There are times when I become a moving target. This time of year is typically one of those times.
When there is always one more thing I could get done …
When the calendar severely lacks open white spaces …
When the hustle and bustle overtake the peaceful silences …
When decorating, wrapping, cleaning, and shopping take priority over smiling, laughing, breathing, and memory making …
When my goal becomes surviving each day rather than living each day …
When my line of vision looks past the people and only sees the duties …
When I don’t have time to point in wonder or pause in gratitude
When my day is so packed that my blessings get covered up …
The circumstances described above result in me becoming a moving target. And if you know anything about moving targets, they are difficult to reach—even by those with the best intentions. I know because this is how I used to live: Always busy doing … existing in perpetual planning mode … always looking ahead to what was next on the agenda.
The ones who loved me had a hard time reaching me.
So I missed out on the love. I missed out on the greatest part of living: To love and be loved.
Granted, I didn’t know what I was missing at the time, but I do now. And I use this priceless awareness whenever I feel myself slipping back into old ways, like in the month of December when there is more of everything—more stress, more pressure, more commitments, more expectations, more invitations, more temptations, and more distractions.
But this December, I don’t want to be a moving target. So today I’m reflecting back on an experience that happened on Day One of my Hands Free journey—an unforgettable moment that revealed the cost of being a moving target. It was the moment I realized I didn’t want to miss the love, not one more day.
I was in the middle of making school lunches and my younger daughter was watching the Lion King on the sofa. My laptop was open, the phone was buzzing, and I was thinking about all the things I needed to do that day. Unexpectedly, I looked up and noticed my child—I mean, really noticed her. A little voice inside me said, “There is nothing more important than being with her right now.”
Without closing the bag of bread, without thinking about my packed agenda, without even glancing at the clock, I left that half-made sandwich on the counter to go to my child.
As soon as my body hit the couch cushions, my child immediately drew to my side like a magnet. It was there, while secured tightly against me, that the most wondrous thing happened. My daughter brought my hand to her lips and gently kissed the inside of my palm.
I closed my eyes to rejoice in that moment realizing with clarity that this—this pausing while the rest of the world keeps going—is living.
But before I could do too much celebrating, I had to face reality. Yes, that was a wondrous moment that had just occurred, but such tender moments would not be so rare if I actually stopped and paused once in awhile.
And that’s when this little nugget of wisdom popped into my head and has stuck with me ever since:
No matter how much she wants to, needs to, or would love to, my child cannot kiss a moving target.
I’ve since learned that this truth applies to my other relationships, as well:
No matter how much he wants to, needs to, or would love to, my spouse cannot converse with the back of my head as I get “one more thing” accomplished.
No matter how much my sister wants to, needs to, or would love to, she cannot get the support she needs when I let her call go to voicemail.
No matter how much my parents want to, need to, or would love to, they cannot hear about what’s going on in my life without my concerted effort to be available.
No matter how much my friend wants to, needs to, or would love to, she cannot feel loved and appreciated when I have no time to stop and listen.
So here I am on this first day of December with the whole glorious month ahead of me. I feel quite certain about how I don’t want these thirty-one days to play out.
I don’t want to be a moving target this December. I don’t want to miss what really matters in the name of productivity, perfection, and busyness.
This December, I want to be present … available … and still so love can reach me. Here is my vow. Feel free to adopt it as your own:
No Moving Target December Vow
I vow to make time to sit on the sofa with my loves tucked under each arm … even if it’s to watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas for the 37th time.
I vow to designate time to be still with only the sound of my breath on my mind … even if I have to lock myself in the bathroom and turn on the fan.
I vow to spend less time trying to look “just right” and instead do something that makes my heart feel “just right” … even if this means banning the mirror or throwing on a hat each time I walk out the door.
I vow to listen to my aging parent’s childhood memories and my neighbor’s current woes … even if there is dinner to be made or the sidewalk is chilly.
I vow to feel the weight of my child’s body beneath my legs as she sits on my lap … even if there are a million reasons why I should get up and keep moving.
I vow to respect to my body. When it needs rest, I will rest. When it needs exercise, I will exercise … even if it means abandoning the “extras” people have come to expect of me.
I vow to be spontaneous, willing to surrender my master plan to allow things to naturally unfold … even if this feels uncomfortable, messy, and irresponsible.
I vow to ask for help rather than trying to do it all … even if that means the task is accomplished differently than I would have completed it.
I vow to invest my time and energy on the meaningful, memorable, and lasting rather than on superficial, temporary, and fleeting.
I vow to be a magnet – a magnet that attracts positivity, loving connection, and warm bodies resting against me.
This December I vow to be
It’s the gift they always wanted.
It’s the gift I always needed.
This December, I won’t be a moving target.
Because I don’t want to miss the love …
Not one more day.
