Call it fate or call it divine guidance, but I knew I needed to buy a snow globe in preparation for the emotional turmoil my kids are sure to experience as they navigate the challenges of modern teenage life.
I’d been inspired by an article entitled “How to Help Teens Weather Their Emotional Storms” by Dr. Lisa Damour. In it, she shares the life-changing insight given to her by a school counselor in Texas. The counselor pulls out a glitter jar when overwrought teens come into her office. Instead of asking what’s wrong or interrogating them, she explains that the jar is a model of their brain at that moment. She points out that their emotions are currently swirling all around, but in time, they will settle, and perspective on the situation can then be gained.
Dr. Damour now uses this concept in her own work with young people, noting that “letting glitter settle” is certainly not the solution to all teenage problems, but she’s found it to be the best first response. Damour explains, “Every time I stop myself from trying to figure out what made a teenager upset and focus instead on her right to just BE upset, I find that doing so either solves the problem or helps clear the path to dealing with it.”
Although it’s helpful for teens themselves to see this concrete model of emotional distress, Damour believes the jar’s greatest gift is the guidance it offers those who are responding to the person who is deeply upset, which is: “Be patient and communicate your confidence that emotions almost always rise, swirl and settle all by themselves.” (source)
Because visual reminders like bracelets and sticky notes with powerful mantras have been instrumental throughout my Hands Free journey, I felt certain I needed to have a snow globe permanently on display to remind me of my role in the face of my loved ones’ distress.
It didn’t take long to find the globe that was meant for our home. The water inside was the most beautiful shade of blue, containing sparkling specks that didn’t look like snow—they looked like rain.
“Have you ever seen the rain
Coming down on a sunny day?”
My 13-year-old daughter recently learned to play the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic. But in typical Avery style, she made the song her own, turning it into a riveting story that makes you lean in, so you don’t miss a single detail.
The first time my daughter played it for me, I began to cry. I’d heard the song a million times throughout my life, but I never really HEARD it until Avery interpreted in her unique and soul-stirring way.
“Why do you cry?” Avery asked when she strummed the final note.
“Your voice makes me feel hope,” was all I could manage to put into words. I mean, how does one explain that the way she sings makes you see life’s challenges in a whole new way?
There was no doubt I needed that “rain globe,” and I immediately found a prominent spot in the kitchen to display it. I’d walk by it many times a day, marveling at the color, which in itself, reminded me to be the calm, steady companion in the emotional storms. I felt confident I’d be ready for the next meltdown that arose…
Except there wasn’t any.
In fact, my normally chatty and cheerful 13-year-old girl was eerily quiet and solemn.
For several days, my gut sensed something was troubling Avery, but when I inquired, she’d say, “Nothing’s wrong.”
Feeling a bit hopeless, I picked up the rain globe and gave it a vigorous shake. I wished I could shake whatever was troubling my daughter out of her. As I watched the glitter settle, I reminded myself that I often do this – get quiet, deciding if I want to let someone in on what I am going through. I vowed to continue being present and available, loving and patient, nonjudgmental and “easy” to be around by not expecting to gain information before my daughter was ready to share.
One night, Avery asked to be excused from dinner without eating. After giving her some time, I went into her room.
I sat next to her on the bed and inquired about a funny middle school story she mentioned she wanted to tell me earlier that day.
“Oh yeah…” she said keeping her eyes on her Netflix show, “but not right now. I’d like to eat my dinner now.”
When she came back with her plate, I noticed she did not open her computer to resume her show. I took that as a promising sign.
“Can I stay for a bit?” I asked.
I propped myself against a few pillows, feeling quite proud of myself for enduring the nearly unbearable sound of mac and cheese being chewed as I waited for her to talk.
I prayed in my head.
My daughter scooted around a bit on her bed, and I sensed she was considering saying something.
I prayed some more.
And then there was a crack of light when I received a cryptic response to: How are you feeling about school?
The cryptic response was a start…
And slowly, one statement led to another statement, which led to another… and pretty soon, the glitter was swirling all around.
Holding my daughter’s hand, I saw the beautiful contents of a deep feeling heart and recognized that the nature of who she is may cause her to worry and feel internal pressure the same way I did (and often still do).
As my daughter continued to talk, I stayed quiet, occasionally nodding and saying, “uh-huh.”
Nothing was off limits.
Nothing was too dramatic.
Nothing was too trivial.
