This week I’ve described how making small steps to let go of distraction is an effective way to begin living a Hands Free life.
In Monday's post, “The Steps of a Hero,” I described the progress that occurred in the life of one of my devoted readers from NYC. And maybe when he read the post, he viewed progress he had not yet realized.
I hope so.
Why? Because a critical part of the Hands Free transformation process is to acknowledge and appreciate your own personal progress. To look back and say, “Look how far I have come!” or “Look where I once was and where I am now.”
Doing this enables you to see the way in which small steps become lasting habits and life-changing routines, all of which allow a person to grasp what really matters.
I have discovered that I most often see evidence of my own Hands Free progress when I am not looking for it. Such an experience happened to me recently that I feel is worthy of sharing.
This is my story…
As you may recall, I recently took a week off from publishing my blog in honor of my children’s spring break vacation.
Because my Breakdown Breakthrough occurred in July 2010, this was my first ever Hands Free Vacation. I knew it was a good sign that I decided I would not try to publish posts during the week. A year ago, I would have pressured myself into figuring out a way to get those post published, regardless of the cost.
Another good sign was what occurred on the morning of departure. Or perhaps I should say, what did NOT occur on the morning of departure.
Normally, I am stressed out in a frantic rush to get everything packed…compulsively trying not to forget a single thing. And the simple fact of the matter is this: When you are stressed out while packing, you tend to pack stress. You tend to leave the driveway with stress written all over your face; it drips from your words, and churns in the pit of your stomach for hours.
But this time, things were different. Thank God, things were different.
On the morning of my first ever Hands Free vacation we leisurely ate breakfast. We slowly packed the car. I didn’t make constant calculations such as, “If we leave right now, we will get there at four o’clock.” Instead of playing games with time, I actually heard my Hands Free inner voice say, “And remember, if you forget something, you can just pick it up at the store when you get there.”
(Have I mentioned that sometimes I wonder who this rational, (semi) laid back person is living inside my body?)
I was actually smiling as we pulled out of the driveway. I felt lighter not wearing stress and having not packed stress.
Upon arriving at our vacation place, I was relaxed. I was grateful. I was happy. I had my family surrounding me, and there was nothing that I “had” to do.
Each day I took a long run or walk on the gorgeous beach that has been my home away from home since I was thirteen-years-old. But instead of feeling the need to cover a certain amount of miles in a certain amount of time, as I did in the vacations of the past five years, I savored the journey. I patiently looked for dolphins. I jotted notes in the little writing book I carried. I looked for unusual shell “treasures” to take my daughters.
And I reminisced about the hundreds of walks I had taken on this sand with my sister and my mom since I was a teenager.
My mom recently told me I did not develop my compulsive, type A personality until I went to college. So it makes sense that as a teenager my favorite pastime at the beach was saving live sand dollars that had washed up on shore. I couldn’t bear to see a helpless sand dollar withering in the sun. Regardless of how long it took or how many times I had to stop along my run, I put every washed up sand dollar that I passed back into the water.
But over the years, I had stopped saving the sand dollars. In fact, I had stopped noticing them at all. I had become so driven that I only focused on the path ahead and stopped savoring the journey along the way.
But on the last day of my first Hands Free vacation something happened. And it made me realize my days of delighting in the journey were not over. In one clarifying moment, I saw my progress; I saw just how far I had come.
As I ran along the vast flat sand, something caught my eye in a tide pool. At first, I ran past it, but found that I could not continue running until I turned around.
I realized it was a starfish, and it was missing a ray (limb). It looked like it was dead, but I felt compelled to be certain.
Despite having to get my running shoes wet, I waded in and reached for it.
The first thing I did was turn the little guy over. I was expecting to see no movement.
But amazingly enough, its tiny tube feet waved at me.
Although it looked like it had been violently churned in saltwater or perhaps was the partial snack of a small predator, it was alive. And it was fighting to survive.
As I held that resilient critter in my hand, I suddenly realized just how far I have come on my Hands Free journey.
