Do you have 10 minutes? You can spend that time worrying or tending to your to-do list, or you can spend that time thanking a friend or family member for their kindness or noticing the changing features on your daughter’s face.
That’s the underlying premise behind much of Rachel Macy Stafford’s heartfelt and thoughtful new book, Hands Free Life: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, & Loving More. Stafford had introduced readers to some of her gentle ideas and the aha moments that had led her to greater clarity in her earlier book, Hands Free Mama. Now, she gives us more concrete and thought-provoking ideas and exercises to truly make the most of our time with family, community and ourselves.
Stafford touches eloquently on a topic I’ve written about, which is that we often miss opportunities for closeness when we think only about the peak experiences, the vacations and large events. She writes, “There are moments in between life’s obligations when we are in the presence of our loved ones that can be made sacred.” These small moments–singing to the car radio, walking around the block, sharing meals, helping with music practice–offer multiple daily opportunities to be present and to experience joy.
Children are naturals at this, and Stafford shares multiple wise offerings that her children say and teach by example. But we can learn, too, to turn off the distractions–whether that means literally turning off a technological device or turning off the marching thoughts in our heads–and choose to be truly present in the seemingly small, everyday moments of our lives before they drift away.
Another gift Stafford gives parents is to truly see life through the eyes of our children. When we do this, we can’t help but release some of our adult standards of perfection, which are largely responsible for the voices in our heads that cause us to pressure ourselves or hold ourselves back. To use two of Stafford’s examples, our children don’t see our “fossilized college T-shirt and sleep deprived eyes” when we soothe away their bad dreams in the middle of the night. They don’t notice that our favorite bed pillow could use a laundering. They notice, with love, that the pillow “smells like mama.”
The book is divided into nine chapters: “Fill the Spaces,” “Surrender Control,” “Build a Foundation,” “Take the Pressure Off,” “See What Is Good,” “Give What Matters,” “Establish Boundaries,” “Leave a Legacy” and “Change Someone’s Story”. Each of these is broken into inspiring and thought-provoking chunks, with personal stories and habit builders to help readers gain perspective, forge meaningful connections, remove judgment of ourselves and others, and be present for and attentive to the small moments that make up our days.
If you have 10 minutes, you can tuck a kind note into a lunchbox, learn something new about a family member, listen to a friend without distraction, or say yes to one more bedtime story. What might you do with your 10 minutes? With your distraction-free, love-filled life?