Just living is not enough … one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
-Hans Christian Andersen
Last week I shared my hopes and intentions for our children to have an All-Senses Summer. Yet something quite unexpected happened when I described the smells, tastes, and feelings I associated with my childhood summers—it inspired you to share yours. Like me, you have your own summer memories that conjure up feelings of joy … freedom … creativity … relaxation … comfort … and contentment.
But things might be different now.
Adult Summer may not produce such positive feelings.
For many, Adult Summer has its own challenges, bringing forth feelings of worry … guilt … comparison … impatience … frustration … and stress.
I have to work. I wish I had more time to play with my family.
I desperately need a moment of peace. I cannot breathe.
I am embarrassed to wear my bathing suit. I wish my insecurities didn’t hold me back.
We can’t afford a vacation right now. How will this be a memorable summer?
Will my kids regress over the summer? We cannot afford to lose what we gained.
As adults, it’s not like our responsibilities disappear in the summer. It’s not like we are suddenly free to do whatever we please. It’s not like we are released from the stresses and burdens of our everyday lives. But Summer. We are talking about Summer. If we cannot find new freedoms, forgotten smiles, and more breathing room in summer, when can we find them?
As I read each of your beautiful summer memories and felt profound peace in your recollections, I was determined that we, as adults, should not to give up on having an All-Senses Summer. No matter our age, no matter our family situation, no matter our life circumstance, I believe it’s critical to our well being to keep making positive summer associations. And then I read this:
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald
Life is beginning over again in the summer.
Life is beginning over again in the summer.
We may have run ourselves ragged the past nine months.
We may have raised our voices more than we like.
We may have missed some opportunities.
We may have a deficit of memories in the memory bank.
We may have never experienced a fun summer during childhood.
We may have unresolved issues and low morale.
We may have forgotten how to have fun.
But what if that doesn’t matter today?
What if this summer is a new beginning for us?
If we cannot begin again in summer, when can we begin again?
Whether we work inside the home or outside the home … whether we have a gaggle of children or a quiet house … whether we manage stress very well or not-so-well, we all long to breathe. We all deserve to breathe. Shouldn’t summer be a time to breathe?
Last week you embraced the list for your children. You made your own lists. Many of you took the time to share them with me, and I was overjoyed by the things that I saw. So then I thought perhaps a list for adults would be beneficial too. Not a more to do list. No way. But a Permission to Live List … a Reminder to Grasp Joy List … a Small Daily Progress List … A Life Begins Again This Summer List.
Let’s not get caught up in the idea that the items on the list must be checked off each day. Just aim for one. If you do one, your day could be better. If you do one for a month, your summer could be better. If you do one consistently for the whole summer, it could change your perspective … and possibly your life.
I know because I’ve been living out this list. It’s quite different from the lists I used to live by. You see, I was once a to-do list maker of the most ferocious kind. But the most important tasks of life were never on it. Plus, I was so tied to my to-do list that I could not rest until everything was checked off. But everything was never checked off because I kept adding tasks. So there was little rest … little joy … and little connection in my days. My daily to-do list lacked what was most important in life. But things are different now.
It is no longer about how much I can accomplish in a lifetime, but rather how much living and loving I can do each day.
Here is what I try to accomplish each day. Some actions are easier than others. Some happen consistently; some do not. But I keep trying. I just keep trying. As long as I am still breathing, it’s not too late to keep trying.
10 Important Things To Do Today
- Learn one new thing I didn’t know about my loved one.
- Ask: “How are you feeling about things?” and listen—really listen.
- Take a 3-second pause whenever I feel stressed out or upset.
- Give one airport goodbye.
- Give one eyes-light-up hello.
- Swallow complaints and say a word of gratitude or encouragement instead.
- Have one do-nothing-moment. (And then really do nothing.)
- Write soul-building words on a sticky note for my loved one to find.
- Save up a little patience, energy, or love. At the end of the day, give it to the people who matter most.
- Remind myself that today matters more than yesterday.
Extra credit (harder actions with big impact):
- Spend less time trying to look “just right” and spend more time doing what makes my heart feel right.
- Respect my body: Rest when needed. Exercise when needed. Provide sustenance when needed. Offer grace when needed.
- Ask for help (even if that means the task is accomplished differently than I would have completed it).
- Be spontaneous—surrender my master plan and allow things to naturally unfold, even if it feels uncomfortable, scary, messy, or irresponsible.