My friends, undivided presence is a hot commodity these days. It’s in scarce supply. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you would like to solidify your own ‘No Moving Target December Vow' so you don’t miss the love, grab a small notebook to record what happens when you take time each day to be still and present. I invite you to plop down with nothing in hand and just be. Watch as loved ones draw to you like magnets. Whether you are available for ten minutes, twenty minutes, or two hours, I anticipate something wonderful happening in that time. Each night before bed, take a moment to jot down the experience in your notebook. This is exactly how my Moments that Matter Collection started. I wrote down the Kiss on the Hand experience on a used envelope in the kitchen. This piece of paper was the start of a binder full of connective Hands Free moments that would not have happened if I’d continued my moving target existence. It also became the start of a new habit that changed my life. Feel free to come back to this post or The Hands Free Revolution Facebook page anytime this month to share your experiences and inspire us all!
*You can read more about my Kiss on the Hand Moment in Chapter 1 of my book, Hands Free Mama, and learn how that connection started a journey that transformed my distracted life. I’d be honored if you would consider my book as a gift for someone you love this holiday season.
**Here are several more resources to help love reach you more easily this December written by wonderful colleagues of mine who continually write and share enlightening messages in a truly positive way:
7 Ways to Fill This Holiday Season with Less Stress & More Awesome & Parent Relaxation & Self-Renewal Series by Andy Smithson
Quiet Your Inner Mother Critic & 10 Habits of Highly Effective Mothers by Shawn Ledington Fink
3 Ways to Add Quiet to Your Day & When Your Plate Fills Up, It's Time to Simplify by Alysa Bajenaru
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
This post is a treasure. I am going to print it and read it every day. It comes at the most apropos time, a day when I found out a friend (a mom of four little girls) had passed away from Stage 4 breast cancer. Your message is how she lived her life. She got it. She always lived for the people around her. You and she would’ve been good friends, spreading the same message.
This weekend, we went to cut down a christmas tree, one of my favorite pastimes. My son didn’t want to look for a tree and sat in the snow. I’m not going to lie- I sulked. Instead of trying to make the most of the day, I focused on all the things I could’ve been doing instead. I’m glad I read your post at the beginning of the season, so I have time to turn my focus around to the people (not things) that matter. Thank you. xo
Rachel Stafford says
Amy, I am so sorry for your loss. Your friend sounded like a true inspiration and I am certain her legacy will live on in the hearts she touched. Have you read my poem “In Your Honor”? I think it might bring you peace today. http://www.handsfreemama.com/2012/09/11/remembering-sunscreen-and-butterflies/
I really appreciate you sharing your story about the Christmas tree so openly and honestly. I can relate to every word. It is so easy to focus on what is not going right instead of looking for the “glimmers of goodness” that keep us going through life. I think when we share our triumphs and failures it helps us solidify how we want to live and inspires someone else to do the same. Your story is a gift to us all today.
Thank you for this. It is so, so beautiful. <3
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you for being here, Hillary!
Jennie Schaeffer says
This hits home; we are a family that celebrates both Jewish / Christian holidays, several family birthdays and anniversaries from Thanksgiving through December. Plus, I’m a working artist and mother of two young children and this is a busy time of year to push my work. In years past, these months are riddled with anxiety. I’m trying to focus on what I can do today, living one day at a time, and enjoying the moments with my family. Focusing on gratitude for all of the love we celebrate rather than the drudgery I sometimes feel with all of this at one time. I’m setting up a notebook by my bedside table to follow your suggestion.
I’m also on a daily basis trying to remember to breath and realize that it won’t all get done, nor will it get done perfectly. Thank you for your words and message! Happy Holidays to you!
Me too Jennie! We must have very similar lives. 🙂 I feel you on the crazy overwhelming amount of celebrating and tasks that happen around this time of year. I’m on a mission to slow down this year too.
Jennie Schaeffer says
Jennifer, would love to learn about how you manage and celebrate the holidays. Feel free to pm me! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your posts! Helps to reinforce the meaningful and important, esp. when our culture seems to go the other way. I read a great short story this summer, and in it the character pretends in his mind to put that self-critical voice, imagined as another person, in a rocking chair by the window with a bowl of dessert to distract it. Keep thinking about that one, too! 🙂
Thanks for sharing. I absolutely Love That Image!
Indiana Lori says
We call it “accepting a bid”. How many times per day were we willing to switch our entire focus to someone who asked for our attention? We don’t keep track…we just simply say, “Please accept my bid.” Great post!
Rachel Stafford says
Oh I love this, Lori! I will be using this for sure!
Very well said. Thank you for sharing my links 🙂 Happy Holidays.
