I am not the same person I was 37 days ago.
That may sound dramatic, maybe even impossible – but it’s my truth.
37 days ago, I was NOT in a good place.
I was living in reaction mode, allowing external factors to sabotage the peace and stability of my inner world.
I felt utterly inundated and completely empty.
I was out of sync and needed a new rhythm.
So, I did the most basic act of self-care act there is:
I filled my cup …
I opened the kitchen cabinet that holds a collection of aluminum water cups. One particular cup caught my eye. Written on the side in bold script was the message: CREATE EVERY DAY.
I received this cup as gift from a publicity company after my third book released. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking: Wow, the pressure to produce truly does come from every direction, even from our drinking cups!
The off-putting message almost made me give the cup away, but seeing it was of such good quality, I kept it. I completely forgot about that cup until 37 days ago when I sought to establish a new, healing life rhythm.
Each morning, I grabbed my CREATE EVERY DAY cup, filled it with water, and drank it. Along with that intentional action, I did something else. I paired a book (or two) with my phone, so that anytime I felt compelled to reach for my phone, I reached for a book instead. The book and the phone traveled everywhere together, allowing me to read several remarkable books in one week’s time.
Beginning the day with these two actions created momentum that caused the rest of the day to go in a more positive, loving, and intentional direction. Rather than letting external factors dictate my behavior, thoughts, and emotions, I was CHOOSING what to let into my inner world. In a relatively short time, I felt less anxious and more at peace.
Given my newfound stability, I decided it was time to do something I’d been putting off for months.
Written in my July calendar were five words that marked the fruition of a two-year dream—going back to Rwanda with both of my daughters and members of my online community to meet friends we’d made through African Road. In May, it was clear the trip would not be happening, but I couldn’t bring myself to officially remove it.
It was now time.
As I erased the words, “Only Love + Togetherness Learning Trip,” the calendar ripped, leaving a gaping hole.
As I stared at the hole, my brain began taking inventory of the countless losses I’d experienced, both personally and professionally, over the past few months. All at once, every single thing taken from me came to the forefront. Anger and despair welled up inside me.
It didn’t surprise me that the next morning, I had no motivation to fill my water cup, read, learn, and grow. In fact, I found it difficult to get out of bed.
If not for my daughter’s multiple medical appointments that day, I am not sure I would have.
On July 10th, Avery and I found ourselves getting in the car before the sun came up for an unexpected oral surgery.
Breaking the silence in the car, Avery blurted, “We are supposed to be in Africa with our Togetherness friends right now. Instead, I am having my fourth oral surgery and adjusting to another new back brace.”
For a moment, I paused. There was a response on my tongue – it was the typical response – that maybe this is the way it’s supposed to be… that maybe this was the bigger plan all along… that maybe this is a blessing in disguise.
But given my own painful awareness, I couldn’t bring myself to say the typical response. In fact, I thought to myself: These times are anything BUT typical—and to behave as if they are, only compounds the pain.
Taking a deep breath, I said what I’d want someone to say to me.
“I am so sorry, Avery. This is not how it’s supposed to be.”
I said nothing about hidden blessings or opportunities for growth – because until we acknowledge the hard that IS, we cannot possibly see the good that can BECOME.
For several days, I stayed close to Avery’s side, helping her heal while feeling sorry for myself. I used the unexpected situation as an excuse to neglect the positive habits I’d started at the beginning of the month. I stopped drinking out of my water cup and guzzled diet soda. I stopped carrying a book around with my phone and mindlessly scrolled. I stopped eating lunch on the porch with the trees and failed to properly nourish myself. I stopped reaching out to people and stayed closed up.
What’s the use? I asked myself.
Natalie, my newly turned 17-year-old daughter, unknowingly answered.
“Mom, have you been Creating Every Day?” she asked one morning with a curious smile.
I was shocked. Not only had she noticed the water cup I’d carried around for a week, but she’d also noticed its absence.
Suddenly, the cup’s message had new meaning.
Under normal circumstances, CREATE EVERY DAY is another pressure-filled message to produce tangible results that can be observed, measured, and judged in the external world. But through my daughter’s eyes during a global pandemic, CREATE EVERY DAY meant engaging in small, intentional acts that bring invisible, yet vital peace to our INNER world.
Through two daily practices, I’d created an impression – and this was not the time to give up!
I quickly retrieved one of the transformative books I’d read during the first week of July. In author and activist Cleo Wade’s newest book, WHERE TO BEGIN, she writes:
“When we show up as a person who is cared for and loved, we have the energy and ability to approach the world’s problems with optimism and hope. When we are cared for, we are in the best possible headspace to find solutions for our communities that are kind, humane, just, moral, and ethical.
No matter what your day looks like, I encourage you to find a moment to give yourself care. Self-care is how we claim peace of mind. When we know how to gift peace to our inner world, the pathway to creating peace in the world around us is so much clearer.”
