I received a booklet from each of my daughters for Christmas. Some of the pages made me laugh. Others made me cry. But a few pages stood out.
“I love when you talk to me like a friend.”
“I love that you love my opinion.”
“I love how you never are mean to me.”
“I’d be lost without your love.”
It’s not often a person receives tangible signs of progress—an unexpected measurement of how far she’s come.
My Hands Free journey started as a mission to let go of my millions of distractions and my need for perfection. As those outer barriers dismantled, my inner barriers did too. I felt myself being less of a controlling manager and more of a peaceful nurturer. As my inner barriers weakened, my ability to respond more lovingly, more patiently, and more openly grew.
To me, softening has come to mean pausing, breathing, reflecting, surrendering, accepting, opening, and revealing.
But there is more – and this is the kicker:
Softening means seeing—truly seeing.
By responding to others and myself with more compassion, patience, and acceptance, I’ve begun to see less in black and white and more in color. I had no idea my loved ones had so many colors until I began to soften so they could shine.
As New Year’s resolutions or “word of the year” bounce around in your head this week, I hope this one sticks: soften. It is doable. Its benefits reach far beyond you. It is life-changing and life-giving. And even a little bit of softening goes a long way.
The following vow is something I could have used a few years ago before my inner barriers began to crumble. I didn’t think to create such a vow until I wrote this post on the best gifts I ever gave. Many commenters declared the word “soften” as their word/goal for 2016. I can’t help but believe there’s a little something in this vow for all of us—no matter where we are in the process of pausing, surrendering, breathing, revealing, reflecting, and accepting. I can’t help but believe our world could use a little softening right now. My hope is that we can start or continue the softening process with this vow and perhaps, in time, we’ll receive a note, a look of surprise, or a loving sentiment indicating just how far we’ve come.
My Vow to Soften
I’ve had enough of my hard edges.
I’m tired of straining my voice.
I’d like to loosen up and laugh a little more,
Be a positive rather than a negative.
I’d like to feel the upward curve of my lips.
I’d like to surrender control of things in which I have no control.
I’d like to let things unfold in their own time, in their own way.
I’d like to participate joyfully in this fleeting life.
I’d like to be softer
Thus, 2016 shall be the year of my softening.
And this is my vow:
I vow to listen to opinions – I don’t always have to be right.
I don’t always have to agree or have the last word.
I vow to hand over the hairbrush, the pile of laundry, the school project,
the task before us. “How would you do it?” I will ask.
I vow to step aside and respect a new approach.
Success might be difficult to see at first; I vow to keep looking.
I vow to be more accepting of quirks and mannerisms.
I vow to be more accepting of tastes and styles unlike my own.
I vow to remember he is in the process of becoming; she is in the process of finding her way.
And they are more apt to do it if I stop telling them how.
I vow to regard “weaknesses” as hidden strengths.
Inner gifts can be nurtured when I stop plotting ways to alter, change, and “improve”.
I vow to greet my family and myself with a loving smile, no matter what happened yesterday.
Grudge holding only hurts us all.
I vow to pause before correcting.
I shall take a moment to consider if the mistake even needs to mentioned at all.
I vow to stop nitpicking until it bleeds.
I vow to demand less and inquire more.
I vow to listen
and expand my thinking.
I vow to be a voice of encouragement in a demeaning world.
I vow to be a silver lining spotter in my family’s little world.
I vow to be softer today than I was yesterday—a softer voice, a softer posture, a softer touch, a softer thought, a softer timetable.
I vow to be softer towards the imperfect human being inside me and beside me.
By being softer, I can hear more, learn more, feel more, and love more.
At last I will fully see.
I will see his colors.
I will see her colors.
I will see my colors
Perhaps for the very first time.
The colors might take my breath away
Bring me to tears
and offer long-awaited peace.
I shall soften in order to illuminate the colors of the soul.
I shall soften so the human being within me and beside me can shine.
© Rachel Macy Stafford 2016
Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, I am grateful to have come to know so many highly skilled and experienced parenting educators and simplicity experts over the years. Here are some beneficial resources and learning opportunities to help you “soften” in the year ahead:
- Andy Smithson, LCSW, helps parents change negative behaviors and build powerful cycles of growth and happiness in families. Andy is a husband, father of four, therapist, parent coach and speaker as well as author and creator of truparenting.net. Back by popular demand is Andy’s “Stop Yelling in 21 Days Coaching Course” beginning on January 25th. You can find out about the class and read the stellar reviews from past participants by clicking here.
- Therapist and mindfulness expert Kerry Foreman did an incredible video series on mindfulness in December that helped me and many others “see” our loved ones and ourselves with greater focus, patience, and compassion. Sign-up is now open for Kerry's Mindful Marriage video series beginning on February 1. Kerry writes: “With such busy lives, we forget how important it is to be present in our relationships. Whether you're married, engaged, or just in a long term relationship, attending to your relationship must be a top priority if you want it to thrive.” Join Kerry and the supportive Get Grounded community by clicking here or sign up for the free mindful marriage video series by clicking here.
- Creating space to thrive, grow, and connect with my family and heart required simplification in all areas of my life. I felt my way through the darkness at times and would have appreciated guidance from those who had gone before me. Perhaps that is why I am so excited to be one of 9 simplicity authors participating in “A Simple Year: 12 Months of Guided Simplicity”. Throughout the 12 months of 2016, we will be sharing wisdom designed to help you simplify your life in the following areas: clutter, busyness, travel, cooking, digital, work, money, self-care, mindfulness, eating, relationships and gratitude. Registration is open now. All the information you need to know about A Simple Year: 12 Months of Guided Simplicity is here.
As mentioned in the blog post, Shawn Fink and Lisa McCrohan have been teaching people to soften for years and have some beautiful wisdom to share:
- 7 Blissful Ways to Soften As a Mother & Why You Should
- My Word for the Year in Three: Soften, Strengthen, Forgive
- Mindful Moment: Stay and Soften
- Tips for Everyday Mindfulness: Soften
Thank you for being part of The Hands Free Revolution. For those who are new here, I have written two inspiring books that chronicle the steps and habits I acquired over the past five years that made the softening process possible. They are HANDS FREE MAMA and HANDS FREE LIFE. My books are currently on sale for $10 on Amazon. I also have beautiful reminder bands in leather and non-leather options available to use as a visual reminders to choose love. Indiana friends, I will be speaking and signing books at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on Saturday afternoon, January 30th. You can click here for all the information on the Indy Women's Expo. Thank you for walking beside me on this journey!