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How I Found What’s Good for Me by Being in a Very Bad Place

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In the same place my daughter makes iced tea is where I smashed a casserole dish in a moment of complete and utter overwhelm. And when I did, I scared that precious child who happened to be rinsing off her dinner plate at the time. This woman, who is supposed to have it all together, fell apart right there in that very spot where this child makes tea in hues of yellow, purple, and orange.

When my daughter hands me a glass and says, “Taste this one, Mama,” I feel like I am being handed forgiveness. The healing lyrics of one of my all-time favorite songs plays over and over in my head.

Even the best fall down sometimes …”

I blink back tears as I remember pieces of ceramic flying in every direction and how my daughter loves me despite it.

Don’t get me wrong—I didn’t let myself off the hook easily. In fact, I beat myself up over that reckless choice for weeks. “I thought you had stopped overreacting,” Criticism sneered. “And you educate people on how to have peaceful responses? What a joke,” Shame scoffed.

“But even the best fall down sometimes,” Grace whispered in Howie Day’s soothing voice. I play it on repeat over and over in my mind.

I look back on that unforgettable day in May and realize I was in a bad place. I was sleep deprived. I was trying to meet work deadlines and fulfill end-of-the-school year duties. I’d been in physical pain for months. Worry over my infection’s mysterious cause had finally set in. In this fragile state, I made a grave mistake that could have hurt someone I love or myself.

That night I went to my daughter’s room to ask for forgiveness. I told her I deeply regretted handling my feelings of overwhelm and hopelessness by breaking a dish.

My daughter’s response surprised me. She said, “Sometimes when I am tired and someone gets in my face, I am like, ‘Grrrrrr!’ It’s like I forget the other person has feelings.”

Yes. Yes. To forget the other person has feelings—yes, that is when the hurt happens. That is when poor choices are made.

But there was more, and my daughter’s words helped me realize what it was:

Sometimes I forget I have feelings.

Sometimes I forget I have needs.

Sometimes I forget I have limits.

And such a volatile outburst indicates I am not caring for myself properly and need to take an honest look at how I am living my life.

“I’m so sorry. I did not handle the situation well. I think it’s because I’m not taking good care of myself lately,” I realized and admitted all at once.

My little budding orthopedic surgeon quickly came up with suggestions as if she had been waiting to be asked. More sleep, Mama. More fresh air. More water, Mama. Too many Coke Zeros. More chilling out. Get your heart rate up. And tea. Drink herbal tea instead of soda. I can make you some, Mama.

It was abundantly clear she’d been concerned and had been waiting for an invitation to tell me.

I publically declared then and there what I intended to do to look after myself. I would give up the soda addiction and drink more water. I would start running again, even a mile or two of heart-pumping sweat could do wonders. I would be more selective when it came to writing opportunities. I would get at least seven hours of sleep. I would go to a specialist and get to the bottom of a six-month long bladder infection. It didn’t take long for a skilled urologist to discover a monster-sized stone taking over half my kidney. Left unattended or improperly removed, the results could have been quite damaging.

When I told my doctor what the first urologist recommended for removal of the mass, she said, “You could have lost a year of your life due to complications from the wrong procedure.”

But all I heard was: You could have lost your life.

And not just from a monstrous kidney stone, but from not looking after myself—from looking after everyone but me.

Even losing yourself in good works is still losing yourself …

Even the one who handles everything must rest and restore …

Even the strongest have moments of weakness …

Even the most vibrant on the outside can be dying on the inside …

Even the most mindful need to re-evaluate their priorities …

Even the best fall down sometimes.

And in these moments of human vulnerability, it gives others a chance to lift, love, and carry the one who often lifts, loves, and carries them.

My daughter makes tea several times a week now. It is in the exact spot where things were broken but have managed to heal – maybe even stronger than they were before. When she hands me that tall glass of forgiveness, I am given a reminder that brings relief to my parched soul. Today, I pass that reminder on …

“You don’t have to be a superhero today. You don’t have to save the world. Just hold someone you love tightly in your arms and breathe.

"You don’t have to predict the future. You don’t have to see a silver lining in the latest catastrophe. Just notice the sky above your head and breathe.

"You don’t have to know all the words. You don’t have to speak with conviction. Just say, ‘I am here,’ and breathe.

"You are someone’s home base, even when life takes you a little off course. You are someone’s north star even when you’re less than shiny. You’re someone’s solid rock even when you’re falling apart.

"You don’t have to be a superhero today. You’re home base. Keep breathing … love in, love out … for yourself and your precious ones. That’s enough; it’s more than enough.” (from the book, Only Love Today)

If that reminder brings tears to your eyes or relief to your chest, perhaps you forgot. Perhaps you forgot you have feelings. Perhaps you forgot you have limits. Perhaps you forgot you deserve love, care, and time to pursue dreams, just like anyone else. Perhaps you forgot it is necessary to look after you.

It’s not too late. You can start right now with these words: Only love today.

Even the one who holds up the world needs a reprieve.

Even the one who doles out the love needs replenished.

Even the best fall down sometimes.

And we’ll never find out who’s been waiting to help us up if we don’t allow ourselves to fall into the arms of grace.


This is an excerpt from Rachel Macy Stafford’s latest bestseller, Only Love Today. Rachel is the NewYorkTimes bestselling author of HandsFreeMama and HandsFreeLife, as well as a certified special education teacher and inspiring speaker. Millions find solace and hope in her weekly blog posts at handfreemama.com and supportive Facebook community, The Hands Free Revolution. Rachel’s latest work of heart, ONLY LOVE TODAY, offers bite-size encouragement for busy individuals yearning to anchor themselves in love despite everyday distractions, pressures, and discord. “Only Love Today” began as a mantra to overcome her inner bully, but it is now the practice of her life. It can be a practice for all of us. This National bestseller is available at Target, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

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