Nine months ago this was me, struggling to breath in the chaos and upheaval that I had created for myself. I had gotten so far from home, so far from the joy in my soul that makes me feel alive and whole.
As I looked at this forlorn creature and whispered, “Don’t worry. I will save you,” tears rolled slowly down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the life-changing moment I had experienced last July. The One who cares for me had lifted me up from my displacement and placed me gently back home, just as I was about to do for this starfish.
And now, nine months later, here I stood in the tranquility of the sunlight, just having experienced my first ever Hands Free vacation.
My hands that were once holding tightly to distraction were now free to…
Built sandcastles with my children
Color pictures of princesses
Hold the hands of the people I love the most in this world
My mind that was once consumed with an excessive to-do list was now free to…
Memorize the beautiful expressions of my daughters’ joyful faces
Describe my most favorite memories of vacations on this very beach
Express gratitude for every God-given gift in my life
My eyes that were once transfixed solely on the task ahead were now free to…
Observe every vibrant hue in the flowers along the bike trail
Gaze patiently into the blue water until a majestic dolphin leapt with joy
Count every freckle on the precious noses of my children
Instead of feeling like I am always running late,
Instead of feeling like I can’t quite catch my breath,
Instead of feeling depleted and empty,
Instead of feeling lost with no direction,
Instead of feeling as if each day is a blur,
Instead of feeling half alive…
I am free to laugh,
Free to play,
Free to celebrate,
Free to let go,
Free to breath,
and free to exhale,
I am finally free to live.
And as I gently placed this beautiful creature back into the calm, sanctuary of his water home, I realized my progress. I realized that nine months of Hands Free “baby steps” had taken me somewhere.
Those small steps toward living a Hands Free life had taken me home.
Have you noticed any progress you’ve made on your own journey to live Hands Free? If so, I would love it if you leave a comment or send me an email. And if you are just arriving at this place, I just happen to have a list. See yesterday’s post, “Where To Begin,” and just pick a step. You may be surprised how far one small step can take you on your quest to be Hands Free. Join “The Hands Free Revolution.” We are just getting started and there’s so much life to grasp!
Being in the moment…I am working on it. It is nice to be here…
Indiana Lori says
I tried to describe your blog to Dad today over Chinese. He retired recently, and called very last minute and asked if he could come down for the day. I looked around, and I could only think…why the heck not? We took the girls for pottery painting and to their favorite Chinese restaurant and checked out a whole food market I’d been wanting to visit. Then we sat and ate a delicious whole foods meal together. When I tried to describe your blog…I could only cry. Through my tears, I said, “Could you imagine what it would mean if we could really live like this?” He told me my generation had reached a true crossroads in the Information Age. The pace of progress has dismembered us as humans. Our ability to connect with people is withering. We long for this calm presence of mind that we must willfully work to get. I am so grateful we are finding each other on this journey.
Long Live The Starfish,
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Lori, I just can’t come up with words to describe how your comment has touched me. The words your dad said about our generation and what has happened in the Information Age makes me incredibly sad. I knew this, but to hear his words makes it real. It makes me want to take action. I am so thankful that I was awakened before I had allowed Daily Distraction to rob me of my life…to deprive me of truly living. But what I am more thankful for is that I am not doing this alone. People like you fuel me, inspire me, and hold me accountable. Thank you for holding my hand through this journey to grasp what really matters before it is too late.
I just bookmarked this …. twice! In my folder for “cheering up” (when I’m looking for a way to break out of a rut) and in my “sites to explore” folder. I’m an overseas missionary and while we’re here for my husband’s position and I don’t technically work outside of the home, I find that I am feeling swamped, which makes me crazy, which makes me a lot less patient with those closest to me. Reading a psychology book recently it talked about finding somewhere on the continuum between chaos and rigidity – and a good image of that might be your Hands Free Mama mode. Thank you for these many posts. they will help me on my journey!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
This means so much to me, Wendolyn! What a gift to know that this message brought you some hope and inspiration! Grateful to share this journey with you!