On any given day, there are probably 101 things running through your mind—from what you need to do … to what you should do … to what you didn’t do. I know because this was me. It was exhausting. Now I try to go with one action. This singular action helps me focus on what matters and let go of what doesn’t. It helps me make better choices and move on when I don’t. Every minute of every day, I try to CHOOSE LOVE.
The night before my manuscript was due to my publisher I was working furiously to meet my deadline. It was 8:30 p.m. and I was bent over the keyboard surrounded by empty soda cans, crumpled papers, and used sticky notes when I felt my mom gently touch my arm. She’d just come from my older daughter’s bedroom. “Natalie requested her nightly talk time, Rachel,” she whispered softly.
Without hesitation, I got up from my work and headed toward my daughter’s room. My mom called out after me: “I tried to tell Natalie that you had a lot of work to do tonight but she adamantly said, ‘Grandma … Mama always comes.’”
Mama always comes.
It hadn’t always been that way, but somewhere along my journey, I’d become someone my child could count on to come to her bedside each night to talk—no matter what.
I could have easily kept working that night, but I didn’t. Because I chose love.
Sometimes I showed up to love without a smile.
Sometimes I showed up to love feeling ugly, worthless, and inadequate.
Sometimes I showed up to love alone and scared.
Sometimes I showed up to love when I didn’t know what I was doing.
Sometimes I showed up to love when it was the last thing I wanted to do.
Sometimes I showed up to love even though I had so much to do before the day’s end.
Sometimes I showed up to love when my patience was gone.
Sometimes I showed up to love when I had no love to give.
Despite the obstacles, I continually showed up to love again and again. Until one day I was known as ‘The One Who Always Comes” to a little girl whose opinion mattered more than the world.
When I have chosen love I have never left the same way I arrived.
Here’s how CHOOSING LOVE could play out in a typical day:
1. Wake up. Mind starts racing. So much to do. So tired. Instead of reaching for the phone or grumbling about all there is to do, CHOOSE LOVE.
It might sound like this: Today is a new day. I am thankful I have been given this gift. My goal is to get out of bed and greet myself and my family with love. Love is how I will start this day.
2. Child not getting ready. Frustration rises. Instead of threatening or yelling: CHOOSE LOVE.
It might sound like this: How can I help? Let’s set a timer. How quickly do you think you can do clothes, shoes, backpack? Okay, let’s do it. On your mark, get set, GO!
3. Traffic is horrendous. You are going to be late. The whole day is going to be off. Instead of cursing, reaching for the phone, or making a dangerous U-turn: CHOOSE LOVE.
It might sound like this: I have just been given uninterrupted time. I will take this time to breathe. I will ask my child to sing me a song. I will listen to that voice and know it won’t always sound like this. I will take this moment of frustration and turn it into gratitude.
4. Arrive at destination only to be met with criticism, judgment, or rudeness. Instead of taking it personally, wasting energy, or saying something you’ll later regret: CHOOSE LOVE.
It might sound like this: Their negative response is not about me. It is about them. I refuse to let their toxicity contaminate my day, my job, or my life. I will smile and let it go.
5. Perform your duty/assignment, and it is not as good as you’d like. Instead of berating yourself or trying to make it perfect: CHOOSE LOVE.
It might look like this: I have spent ample time and energy on this project. It is good enough for today. My effort is enough to make a positive contribution and that is what matters.
6. Evening packed with sports, meetings, dinner, and homework. Instead of bemoaning your chaotic, crazy life: CHOOSE LOVE.
It might look like this: Sometimes it is hard to be here. Tonight is one of those nights. But I am needed. Tonight I will focus on the smile I receive when my loved one spots me on the sidelines. Tonight I will focus on the sound of contentment I hear when my loved one digs into the meal I prepared. Tonight I will focus on the goodnight kiss that is offered to me. I am needed. I am loved. I am here.
7. Fall into bed. Mind starts racing. Instead of reviewing mistakes, failings, and what you didn’t accomplish today: CHOOSE LOVE.
Think of all the times you chose love today. And even if it was only once, celebrate it. In the midst of chaos, inconvenience, frustration, and crabby people, you chose love. With the millions of other choices you could’ve made, you chose love. Love is how this day will end.
“Today I will choose love.
Tomorrow I will choose love.
And the day after that, I will choose love.
If I mistakenly choose distraction, perfection, or negativity over love, I will not wallow in regret. I will choose love next. I will choose love until it becomes my first response … my gut instinct … my natural reaction. I will choose love until it becomes who I am.”
– Rachel Macy Stafford
Photo by Maria Gotay
Rachel Stafford is a certified special education teacher and New York Times bestselling author of Hands Free Mama. Through truthful storytelling and simple strategies, Rachel helps people overcome distraction and perfection to live better and love more. In Rachel’s newly released book, Hands Free Life, she provides practical strategies for adding more peace, presence, and connection to your day. She shows us how to live better and love more despite the daily distractions and pressures pulling us away. Rachel loves being outdoors, baking, and doing acts of kindness for those in need with her husband and two daughters who inspire her daily. You can find out more about her on her website www.handsfreemama.com.