A Live More/Love More Summer: Getting Back to What Matters Most

By Rachel Macy Stafford

Just because summer is here doesn’t mean life’s demands and daily stressors magically disappear. Digital distraction is more than willing to ruin your family picnic. Perfection is ready to sabotage your refreshing dip in the pool. Pressure is ready to pounce from the bleachers of the ball field, and criticism is prepared to blast lane four at the swim meet. Hurry and impatience are fiercely determined to spoil a day at the beach or amusement park. As you know, distraction, perfection, and social pressures don’t take a summer vacation. They manage to weasel their way into our daily lives no matter what season it is. But it doesn’t have to be this way. How does a Live More/Love More Summer sound to you? Let’s use these precious summer months to get back to what matters most. Here’s how I do it (and by the way, this approach works year-round) … 

As my family makes our final preparations for an upcoming move out-of-state, I’ve been forced to think about what home means to me. I’ve always believed home is a feeling, not a place. But more specifically, home is the feeling of peace and completeness I feel when I am surrounded by the people I love. But recently, my definition of home has expanded.

Home is also living Hands Free.

What began as small, daily intentions to let go of distraction, societal pressure, and perfection has become a necessary way of life. Like water, air, and food, I need time to connect to what matters in some form or fashion each day—time to laugh, listen, and love are daily requirements for me.

Smelling my daughter’s freshly washed hair … feeling sunshine on my face as I wait for swim practice to conclude … jotting writing ideas in a notebook … talking to my husband when the house is quiet at night … fierce hugs before we go our separate ways … my Hands Free moments are home to me now.

But I must be realistic. As much as I would love all moments in life to be calm, present, safe, and undistracted, it is simply not possible. We live in a fast-paced world saturated with duties, deadlines, and devices. In a world inundated with distractions, it is easy to get far from home. Summertime is no exception.

Yet with almost four years experience living Hands Free, I am able to detect when I am getting too far from home. No longer am I willing to push and pressure and yes my way through life to the point I lose sight of everything that matters most.

Here are some of the difficult truths I say to myself when I am getting too far from home. These “red flags” help me realize when I need to say no, re-establish my boundaries, or reassess what matters and what doesn’t.

My distraction radar says:

“You are trying to do too much at once.”
“You are staying up too late.”
“You haven’t sat down all day.”
“You are eating at the kitchen counter.”
“Your heart is racing.”
“You are complaining more than you are being positive.”
“You are easily frustrated.”
“You are bullying yourself.”
“You are overreacting to something that has little significance in the grand scheme of things.”
“You are wearing a scowl.”

When I hear these honest admissions in my head, I don’t ignore them like I used to. Nor do I make excuses or get defensive. Instead, I do one of the following actions to bring myself back home:

  • I lower the bar. I remind myself nothing has to be perfect, just “good enough for today.”
  • I turn away from the outside/online world and turn toward my inner circle of friends and family.
  • I take a short walk. Even ten minutes of fresh air and time for reflection helps me feel rejuvenated and less overwhelmed.
  • I silence my inner critic with three powerful words: “Only Love Today.”
  • I resist the urge to push myself beyond my limits and make a reasonable plan for getting one item accomplished at a time.
  • I throw on a hat and stop fussing over my appearance.
  • I treat myself with kindness and compassion like I would a friend who is going through a hard time and doing her best.
  • I say, “I cannot worry about that right now,” and stop obsessing over things I cannot control.
  • I remind myself that although things might not be going according to “my plan,” something better might evolve if I just let go.
  • I add a ten-minute cushion to avoid being rushed and agitated if I need to be somewhere at a certain time.
  • I close my eyes and recite a prayer asking to be awake to the glimmers of goodness within my day.

Whenever my distraction radar goes off, I try to do one of those strategies to bring myself back home. These actions help me protect what is most important in my life. They help me be the human being and parent I want to be. They remind me that each moment holds a chance to start over even when I fail miserably. They keep me moving forward on my journey to live Hands Free.

My friends, we cannot control all the circumstances of our life, but we can control some. When faced with feelings of overwhelm, take a moment to evaluate: Is everything I’m trying to do today necessary? Is there somewhere I can lower the bar? Is the feeling of home in here somewhere? And finally, ask yourself: when I look back in September is this how I want to remember spending my summertime?

Each day make it a priority to do something that brings you peace, fulfillment, and meaningful connection—even if it is only for a few minutes. This way, you’ll never get so far from home that you can’t get back to what matters most.