* On September 22, I posted a passage on The Hands Free Revolution page illustrating how ‘Choosing Love' as a first response might play out in a typical day. The concept deeply resonated with many people. I've added it to this post and decided now was the perfect time to bring back this transformative 21-day challenge. Let love start this day. Let love end this day. Let love transform the minutes in between …
I never know where interviews are going to take me – but I can almost always be sure they will take me back—back in time. And although most days I try my best to look forward, sometimes it’s enlightening to reflect back and see something I can only see with time. This is my story, as well as a challenge, should you choose to accept.
It was this, the second to last question during my interview on Better Worldians Radio that stirred something inside me: “With the success of your book and popularity of your website I imagine you could be busier than ever. How do you keep the balance and keep living Hands Free?” asked Gregory, one of the show’s hosts.
I briefly described several strategies I used when I began my journey that are still in practice today. Wanting to place emphasis on what I feel is the most important one, practicing daily distraction-free rituals, I shared this story …
The night before the Hands Free Mama manuscript was due to my publisher I was working furiously to meet my deadline. My parents had come from Florida to help me any way they could.
It was around 8:30 p.m. and I was bent over the keyboard surrounded by empty soda cans, crumpled papers, and used sticky notes.
I felt my mom gently touch my arm. She’d just come from my older daughter’s bedroom. “Natalie requested her nightly Talk Time, Rachel,” she whispered softly.
Without hesitation, I got up from my work and headed straight toward Natalie’s room.
Suddenly my mom called out after me, neither of us knowing that what she was about to say would become one of my greatest Hands Free motivators. “I tried to tell Natalie that you had a lot of work to do tonight but she adamantly said, ‘Grandma, Mama always comes.”
Mama always comes.
I stopped midway up the stairs in an effort to wrap both my brain and hands around those sacred words and accept them as mine.
It hadn’t always been that way, you see. But somewhere along my Hands Free journey, I'd become someone my child could count on to come to her bedside each night to talk—no matter what.
As my radio interview began to wrap up, I was amazed that out of all the things the host could reiterate from our hour-long discussion, he chose this:
“I think these three words are words we all want to hear sometime in our life, even just once: ‘Mama always comes.’”
Hearing the interviewer say those words made me feel just like I did when my mom spoke them that very first time. I was crying now. I desperately hoped the show’s listeners could not sense that I’d become a blubbering mess. With tears dripping down my face, I realized something I could only know now looking back in retrospect:
I could have easily kept working the night my daughter asked for Talk Time, but I didn’t.
Why? Why did I not explain that I was under a tight deadline and it would all be over the next day? Why did I not mention that my author advance and reputation were riding on a punctual submission? Why did I not quickly run upstairs and give Natalie a kiss and promise we’d have Talk Time in the morning?
Of all the times I could have said, “Not tonight,” I didn’t. Why?
Because I chose love.
Just like I did the night before … and the night before that … and the night before that … and the many nights before that.
I chose love that night just like I did on the very first day of my journey when I had no idea how to transform my distracted, joyless, maxed-out life into one of meaningful connection and peace. I wasn’t sure of anything that initial day of my journey except that love was the right choice. Love could never be the wrong choice.
But here’s the most critical element, the piece that made this choice a doable, repeatable action that stuck:
Sometimes I showed up to love without a smile.
Sometimes I showed up to love feeling ugly, worthless, and inadequate.
Sometimes I showed up to love alone and scared.
Sometimes I showed up to love when I didn’t know what I was doing.
Sometimes I showed up to love when it was the last thing I wanted to do.
Sometimes I showed up to love even though I had so much to do before the day’s end.
Sometimes I showed up to love when my patience was gone.
Sometimes I showed up to love when I had no love to give.
Despite the obstacles … despite the excuses I could’ve made … despite the pressures and distractions of the outside world … despite the mean voice of my inner critic, I continually showed up to love.
Because I never left the same way I arrived.
I always walked away a little lighter … a little more at peace … a little more hopeful … a little more grateful … a little more joyful. Love was always the right choice. I never once regretted choosing love over all else.
So I showed up to love again
Until one day I was known as ‘The One Who Always Comes’ to a little girl whose opinion mattered more than the world.
Making it a habitual practice to choose love changed my inner fiber, the wiring of my brain, and my entire life perspective regarding what was important. Thus, I’ve come to believe there is one single action that has the power to transform negativity to positivity … distraction to presence … disconnection to connection: Choosing love—choosing love as much as you humanly can.
On any given day, there’s probably 101 things running through your mind—from what you need to do … to what you should do … to what you didn’t do … to what you wish you would’ve done. I know because this was me. It was exhausting. I felt like I was failing a lot. Now I try to go with one action over and over and over. This singular action helps me focus on what matters and let go of what doesn’t. It helps me make better choices and move on when I don’t.
