“Just because they asked, doesn’t mean you have to do it,” my husband said when I told him a prestigious company wanted to work with me.
I’d just finished describing the amount of work, time, energy, and effort that would be required for a project with little compensation.
Just because they asked, doesn’t mean you have to do it.
My husband’s response was so obvious, yet so outside my comfort zone, that I was rendered speechless.
I immediately jotted down his statement in my writer’s notebook. I suspected someone else might need this critically important, yet nearly unthinkable response to life’s inundation of requests and demands.
Just because someone wants something from us doesn’t mean we have to provide.
That’s a hard one for me.
I am a provider. I am a responder. I am a helper. I am a fixer. I am a giver.
That’s why my husband’s statement felt so foreign.
That’s also why it’s difficult for me to breathe somedays.
It pains me to think that I’m teaching my children to hold their breath too.
Because this information-overloaded, instant-response-expected culture where you’re only as good as what you accomplish is not exclusive to adults. Our children feel it too.
My dear friend and brilliant writer Alexandra Rosas recently confirmed what I hear from students when I speak in schools. From the teens she tutors, Alexandra learned they feel an inescapable pressure leading them to believe they have no right to be happy or take time to simply BE unless or until they’ve accomplished or provided.
I consistently speak to my teenage daughter about tethering herself to real people, real conversation, and real experiences, as it is so easy to get lost in the damaging online drift. I speak to her about worth not being measured by appearance, achievements, and other people’s opinions. I talk to her about finding joy in the journey and during the process, not in the destination or the end result.
But I’m painfully aware that my actions speak louder than my words.
And honestly, I’m finding it more and more difficult to push back the pressure, demands, and noise of the world.
This feeling came to a head on January 24th, my birthday. For many months, I’d looked forward to this momentous day. I knew I’d be finished with the huge undertaking of creating my first online course; I’d have a major corporate speaking event behind me; I’d have a lengthy proposal submitted for an upcoming project. And with all that behind me, I’d planned to take a long walk in the sunshine and just BE on my birthday.
What happened was quite different.
I received a four-paragraph tongue lashing from a reader of my blog who did not receive a personal response to advice she requested.
I received a request for more information on a strategy I wrote about in one of my books.
I received a request to republish an article, but could I also add an additional resource?
I was told that my posts were lacking because they did not include my religious beliefs.
There were at least a dozen more requests that I did not read because I got the message—I got the message loud and clear. The message I received from the world on my 46th birthday was this:
The posts you write from the heart each day are not enough.
The books you've written are not enough.
The course you’ve created is not enough.
You give it your all, but you are still lacking.
That’s when I heard the still, quiet voice of my Inner Protector:
Are you getting it now, Rachel?
Yes. Yes, I was.
On my 46th birthday, I finally got the message:
I will never be enough for the world. And if I continue to keep trying to satisfy the insatiable, I will wither … because we cannot live without breathing.
My head fell forward, the tears began to flow, and I said a prayer of gratitude for the priceless gift of awareness. As I sat there in stillness, a powerful image came to mind. It was from the day before. I’d taken my younger daughter Avery to the doctor for stomach pains. After being examined by the doctor, we were told to head to the hospital for an x-ray.
As we drove, Avery was asking question after question …
Will it hurt?
How long will the scan last?
Will I have to get undressed?
Will I be able to breathe in the machine?
My child was looking to me for answers.
I knew most of them, except the final one: What’s the worst that can happen, Mama?
I didn’t know the answer to that one, but it was okay, because I knew LOVE can overpower the unknowns.
During the hospital check-in process, I loved my child and she thanked me.
During the stay in the waiting room, I loved my child and she thanked me.
During the scan, I loved my child and she thanked me.
When it was over, I loved my child and she thanked me.
My love was enough.
My presence was enough.
Unlike the insatiable world, my daughter’s expectations were easily met.
You are here.
That is all I need.
You are enough, Mama.
With the hospital memory fresh in my mind, I shut my laptop. I turned off my phone. I got in my car and drove to the elementary school. I’d promised Avery I’d pick her up early from school knowing she’d be tired from days of pain and uncertainty.
Avery and I were just about to pull out of the parking lot when I asked, “Would you like to go to lunch for my birthday?”