All anguish was welcome.
And about fifteen minutes later, several weeks’ worth of glitter had settled. I sensed she was now open to some guidance and support. I offered these validating statements:
“That must have been hard when…”
“I commend you for problem-solving by….”
“I wonder what might happen if you try…”
“I have a helpful phrase I say to myself when this happens…”
And in the end, I said, “I believe you will get through this.”
“Me too,” she whispered, a newfound strength detected in her voice.
And although this conversation resulted in the best possible outcome, I was well aware that it did not guarantee my daughter would come talk to me the next time something was bothering her. But she did now know that I can be with her in both the rainstorm and the pre-storm—that ominous period when it’s agonizingly quiet and you just wish the sky would open up.
When I kissed Avery goodnight, I sensed relief in her breathing. I suspected she’d sleep better than she had in a while. As I shut the door, my eyes filled with tears.
Why do you cry? I thought, remembering Avery’s question. Despite knowing there would be many more storms ahead, I felt hopeful. I lifted up a prayer of gratitude for Lisa Damour and the school counselor with the glitter jar. Through them, I learned a way to better see, hear, and respond to the people I love when they are in turmoil.
For some reason, I felt compelled to go check my email and see if the copy edits were back on my book. I’d been expecting them for over a week, pretty much holding my breath to see how much work was ahead.
The manuscript was there in my inbox, and I opened the file quicker than a child opens presents on Christmas morning. Scanning for editorial notes in the margin, I scrolled through the 74,000-word document at a rapid pace.
When I got to the last page of the book, the copy editor had written me a personal note—
“Oh my gosh. I didn’t want it to end. This is my favorite book of the past two years, maybe longer. It’s so good, and impeccably written. There was so little for me to do. Bravo.”
I was stunned. This professional editor who reads countless books a month, hundreds of books a year, said those words about my book. She even went on to say that she began implementing many of my techniques and they’ve been so fruitful in her relationships and enabled her family to overcome tough emotional hurdles.
For the first time since I finished writing it, I did not feel the need to hold my book close to my chest in fear of what people might think when they saw all my glitter. Because in order to write about being a trusted guide for young people navigating the tricky territories of modern life, I had to be the most vulnerable I’d ever been.
And now, the person who edited it was using my story to connect to her loved ones in new and beautiful ways.
Suddenly, it hit me—I'd given her a snow globe moment.
And maybe some night in the near future, other people would be shutting a bedroom door, giving thanks for my book because it helped them bridge a gap, bringing them closer to someone they love or the life they yearn to live.
Why do I cry? They may wonder as a warm, tingly feeling washes over them.
This is why:
The world will be heavy…
Days will be hard…
Stress will be real…
But if snow globes become lighthouses,
And songs become lifelines,
And we become companions in both the stillness and the upheavals of life,
There is hope.
May it come down like rain
On a sunny day.
Don't miss the new session of my shame-free, hope-filled online course, SOUL SHIFT, which begins February 2, 2021! I believe it is NEVER TOO LATE to live the life you want to live or be the person or parent you want to be. The tools and support you will receive throughout this 8-week journey will help you make healthy, loving responses a way of life. Click here to ensure you don’t miss the sign up or the early-bird pricing in January. Here’s what past participants are saying:
“Thank you, Rachel Macy Stafford, for teaching me to be present, for helping me understand the importance of self worth, for encouraging me to banish perfection, and for reminding me to kick that inner bully to the curb. I need these lessons, and I hope to share this wisdom with my daughters too.”–C.C
“Rachel Macy Stafford, you give us hope. Thank you for sharing your story. Seeing you now it's hard to believe you came from a place of self-criticism and harsh criticism of your loved ones. Knowing you came out of that gives me hope that I can too.”-L.S.
“Dear Rachel, I wake up this morning feeling excited and joyful. I have struggled with depression and anxiety since I was a child. Like all of us, I have experienced many trials, hurts, and disappointments, and over the years, I’ve pondered how I can heal. But by going through this Soul Shift process, I’ve felt more peace and soul shifting than ever before. Through these exercises, I finally see and acknowledge which beliefs I can release with love, as I can clearly see that they are no longer true for me or serve my authentic self. I see now how my perception of time and perfection have been the primary thief of my peace and joy for decades. In just a few weeks, my family and I are reaping the benefits of this course and I will always be eternally grateful for this experience.”–S.S.
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