Every minute of every day, I try to CHOOSE LOVE—two transformative words that become ingrained with repetition. Let me show you how CHOOSING LOVE could play out in a typical day:
1. Wake up. Mind starts racing. So much to do. So tired. Instead of reaching for the phone or grumbling about all there is to do, think: CHOOSE LOVE.
It might sound like this: Today is a new day. I am thankful I have been given this gift. My goal is to get out of bed and greet myself and my family with love. Love is how I will start this day.
2. Child not getting ready. Frustration rises. Instead of threatening or yelling, think: CHOOSE LOVE.
It might sound like this: How can I help? Let’s set a timer. How quickly do you think you can do clothes, shoes, backpack? Okay, let’s do it. On your mark, get set, GO!
3. Traffic is horrendous. You are going to be late. The whole day is going to be off. Instead of cursing, reaching for the phone, or making a dangerous U-turn, think: CHOOSE LOVE.
It might sound like this: I have just been given uninterrupted time. I will take this time to breathe. I will ask my child to sing me a song. I will listen to that voice and know it won’t always sound like this. I will take this moment of frustration and turn it into gratitude.
4. Arrive at destination only to be met with criticism, judgment, or rudeness. Instead of taking it personally, wasting your precious energy, or saying something you’ll later regret, think: CHOOSE LOVE.
It might sound like this: Their negative response is not about me. It is about them. I refuse to let their toxicity contaminate my day, my job, or my life. I will smile and let it go.
5. Perform your duty/assignment, and it is not as good as you’d like. Instead of berating yourself or trying to make it perfect, think: CHOOSE LOVE.
It might look like this: I have spent ample time and energy on this project. It is good enough for today. My effort is enough to make a positive contribution and that is what matters.
6. Evening packed with sports, meetings, dinner, and homework. Instead of bemoaning your chaotic, crazy life, think: CHOOSE LOVE.
It might look like this: Sometimes it is hard to be here. Tonight is one of those nights. But I am needed. Tonight I will focus on the smile I receive when my loved one spots me on the sidelines. Tonight I will focus on the sound of contentment I hear when my loved one digs into the meal I prepared. Tonight I will focus on the goodnight kiss that is offered to me. I am needed. I am loved. I am here.
7. Fall into bed. Mind starts racing. Instead of reviewing mistakes, failings, and what you didn’t accomplish today, think: CHOOSE LOVE.
Think of all the times you chose love today. And even if it was only once, celebrate it. In the midst of chaos, inconvenience, frustration, and crabby people, you chose love. With the millions of other choices you could’ve made, you chose love. Love is how this day will end.
My friends, consider the possibilities for a moment: What might result if love becomes your default choice for 21 straight days? What opportunities might open up? What connections might be repaired? What moments might you grasp that otherwise might be missed? Who might you become?
The One Who’s Always Too Busy
The One Who Overreacts
The One Who Never Listens
The One Who Rarely Slows Down
The One Who Always Looks Miserable
The One Glued to the Phone
The One Missing All the Fun
The One Who’s Given Up
You might just become The One You Always Wanted to Be …
A Take Your Timer
A Belly Laugher
A Risk Taker
A Silly Grinner
A Moment Grasper
A Liver of Life
Why? Because good things start with love.
Just show up to love today.
Don’t worry about what you look like or what yesterday looked like.
Just show up to love.
Something tells me you’ll walk away a little better than when you arrived.
Then do it again.
Friends of the Hands Free Revolution, although I did this challenge back in February, I feel now's the time to do it again. I am excited about the renewed connection & peace this challenge will bring to our lives over the next 21 days. If you are joining me, I’d be grateful if you’d you leave the words, “I Choose Love” in the comment section and share this challenge with someone else. Let’s see what transformations can happen in our relationships, our life’s work, and in our own hearts if we commit to choosing love as often as we can for the next 21 days.
As a powerful visual reminder, the I CHOOSE LOVE bracelets are reduced by $5 until Monday, September 28th. They are available in aqua green & pink. I CHOOSE LOVE also comes in a vibrant blue non-leather reminder band.
For more Hands Free Life Daily Declarations like the one below, check out my new book, HANDS FREE LIFE , a #1 Amazon bestseller in Inspiration for 3 straight weeks. I will be doing a Hands Free Life Q&A with Andrea Nair & signing books at Chapters at Square One Mall, 189 Rathburn Road, Mississauga at 7pm on September 30, 2015. Hope to see many of my Canadian friends there!
“Today I will choose love.
Tomorrow I will choose love.
And the day after that, I will choose love.
If I mistakenly choose distraction, perfection, or negativity over love, I will not wallow in regret. I will choose love next. I will choose love until it becomes my first response … my gut instinct … my natural reaction. I will choose love until it becomes who I am.”
-Rachel Macy Stafford