What transpired over the next sixty minutes at a corner table in a quiet restaurant is a memory I will never forget. For sixty minutes, Avery poured out her heart to me, disclosing mature thoughts about friendships, body image, future goals, and current concerns.
When she was finished releasing a continuous stream of words from the heart, she sighed with relief. “It felt good to let that out,” she said with grateful a smile.
And on that first day of my 46th year of life, my eyes were opened even wider. I felt one step closer to the present, loving person I want to be, the example I want to provide, and the legacy I want to leave.
Because the reality is,
I could give my all to the world, and it would still not be enough.
And the cost of giving my all to the world would mean losing the chance to be a part of my child's world.
My children are looking to me for answers, and my actions speak louder than words.
How they measure their worth will be influenced by how I measure mine.
How they practice self-care will be influenced by how I care for myself.
How they respond to the opinions and pressures of others will be influenced by how I respond to outside opinions and pressures.
How they choose to relax and replenish their souls will be influenced by the way I choose to replenish.
And just in case I needed one final confirmation of this life-changing awareness, it came through a Noticer of my blog who saw something remarkable in my birthday photo.
“Do you see the hands?” the commenter wrote in response to the photo I posted. “I share hands with my mother too.”
I share hands with my mother.
Yes. I see it now. I see it now, more clearly than I ever have before.
My daughter Natalie and I share the same hands.
My daughter Avery is reaching for my hand.
My husband Scott is guiding my hand with his solid boundaries of what really matters.
And Scott has something I don’t have: the rare “Showing Up” gene that his grandfather gave his mother, and his mother gave him. But now I am beginning to think it’s not a gene, but a decision to use your time, energy, and attention on matters of the heart. In just the past month, I’ve watched my husband take a friend to the hospital and sit with him for hours. I watched him bring a meal to a family in the aftermath of a heart attack. He drove for hours to sit with an employee who lost her child and listened as she recounted story after story of her precious son. To some, my husband’s statement that I don’t have to do everything the world asks me to do might sound selfish and irresponsible. But I see the man behind the statement: the one who shows up when others are too busy, the one who never misses the moments that matter; I see it is a decision, a decision I want to make too.
Just because the world demands our time and attention doesn’t mean we have to provide at the cost of losing our health, happiness, and moments that matter.
We will make time each day to push back the world’s demands and lean into love, our refuge of enough.
As we inhale love and exhale grace, our breath will touch the cheeks of those in our presence. Love will speak clearly, answering the unknowns, and guiding us by the still, small voice inside.
“Thank you for showing up,” our hearts will say as we breathe with relief.
We are enough.
Dear friends of the Hands Free Revolution, I'm quite certain today's revelation resulted from a powerful combination of the book SOULFUL SIMPLICITY by Courtney Carver and through participating in the SOUL SHIFT course. As I was working with my fellow Soul Shifters in Week One of the course and reading about getting back to myself in Courtney’s book, I felt the release of long-held, damaging beliefs. I have now set forth on an uncharted path towards true fulfillment, self-acceptance, and inner peace. I am applying the gentle guidelines Courtney provides and clinging to the truth-bombs she eloquently delivers. A few of my favorites include:
- “Just because everything is crazy around you doesn’t mean it has to be crazy within you. I don’t say no because I’m so busy. I say no because I don’t want to be so busy.”
- “When all your free time is spent catching up or getting ahead, it’s not free time.”
- “When everything is important, nothing is.”
- “If you want real connection and honest answers, check your heart more than your phone.”
- “Your heart knows things and she will help you make room for what matters most.”
I highly encourage you to read SOULFUL SIMPLICITY, a guide that is unlike any self-improvement book I have ever read. Also, Courtney and I are teaming up for SIMPLE YEAR 2018. Throughout 2018, you will be guided by one of 12 simplicity educators in the areas of clutter, busyness, travel, cooking, digital, work, money, self-care, mindfulness, eating, relationships and gratitude. Registration closes tomorrow, January 31. Click here to learn more.
Upcoming speaking events … Birmingham, Alabama, I cannot wait to see you this Friday, February 2 (tickets here), and Chattanooga, TN on Sunday, March 4 (tickets here). Please note SOUL SHIFT will be starting up again in April for those who are interested. Simply can enter your email address here to be notified when registration opens.
Thank you for walking beside me, my friends. I cherish you.