & love more in the time we are given. Feel free to share how you will LIVE MORE/LOVE MORE during this summer season of your precious life in the comment section below. You never cease to amaze me with your insights, honesty, compassion, and encouragement. 

*For more inspiration & simple strategies to let go of daily distraction, perfection, & social pressure, check out HANDS FREE MAMA, a New York Times Bestseller.

*For tangible reminders to let go to LIVE MORE & LOVE MORE, check out the hand-lettered bracelets, letterpress prints, vintage t-shirts, and non-leather reminder bands in the Hands Free Shop.

 

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Comments

  1. 1

    says

    It’s sort of serendipitous…my “literary fortune” for today was the poem “Moving Day” by Richard Jones. It made me think of you and your new journey…

    “Tomorrow our future begins, our lives
    already defined by simple things
    scattered on the lawn in sunlight.
    Carrying small and useless
    objects to the car,
    we dismantle our house
    piece by piece,
    brushing the dust of the past,
    lifting each moment into the light.
    You with the broken teapot,
    I with the broken chair,
    we bring all the old things with us
    to begin our new life.
    Back in the rooms we loved,
    there’s less and less of us to find.
    We see only the space we wasted.
    I look out the window and count
    boxes waiting for the truck.
    You see the room now
    as it always could have been,
    a vase of cornflowers and us.

    It might seem sort of sad, but I see it as an opportunity – to make all the rooms of our lives fully inhabited spaces made beautiful by the things that truly matter…the people who breathe life into them.

    Good luck on your move!

    • 2

      says

      Melissa, I am so moved by this beautiful poem. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. My eyes teared up at this line:
      “… we dismantle our house
      piece by piece,
      brushing the dust of the past,
      lifting each moment into the light.”

      That is exactly what I have been doing as I purge our home of things we no longer need. Six years ago when we moved here, my children were so little. We have all done so much growing here. Everything I hold up to discard, pass on, or keep holds a memory. I have tried to savor this process and take time to share these memories with my daughters.

      I do love how you brought out the hope in your own beautiful words at the end. I am blessed to share this journey with you and so many loving people who share their hearts with me each week. Thank you, friend, for lifting me up during this emotional time.

  2. 3

    Nidhi says

    This is a lovely post, Rachel. This is just I wanted to hear at this moment. Many a times I tend to overburden myself by tryin gto do some extra work at office, or by doing too many house hold chores over the weekends. But I have been thinking just the same- to do as much which is just good enough, and not to keep running for perfection. Thanks for this lovely post. I love reading each and every post of yours.
    Warm regards from India,
    Nidhi.

    • 4

      says

      Thank you, Nidhi. I truly appreciate knowing how my messages are received. Sometimes I publish something and I have doubts about whether anyone will find this helpful or not. My hope is to always touch “just one.” Thank you for letting me know this message touched your heart.

  3. 5

    Leah says

    this is exactly what i needed to read this morning…i struggle with living in the moment and enjoying the time and let the days fly by too easily…everything i’ve ever read of yours i have always loved and been inspired…thank you…i will be coming back here more often…although, i should be unplugging more…balance :)

  4. 7

    Sarah Grace says

    Our family is also getting ready to move out of state this summer. We’ve been living in our home for 4 years — the longest we’ve lived anywhere since we adopted our kids. Your post is a helpful and important reminder to stay present in this sometimes painful process of packing up our lives and moving forward into unknown experiences. You have also reminded me that when I start to feel overwhelmed, I don’t have to run to the internet to zone out and disconnect, I can (and should) do something that feeds my soul instead.
    Thank you!

  5. 8

    theresa walters says

    Great message today. What I really wanted to comment on are your photographs. They are so touching with out your stories/messages but even more so with the stories/messages! So beautiful, simple, sweet and loving! Just wanted to say nice job to the photographer! Hugs to you for sharing you life with us! Thank you does not begin to tell you the POSITIVE effect you have had on my little family!

    • 9

      says

      Thank you, Theresa, my 10-year-old has been taking the photos you see on my blog for the past year. I tell her all the time she has a unique view of the world/life that she captures in her photos. I am touched that you noticed it too. I will tell Natalie today! She will be encouraged by your kind words. Thank you for taking the time to tell us.

  6. 10

    rouba says

    I really enjoy your posts…I have a 2 year old daughter who is very strong willed. It can be quite a challenge sometimes to go through the day but I keep reminding myself that our little ones are only little for a short period of time and not to be consumed by our fast lives…your posts really help me focus on what matters ..thank you…I was also wondering whether you remember the days when you just had your second daughter..what was it like ? The reason I am asking is that life was probably a bit more demanding at the time…how did you manage to focus on what’s important juggling a toddler and a little one?