My 7 year old son has been saying to me a number of nights in a row, “Mom, I feel like something is missing”. This comment has disturbed me, as I wonder how early in life that thought begins! Tonight, I spent an extra moment longer hugging him, singing a lullaby I used to sing to him as a baby, and kissing him. As I got up from his bed, he said to me, “Mom, that was it. A little extra love and now nothing is missing any more.” How our eyes can be opened by a child…
Rachel Stafford says
Oh my goodness! This is truly remarkable … and inspiring! Thank you for taking the time to stop and love and then share the results with us so we can do the same!
This is wonderful. Amazing when children know what they need.
Sally Atwater says
There is always something so familar about these posts. We are doing it all wrong. Blah Blah. Just because it’s Christmas and you have more things to do – doesn’t always mean that you totally miss out on everything. We do have a responsibility and a DESIRE to make magic for our kids and sorry but that does require a little more than sitting around on the couch and waiting for the smiles to just come to you. I get it. Don’t get overwhelmed and stressed out about buying. But in practice you do need to get off your ass…get to the mall and buy that electric car for little Billy. Because that my friend. That smile that you see on the morning of Dec 25th is worth it all. Stop taking yourselves so seriously for god sakes. Shop til you drop. Enjoy the madness and the mania. The energy of late night shopping can be just as fun. You are not doing anything wrong. You are in the Christmas moment. It can be wonderful.
GOD BLESS YOU!! I have read your stuff even bought your book that lays dusty on the shelf and everyday since I first read ur post I hear a voice when I am distracted by my phone. Thanks for the reminder!!! I am a single mother with no support in Nursing School and I need to have those moments because she doesnt get enough of me anyways. My phone is such an idol and it needs to be squashed. Thanks so much!!! Even though i didnt start today I want to for the rest of December!!!
Thank you, I really needed to read this today, truly wonderful post that really resonates with me and I am going to start right now by putting down my phone! x
Barbara Lane says
What a great post! I will be sharing this on my FB page. We need to be reminded of this all year long – but especially at Christmas. My children are all grown – my oldest daughter turned 44 today. I’m thankful for all those memories I have – for all those times I took time to stop and notice my children. I regret those days I was too busy!
I loved this, as I do all your posts! This part especially resonated with me “this pausing while the rest of the world keeps going—is living.” It is oh so true . I have a so sweet takes-her-time girl. She waits and watches the world and thankfully is always ready to take my hand and look up at me with her whole face smile to help me remember to wait and slow down too. Thank you so much for sharing – your words touch my heart and soul 🙂
Rachel, thank you for this. As our family is settling into our new home/community after a move this summer, it’s a teeny bit un-nerving to “not” try to get involved (since we want to make meaningful friendships, etc.)… but for the sake of our sanity, we really need to just “be” for now. Thank you so much for saying this so beautifully… I appreciate it more than you know. Wishing you a fabulous December!! XO!
Thank you. As I sit here in bed fighting a cold, I keep thinking about all of the things I need to do- work, laundry, cleaning, decorating, completing the gifts I’m making for Christmas, etc. What I really need to do is take the entire day for myself & not feel guilty or I won’t be any good for anyone, including myself.
I still lay down each night with my 5 year old daughter. She needs me to and I need that special time with her. We rub noses, give butterfly kisses and fall asleep holding hands. She says with complete sincerity before falling asleep, “I love you so much!” It just makes my heart melt. I wish I could go back and lay down just one more time with my teenage sons, because time flies too fast!
Best PSA I’ve read in a long time. Present – Still – Available 🙂
Your posts are ALWAYS on target. Thank you.
Thank you so much Rachel! So glad to hear that I am not the only one who feel that way in this month. I don’t feel like I am missing something, I feel like I am missin the whole thing.
I will print this post and read it again and again!
Michelle Reeves (bodfortea) says
THIS today – just this. Your posts always seem to arrive in my inbox at just the right time, when I’m doing too much, being too much, not listening to my inner voice. Thank you for being my touchstone for presence x
Carri Ann Pollard says
Nailed it. Thank you for putting words to how my heart feels.
Hi Rachel! I enjoy your blog very much and always read it right before my 2 boys come home from school. I love how it always reminds me to slow down and enjoy each moment. I wanted to share this small story with you. Last week after I read your post about not being a moving target, I made a promise to myself that I would really try to be more present with my boys and jot down what happens. We came home from an activity and it was dinner time. Normally I would have put my 5 yr old in front of the tv so that I can start dinner. Instead, I said let’s have a snack and chat. He ran over and gave me a hug our of nowhere!! Tears of joy. Then as we were sharing our sliced apple, we had the sweetest conversation about what color apples are his favorite. Priceless!! Thank you so much!
Rachel Stafford says
Oh this makes me cry happy tears!!! THank you for sharing this priceless moment. It inspires me to go grab my own priceless moment in a bit when my little apple lover gets home from school.
Thank you so much for this post. This message has been on my heart a lot lately and I appreciate the vow that you made at the end. Thank you!
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