Never in a million years would have thought the C in ‘crisis’ stood for CREATE, but that was before the world turned upside down, forcing us to acknowledge the holes, inconsistencies, and inequities in our society that we powered through or blatantly ignored before.
The C in ‘crisis’ is a call to create something that never existed before—loving ways of existing that honor our most inherent needs so we have the strength to advocate for a more loving world for all.
Through intentional self-care practices, we can replenish ourselves as well as the world’s scarcest commodities, such as connection, calm, compassion, kindness, empathy, peace, awareness, and understanding.
And on the days we find it difficult to get out of bed, let’s access the other C’s: crawl, cry, comfort, call out for help – but we must not give up.
On the fourth day of Avery’s healing process, I heard the C chord coming from her bedroom.
Although she could barely open her mouth, she was attempting to sing and strum her guitar, the most beloved act of self-care that she practices.
I stood at the door listening and crying because her self-care practice goes far beyond self, reaching hurting souls in need of comfort and acceptance. The song she was composing would someday create healing for someone else, just as it was for her in that moment.
Although I still couldn’t bring myself to say, ‘this is how it’s supposed to be,’ hearing Avery creating in crisis brought me inexplicable peace, as well as the inspiration to fill my cup every day since.
My friends, now’s our chance to create new rhythms and new, loving responses in a culture that’s conditioned us to control, consume, and compete. This is how we’ll CREATE CHANGE.
I am not the same person I was 37 days ago, and under normal circumstances, I might be reluctant to share my invisible transformation. But these are not normal times, and to act as if they are, only further isolates us and compounds our pain.
So today I extend my hand and offer you a bit of the peace I am creating within myself. I hope you’ll accept.
Because filling your cup fills my own.
Let’s do it together.
I love you.
My friends, please accept these special opportunities to join me in becoming part of healing stories and communities of hope:
1) At the end of the month, I am leading another session of my shame-free, hope-filled online series, Soul Shift. I’ve updated the course to include hand in hand guidance and personal engagement as we face our current challenges together. I’m calling it Soul Shift LIFT and the journey begins on August 31st. Click here to enter your email to be notified when the registration page goes live at an early-bird discounted rate.
2) On August 16th at 4:15 PDT/7:15 EDT, I invite you to be on my Only Love + Togetherness Team. We will virtually attend and support the African Road Virtual Gala Fundraiser and enjoy dancing, drumming, and stories of hope, progress, and empowerment. Together, we can create more impact; more ID cards to affirm the dignity of Indigenous people, more sustainability for Togetherness Youth Coop, more savings and strength through VICOBA Plus groups, and more Hope for Girls. Together, with local Changemakers like our beloved Steven Turikunkiko and Alice Kajoina, we can create a more loving and just world.
Click here to register for $10 and reserve your virtual space. Do so by August 9, and you’ll receive a lovingly prepared African Road Party Kit in the mail. After you register, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org indicating you are part of Rachel’s team so that I can properly thank you for joining in! Your participation in this Gala Fundraiser for an organization that is so near and dear to my family’s heart means so much!
Sakura Mendoza says
Last night I had a good cuddle with my daughter I feel like would never have happened before I read the Habit of a Hands Free LIfe, yesterday I finally did some fun-raising and my daughter donated $2 to Elevate Orphan, I would have thought that wasn’t enough on both accounts before your writing. I’m so glad for your work. Your bravery has inspired me to even in my 30s be able to seek myself without thinking it’s already to late.
I love the message, of drinking water, filling my cup (which is aloha, to fill your cup of love and then send it to the world), I always find that it’s amazing how hard it is to really do it vs to think it’s the right thing to do. I think in these challenging times it’s when we find our strength and courage, like hunting for gems in a dark and unpleasant mine.
Anyways Rachel, you’ve already done more for my everyday life than any other author and I don’t want you to forget how much you’ve already done, if you don’t do anything more, what you’ve done is already enough! 🕊️
Rachel Stafford says
Oh my goodness, this is such an uplifting message to receive. I am going to copy and paste it into my keepsake folder to read on days I feel low. Your last paragraph is pure fuel to my heart. Thank you, dear one. Love you.
The part about you not having any motivation is exactly where I have been since the lockdown started, and where I am still am today. I have not even touched my guitars since March. I have not even spoken to anyone in either band since March. And I have no idea when, or even IF the venues will ever open again.
For me, being a musician is not a hobby. It literally is my life. Being a musician is what kept me alive this long, because I finally found something I CAN do. Now, I have no idea when, or even IF my life can ever start again.
To make matters worse, none of the businesses who are open are willing to give me a chance.
To say I am lost is an understatement. As a result, all those dark feelings I thought were gone 20 years ago have all come back to me, and are just as strong as they were 20 years ago. I guess they never really go away. They can be hidden, but they never actually go away.
Rachel Stafford says
I am so sorry. This is heart-breaking. Have you thought about giving virtual guitar lessons? It seems to be in demand right now. I will add your name to my blessing list. I hope a light of hope breaks through for you.