My favorite beach activity when I was girl was to rescue live starfish that had washed up on shore. I couldn’t bear to see helpless five-pointed creatures withering in the sun. Regardless of how long it took or how many times I had to bend over, I’d put every washed up starfish back into the water.
Somewhere along the line, I stopped saving starfish.
Actually, I can pinpoint exactly when it happened: My highly distracted years—when to-do lists took over … when the pace of my life was a constant mad dash to a finish line that couldn’t be reached … … when I gripped my devices tighter than the hands of my loved ones … when I said yes to everything requested of me outside the home and said no to the most important tasks inside the home, like playing, laughing, and making memories.
Family beach vacations during those years were no different. If I’d go out for a walk or a run on the beach, I was solely focused on logging miles, a revolving to-do list in my head, or getting back to the hotel to corral the troops for the next thing on the agenda.
I’d become so driven in my daily life that even on vacation I ceased to savor the journey along the way. And this meant walking right by washed up starfish.
I remember the day I noticed a stranded starfish for the first time in many years. I was in the process of waking up from my distracted state and slowly taking steps to reduce the daily distractions consuming my life. This particular beach trip marked my first family vacation since my Hands Free breakdown-breakthrough. I guess you could say What Really Mattered was on my radar.
As I ran along the flat sand, something caught my eye in a tide pool. At first I ran past it, but I just couldn’t keep going; I had to go back. Peering into the stagnant water, I saw a small starfish that was missing a limb. It appeared to be dead, but I felt compelled to wade in and be certain.
Oddly, my inner perfectionist didn’t even balk at the fact I had to get my running shoes wet to reach the creature. With urgency, I reached into the water and pulled it out. I turned the starfish over expecting to see no movement, but amazingly its tiny tube feet waved at me.
I surmised that the poor starfish had been the partial snack of a small predator. Yet despite missing a ray, it was alive—and it was fighting to survive.
“Breathe,” I whispered to the broken starfish. “Breathe.”
It suddenly occurred to me that tears were dripping down my face. I was not really talking to the starfish—I was talking to myself.
Because living a chaotic, overscheduled existence means you become too busy to breath. And I was tired, oh so very tired, of holding my breath.
Rescuing a stranded starfish like I did in the “good old days” stirred a deep desire in me to continue taking more small steps toward the calm, present, and gratitude-filled Hands Free life I wanted to live.
Right then and there it became crystal clear what I didn’t want the rest of my life to feel like. Here are the thoughts that went through my head that day—words that have become my daily prayer, my Hands Free mantra, my vow to breathe:
Vow To Breathe
No longer do I want to feel like I’m always running late.
No longer do I want to feel like I‘ll never catch up.
No longer do I want to feel compelled to rush my children through life.
No longer do I want to feel the brush of a hurried kiss on my husband’s lips.
No longer do I want to feel guilty when I sit down to rest.
No longer do I want to feel depleted and empty.
No longer do I want to feel like each day is a blur.
No longer do I want to feel half alive.
Instead, I vow to breathe.
I vow to look my children in the eyes and step into their world.
I vow to remember what my heart loves to do and then stop making excuses.
I vow to close my eyes in gratitude and open my eyes wide in wonder.
I vow to have face-to-face, soul-to-soul connection with the ones who share my life.
I vow to
read a book.
Dance in the rain.
Say, “Take your time,” and mean it.
I vow to
Give a good kiss.
Leave a surprise note.
Do absolutely nothing every now and then.
I vow to
So I can truly live.
It’s been a little over three years since I made this vow. My journey has not been perfect. Sometimes I stumble, but I get back up by reminding myself that the to-do list doesn’t contain the most important tasks of the day. It is my heart that tells me what I need to flourish and thrive—as long as I stop long enough to listen.
I have the power to save a life and so do you.
So pick up starfish.
And vow to breath.
This year really can be different.
Friends, the day is here! My book, Hands Free Mama, goes on sale today! Two years ago, I took the picture below of my younger daughter at the airport bookstore. I taped that picture to my closet wall and wrote: “My dream for 2012 is for my children to be able to see ‘Hands Free Mama' on the bookstore shelf. I am dreaming big, but I might as well—I only live once.”
Today on this 7th day of January 2014, my daughters and I are going to the bookstore. I will probably cry when I see my book on the shelf, and they might too. They know this book was written for them and because of them. Thank you, my supportive Hands Free Revolution community, for believing in my message and spreading it far and wide! Please continue to spread word of the book and if you have a moment to post a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or GoodReads, I’d be grateful. Those reviews are pure gold to authors—especially first-time authors like me.
*If you live in or around Birmingham, Indianapolis, Atlanta, or Austin, I would love to see you at my book signings! If the turn out is good, my publisher will consider adding more. My Events page has all the dates and times.