The tasks on this list are life giving and life changing. Any one of these tasks repeated over and over can transform your relationships, heal your soul, and allow you to invest in what matters most. If you were to adopt one or two of the items on this daily list, it could mean significant changes over time …
It could mean making the people in your life feel seen, heard, and valued. It could mean being able to look past their flaws and imperfections to see that they are everyday miracles.
It could mean seeing yourself with kind eyes and speaking to yourself with gentle words. It would mean loving yourself “as is” for the first time in your life.
It could mean letting go of grudges and being first to say, “I’m sorry”. It could mean living in today and not in the past. It could mean a soft place to lay your head at night.
It could mean resisting the urge to numb your feelings and hide your pain. It could mean living authentically and courageously.
It could mean trusting—trusting that within the challenges you face, there are opportunities to learn, grow, and come out stronger on the other side. It could mean anticipating a moment of goodness is upon you if you just keep showing up.
It could mean learning to take pause. It could mean noticing the sun on your face, the softness of your pet’s fur, and the sound of your dear one’s laughter. It could mean having peaceful pockets of time within a frenzied day.
It could mean living life without reservations and restraint. It could mean answering the longings of your heart. It could mean experiencing the joy of living that has eluded you for far too long.
As you face a new summer season, will you join me in seeing it as a new beginning?
Just because we are adults doesn’t mean we don’t deserve the freedom and contentment that summer brings.
Let’s decide the summer days are too precious not to be lived.
Let’s decide there’s no better time than right now to begin again.
My friends, will Summer 2015 be the start of new habits, loving choices, and heart-pumping joy? If so, please seal your aspiration by typing #BeginAgainSummer in the comment section here or on the Hands Free Revolution FB page. Let’s inspire each other to breathe, play, laugh, & live this summer along with the kids! Check out the colorful wristbands in the Hands Free Shop for visual reminders to choose living & loving this summer. There are beautiful leather options and non-leather options that can weather the pool, beach, or sweaty adventures!
For more life-enhancing inspiration, check out my New York Times bestselling book, HANDS FREE MAMA or my soon-to-be released book, HANDS FREE LIFE: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, & Loving More.
Thank you for your faithful companionship on this journey! I am grateful for every comment, every personal message, every tear, & every nod of the head as you read my words.
#BeginAgainSummer! I love the extra credit section. I will be more spontaneous and I will spend less time trying to look just right. I will fight my inner critic and I will let go of the distraction and perfection. Because my kids deserve it. Because my husband deserves it. Because I deserve it:) Thank you for always reminding me that today is what matters…not yesterday.
Just wanted to let you know that your bracelets have been wonderful. My 2 year old runs around the house saying “only love today” and “I choose love” because of my bracelets. It’s a better reminder than I could have ever imagined.
Rachel Stafford says
Wow. This has given me such a smile, Amanda! I love envisioning your little 2-year-old saying these empowering phrases! Not just for you, but for her. I sure wish I had learned them when I was young! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment! It made my whole day.
thank u .. Please pray for me
Rachel Stafford says
You can count on it, Kari. With love and blessings, Rachel
#BeginAgainSummer I get hung up on being the perfect mom, with the perfect house and the perfect activities for my kids. Because I can never achieve this, I get hung up and never move forward. Starting today, I will let go of perfection, enjoy the summer with my precious babies and soak up the love. I will not feel guilty about balancing work and motherhood and will live every moment I have with the two that call me mommy.
I look up to you and enjoy all of your posts. I hope one day I can look back and see how far I’ve come! Thank you for being an inspiration!
Chris Carter says
I just love this message so much… what an inspiration! As I was reading about your intentions and your charge for us all, I was thinking about my own Master List I just wrote about, with the hopes of being more focused on nourishing myself. This resonates so deeply with me. It’s so easy to lose sight of those beautiful moments offered to us all- we just need shift our perspective in order to embrace them fully.
Rachel Stafford says
I love your Master List, Chris, as well as your blog. Such wonderful information you share in such an authentic way! Thank you!
#beginagainsummer, here we come! This post brought tears to my eyes. It’s often that I complain about the minimal time I get with my babies being a working mom. I feel discontent and as though I’m failing my children. This was a nice read to put my mind at ease! Thank you!
Diane J says
#BeginAgainSummer! I’m in also!
Jeffrey Willius says
Fabulous post, Rachel! My daughter shared it via Facebook. So glad she’s moved by it too. Especially meaningful to me (and I hope her): your suggestion that, simply by listing the things one must do to reclaim what’s important in life, one misses the point — and your clarification that instead of a “to-do” list, it should be a “permissions” list.
