Five years ago I was in what I considered the best years of my life. A solid marriage to my college love, two beautiful, content young daughters–a work-at-home mom who beautifully juggled graduate school classes, family responsibilities, and volunteer activities for my church, community, and my daughters’ schools. I was constantly asked, “How do you do it? How do you do it all?” It was definitely a compliment in today’s productivity equals success, pressure-filled world. Yet, something began to gnaw at me. I was busier than I'd ever been, but was I happy? Wasn’t I supposed to be enjoying this time with my children?
This increasingly uncomfortable feeling led me to re-think the question that had once given me a tremendous source of pride. “How DO I do it all?” It was difficult to acknowledge the heartbreaking answer that I could no longer ignore. Well, I miss out. And it got worse. I miss out on life. And since I was being totally honest with myself, I acknowledged the cold hard truth: I miss out on what REALLY matters in life. And here is the part that caused teardrops to dampen the front of my shirt just like it does in a rainstorm: What I miss, I won’t ever get back. How’s that for a wake up call?
From that breakthrough, breakdown moment, I began seeing my phone in a new light. I saw laundry, dishes, and the need to keep things perfectly organized in a whole new way. I began seeing requests to serve on committees and chair events with brand new eyes. I realized that the ability to respond within seconds to an email message and multi-task three things at once was maybe not such a great thing after all. Finally after years and years of over-commitment and meaningless information overload, I began to see those things for what they were: Daily Distractions. And with much regret, I realized I’d been holding on to “distractions” tighter than I had been to my own family, my own health, my own happiness, and my own things that really matter.
Tragically, my children had gone right along with my distracted life, not knowing they were missing the heart, the focus, and the company of their mom. They had no idea they were being given the leftovers, the worthless scraps of their stretched-too-thin mother.
But it didn't have to be this way. Hence, the power of living “Hands Free.”
In the same vein as a distracted driver uses hands free equipment to maintain focus on driving, I decided to go “Hands Free” on life. For the past four and a half years, I have taken small steps to let go of “daily distraction” and place my focus on someone or something meaningful. The results have been profound. In fact, for the first time in my life, I don’t feel like I am constantly trying to catch up. I don’t feel anxious or stressed. I am more patient, more spontaneous, and more connected with my family than I have ever been. I am witnessing and experiencing the simple, joyful things around me that I was too distracted to notice before. I am now free to grasp what really matters. And because this experience has been a life-changing one, I am sharing my journey as a Hands Free Mama with you. Notice I say journey. A compulsive Type A, massive to-do list writin’ planner extraordinaire does not change overnight. I still have some letting go to do. But I am trying, and that counts for something. In fact, I would say that counts for something that matters.
This blog is for anyone who wants to re-think how he or she is living (or not living) life. It’s for anyone who wants to let go of daily distraction and perfection to embrace what really matters.
I hope you will join me as I capture my journey as a Hands Free Mama in photos and words. Come on … take my hand. After being tied up for so long, it’s finally free.