  7. 11

    Heather S. says

    Rachel –
    I so needed to read your post today as I was sitting at home beating myself up for an unkind comment I said to my beautiful 7-year-old daughter this morning. I said it because I am too tired, too stressed, too busy – basically, the opposite of a peaceful, present parent. Sometimes I forget that it is not how perfect I organized her 1st grade picnic at school or how the house looks that she remembers, but rather it will be the type of interactions we have and how she feels about them. That is what made me so profoundly sad. But, I then read your email and I realized that children are forgiving and resilient and that I have a chance to do things better starting right now for the benefit of my kids but also for myself. Thank you for the continual inspiration you provide!

  8. 12

    Janice says

    Thanks for the printable. My twins will be five this summer and starting kindergarten in the fall. Even though I still work full time, I decided to give them a summer of fun and no commitments. I haven’t signed them (or myself) up for a single thing. Once I pick them up from their preschool, I want to just enjoy them and not have to rush anywhere. This printable will help me remember what is important and that good is good enough.

  9. 13

    Valerie says

    Thank you for this reminder! I’ve found myself slowly slipping back down the slope of always busy, checking phone/email/fb, and feeling overwhelmed with needing to have a perfect house. I was doing so well…don’t know where it went wrong. Yesterday I was changing my daughter’s diaper using silly voices wearing a ridiculous pair of glasses and she was giggling the most beautiful belly laugh. One of those moments that I stopped in time and realized I need more of that again, and less of the chaos. Thank you for your continuous inspiration to stay present and only love today.

  10. 14

    Christine says

    Just wanted to express appreciation for your consistent message of love, grace and living real life. It is SO wonderful knowing that there are other people pursuing these things as I am. I especially love your message of not being hard on ourselves. There are already plenty of people being hard on us. We don’t need to give life to that!

  11. 15

    Maria says

    Thank you for sharing this and for the printable list! After having my 6th baby 6 months ago I finally feel like I’m living/loving more than I used to. Time passes too quickly to not enjoy as much as I can with my kids and husband. I’m letting go of expectations and feeling more peace and happiness. Your words explain so well my thoughts. Thank you! This summer I’m going to kiss my babies more, smile when sand crunches under my feet as I walk through the house, and laugh as my daughter squeals as she gets soaked with the hose.

  12. 16

    Andrea says

    Any suggestion on when boys rebel to give hugs and open up to chat? I know you have girls and both boys and girls are different. So just seeing if you have any insight on how to react when boys do t even want a hug or kiss from their mom…. It breaks my heart!
    I can’t stop sharing your book and seriously love love love your posts! Thank you for changing my life!
    Andrea Richardson

    • 17

      says

      Dear Andrea,

      Rachel has invited me to respond to some of her readers who request parent coaching. You said you are heartbroken about your son’s rebellion against your hugs and efforts to chat, and wonder how to react in those moments. It sounds like you know force or guilt would be counterproductive, and would like to know how to encourage him to show more affection and share his thoughts and feelings with you more freely.

      What you describe is very common for boys from preschool age on, and also for girls, if they decide that hugs are just not cool (in which case they may stop hugging anybody even their peers) or that a mom’s hugs and kisses are just for babies. If that’s so, the refusal to hug or be hugged by you can be a demonstration of increased independence, which is something you will want to acknowledge with a simple statement like this if he is a preschooler, “You didn’t like that. You think hugs are just for babies, and you’re a big boy now,” or for an older child, “You’d rather I didn’t do that. It feels like I’m babying you,” then problem-solve as described below when you have time alone together later.

      There could be lots of reasons why your son may appear to be pulling away. One more worth mentioning is that he could have become uncomfortable with his own feelings and is trying to avoid situations like hugs, kisses and chats that bring them up.

      In any case, the most important thing is to realize is that none of these reasons is about you. If you are afraid that your son’s refusal of your hugs, kisses and chats is about you or that it means he doesn’t love you, you will need to look for other proof that he does. Does he like to share his successes with you? Does he come to you for comfort when he is distressed? Does he like to know where you are? Does he like to give you things?

      Different people show love in different ways (as described in the book by Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages), and that can start in childhood. To see expressions of love that are different from your own, you have to deliberately look for them and understand that is just the other person’s way. This is particularly true if his reason for pulling away is the last one I mentioned, that he has become uncomfortable with his own feelings and hugging, kissing or having meaningful chats with you brings them up. The very act of pushing you away would then be proof of his deep love for you. The thing to remind yourself of there would be that he is trying to push away the feelings, not you, but to him they are bound together.

      So how can you react in a way that allows him show love his own way and get the hugs and kisses you want, too? (I’ll address the chats below.) Trying to change what your son wants would be as difficult as trying to change what you want because those are personal preferences. That would feel disrespectful to either of you, so instead, you can describe the situation as two conflicting personal boundaries where both of your wants need to be respected, then solve the problem together.