Rachel Stafford says
Thank you, Jeffrey (and thanks to your daughter for sharing!) I appreciate your comment and supportive words!
#beginagainsummer Instead of filling my days DOING for my small children with breaks in between for facebook etc., I have started this summer focused on BEING more with my children between the DOING and pretty much only using screen time to occasionally catch up on news stories and read fulfilling blogs like yours that inspire me. Cut myself off from social media and I must say its a refreshing way to spend the summer. I love my Facecation! It’s like how summers were when we were growing up – families were focused on their own fun. I like focusing more on my own family and not thinking about what to share with hundreds of others or caring what those hundreds of others are doing. Thank you for the inspiration! #summerfacecation
I love that, Amy! #summerfacecation
Oh, amen to this! My life with my littles had gravitated toward this as well. I am hoping that by stepping back from screens and websites I can find some contentment again. Its as if somehow I had become convinced that if a moment or activity wasn’t properly documented/updated, then it didn’t happen. Blessings for a fabulous summer!
This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you!
Good ideas to implement, but I disagree with the premise. Summer is when we have the most garden and farm work. I have also lived in other, poorer countries– no lazy summers there. Many places were very good at taking one day a week off, and winters were a little slower too.
Connection and patience with others is good. Laziness is not.
Sally, I think, quite simply and saying so without judgment, that the point has utterly and completely eluded you.
#Beginagainsummer – I’m in! It’s time!!
#beginagainsummer — I’m in. After a day at the office, I often feel like I have nothing left for the two people I love most. I’m going to work on filling my reserves this summer — which includes making time for exercise — so I can have fun with my family.
#Beginagainwinter down here in Australia! I’m in 🙂
Thank you, Rachel. The possibility of a new beginning gives me hope.
#beginagainsummer…I LOVE it!! Great post to remind us to kick back a little and enjoy the beautiful joys that only summer can offer!
For those of us who have children, summer is different even if we don’t have a break from work. Summer schedule is different. No school and no school work makes summers easier and calmer. I love the different flow.
#BeginAgain Summer…Rachel, my life truly shifted at the end of last summer when I read “Hands Free Mama”. My favorite summer memories were created with my boys from your inspiring words. I remember pinic breakfasts down by the river, teaching my boys to build elf houses like when I was a little girl, and waking them camping to show them star lit nights. I can’t wait to create more childhood memories this summer. Thank-you for teaching us to make “permission to live life” lists & reminding us to how to grasp joy in the little moments. You are such a blessing to me. Forever grateful…
Rachel Stafford says
This is so touching and beautiful, Shannon. Thank you for taking the time to tell me. I am grateful.
Rachel, this was very inspiring. Thank you for taking the time to share your heart with your readers!
On a side note, how do you get such awesome photos for your blog? It’s like you have a personal photographer following you around at all times, although I’m 99% certain that’s not reality. I am inspired to take pictures of the everyday moments, but they’re not nearly as pretty and I don’t know how the back of my head would make it into any as I’m enjoying a seemingly spontaneous moment with my littles ;o)
Blessings to you & yours!
Rachel Stafford says
Thanks, Becky! My 11 year old daughter takes most of the photos you see on my blog–and I take the rest. She absolutely loves this hobby. I think she has a knack for capturing some beautiful moments of connection. I will tell her you complimented her photos. Blessings to you too!
This. This is what my soul yearns for this summer. A summer of simplicity. I couldn’t have loved this more. I shared on my Love List this week: http://smallstepsofchange.com/2015/06/06/saturday-im-in-love-june-6th/
I’m all over #beginagainsummer. Let’s start a revolution!
I ‘ve been reading your blog for awhile and I feel like you are following me around and give me what I need when I need it! I sooooo needed this today, and your screen-managing post as well! I have been feeling stressed and overwhelmed about having “the perfect” summer despite not changing my responsibilities (still have to work, etc). Thank you so much for this. I will be implementing the adult list TODAY!! Blessings to you! Lori
Its easy to forget adults also need summer! This time of year always goes so fast. I want to hold it close, but it slips away. One of these summers (maybe this one?) I’m going to take that cross-country road trip I’ve always wanted. Thanks for reminding me that (unlike Trix cereal) summer’s not just for kids.
Para esto puede utilizar muchos tipos de armas, cada una ocasionando la masacre más sangrienta.
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