      Using the Language of Listening CAN DO approach, it could sound like this:

      You: “You don’t want any hugs or kisses, and I do. Hmmm. Must be something we can do.”
      You: “Well, you know what I’d like. I’d like you to run up to me each time you see me and give me a hug.”
      Child: “No way! I’d like you to never hug me, especially when I’m with my friends.”
      You: “Hmm. That won’t work for me. How about I hug you at home in the morning and at night, or when I’m about to leave, and let you come to me for a hug other times when you feel like it. When you’re with your friends, I think I could be satisfied with a smile and a nod.”

      Go back and forth until you come up with something that works for both of you. Starting the brainstorming with extremes gets your wishes out in the open, and makes it safe for your child to do the same, as long as you don’t take his wishes about not wanting hugs personally.

      This takes us to the question of how to encourage your child to share his thoughts and feelings with you or even just chat. Children need to feel safe in their conversations with us to open up. Some of the things that get in the way are their fear of hurting our feelings, the feeling that we are controlling the conversation, or the sense that we have some kind of unspoken expectation.

      The best way to help kids feel safe in a conversation is to “follow their lead.” I explain exactly how to do that and why in my little book, “SAY WHAT YOU SEE for Parents and Teachers.” If you are interested, you can read the online version free from a PC or MAC (not mobile) on my website: http://www.languageoflistening.com

      SAYing WHAT YOU SEE is the way to establish yourself as a safe listener (no teaching, judging, fixing, or questioning). You simply comment on what you see your son doing, saying, feeling or thinking with the intention of understanding (no agenda), then follow his lead and allow him to respond or not.

      For example, after school instead of asking, “What did you do today?” you look at his face when he gets in the car and SAY WHAT YOU SEE (SWYS):

      SWYS: “Looks like you are really tired. Must’ve been a tough day.”
      Child: “Yea. I’m too tired to talk.”
      SWYS: “You’d rather sit quietly and rest. Maybe by dinner time you’ll feel like telling me the worst thing that happened today.”

      Sometimes simply allowing children to decide if or when to talk is enough to help them open up. Plus, your invitation to share the worst thing, especially if your son thinks you only want to hear positive things, makes you a safe listener, as long as you repeatedly demonstrate that you will listen and won’t use those moments to judge, teach or try to fix the situation or his feelings. It will help to remember that kids (and all people) often need to share the bad things first to clear the way for the good. It’s basically venting.

      When listening to your son, if you hear something you think needs to be addressed, save the teaching for later. Teaching actually works best when you can point out his successes instead of a failures. Teaching by pointing out STRENGTHs is the best way to help children change their own behavior and is also included in my book.

      I hope this helps you strengthen your relationship with your son. That sounds like your fondest wish.

      • 18

        says

        Thank you so much, Sandra. This is a beautiful, enlightening response that we can all take something from–whether we are talking about our children, spouse, parent, friend, etc. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. It is a blessing.

  13. 19

    Melissa says

    I put into practice, good enough…..so proud of myself and grateful for finding your blog! I am planning our neighborhood garage sale and have received a few negative emails that I am not doing it good enough. After reading the second one, I shrugged it off, grabbed Popsicles, sat in the shade of my backyard with my two sons and just enjoyed the moment! We watched the shadows of the leaves dance in the grass and had some quiet time. It lasted only a few moments but it filled my heart and soul! A year ago I would have fretted and worried about the emails, today, not at all! Thank you for your encouragement, honesty, and support! Sending you much love and appreciation!

  14. 22

    says

    Rachel,
    I want to thank you for your inspiration. I am in the middle of your book. I am loving the suggestions you have given and the reminders of how important it is to live in the present and grasp what is really important. I have recently quit my 100-mile-a-minute job in order to focus on family, inner peace, and finding true joy and fulfillment. I came across your book on Amazon and it has been a blessing in my live as well as my family. You have helped to show me how to slow down, how to be more present, and how to live a happier and more joyful life. I knew that I wanted to slow down, but your book has really helped to give me the steps to do that and I am so thankful to you for that!
    I am not even all the way through your book, but I look forward to the inspirational stories and ideas that you offer every time I read.
    Thank you for helping me to find more peace and live a happy and more present life.
    Ashlee

  15. 23

    Kari Voorhees says

    I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and love it. I was pleasantly surprised to see your smiling face in the Ball State Alumni magazine!! I too am a Cardinal:) I knew I like you!

  16. 24

    christina says

    I love your writing. You have probably heard it a million times but I have to tell you you are brave and strong. You have provided peace and comfort for me today. Thank you.

  17. 25

    says

    This is a good read. I love these tips. I regularly have to take a deep breath and just live in the present moment. If I get too overwhelmed or distracted I’ll pause everything and just sit on the playmat with my baby and really interact with her. It makes both of us so happy! A worthwhile exercise. :)

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