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The Path Towards Thriving | Living Hands Free

Throughout 2014 I'm planning to blog about my One Little Word journey as I investigate what it means for me to thrive. I don't have a set schedule in place but will share as I identify areas, recognize strengths or weaknesses, ask questions, learn lessons, and hopefully make life-affirming choices along the way.

No. 1 | I believe that for me to thrive I need to live a less distracted life.


"You know we're going to have an intervention about that soon right?"

We were sitting on the couch after dinner, chatting and getting ready to play a couple rounds of Mario Bros on the Wii.

Darn it (that's not really the word that came to mind but you get the point). "Yes," I replied and felt a wave of shame wash over myself.

My connection to the phone and the online world is powerful. It's where most of my work-life exists (I'm on the type-A, take-care-of-this-right-this-very-minute, obsessive end of the personality spectrum), where many of my friends exist, and to be honest, sometimes some of my self-worth is mixed in here too.

I put my phone face-down on the couch next to me and turned to face him, "I know."

In my head I could rationalize it. I was waiting for him to get things set up. I was probably checking my email one more time because I'm responsible and I pride myself on being accessible and taking care of stuff immediately or I was peeking at Facebook seeing if any responses were needed or if there was a comment on a photo I'd recently posted on Instagram.

But I knew he was right.

I need a major iphone boundary check.


Another evening we had a discussion about parenting after Anna refused to put her coat away. She was exhausted and defiant. I was exhausted and not ready for battle because it seems like battling is all we do lately. During the discussion he said he thought she was mean to me. He had watched, unsure where to step in and when to step away.

It was a good talk about who we are and who we want to be as parents. I listened carefully, trying hard not to take anything too personally, listening instead for suggestions I could implement the next time an opportunity arose. It was hard and easy at the same time because I know what he was saying was coming from a loving place and that he was right.

As I reflect on how Anna and I have been interacting lately I think so much of it comes down to me being a distracted parent. Distracted by my work, distracted by the dishes in the sink, distracted by the running list in my head, distracted by pressures both real and imagined, distracted by a million other things.

Damn.

I don't want to be this person. I know there are times when I've been less distracted but over the last couple of years I've become that person again and it's definitely time for a re-alignment.

I have lots of excuses for my distractions but really none of them matter more than my relationship with my kids and those closest to me.

It's time to start living that way.


I wrote out the above stories a few days ago as I started working on this post.

Since then I've taken a few steps forward and a few steps back. The simple act of acknowledgement - and for me this has been a growing acknowledgment over the past few months - is starting to result in me actually taking action.

One of the first things I'm doing is reading Rachel Macy Stafford's new book Hands Free Mama. Rachel runs a blog of the same name that you might have seen me mention or link to in the past. She's a wonderful story teller and truth teller and is really inspiring life-changes by encouraging people to get connected to what really matters. I reviewed an advance copy of the book last year but feel like I'm really reading it for the first time now. And PS - this book isn't just about creating meaningful connections with your kids - it's about removing the distractions that keep us from deeply connecting with the people we claim to care about most.

One of the suggestions from Rachel is to go public about your intention to live Hands Free so here I am.

Hi, I'm Ali and I've been living distracted for far too long and I'm ready to let go and make a very meaningful change in my life.

Tonight I started reading a chapter book out loud to both kids in the evening. It's an opportunity for the three of us to do something together that doesn't involve a screen.

We're starting with Charlotte's Web.

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218 thoughts

  1. Paula says…
    01/06/2014

    Great post. We are all learning that everything is give and take because there are only so many hours in a day. My word is Whole, and at the end of each day, when I am reflecting on "the sum of all it's parts" - I realize that my "pie grid" is uneven because if I let it, I can spend 2/3 of my time working. And if I let it, I can spend too much time online or too much time worrying. I am trying to visually picture what I want the slices of that pie to look like each day, or as often as possible. On the "whole" I want a slice of work and online, but what I want even more is a slice of quiet time to pray or think, a slice of physical activity - better yet shared with my hubby, kids or a friend, I want a slice of learning time - it can be reading or creating/scrapbooking, learning something new (I have endless recipes I want to try), I want a slice of nourishing time - doing something fun with the family and our pets, enjoying/taking care of my home. Then I look at all these slices and think - it's too much. I can't do all this every day. So I am now calling this a weekly pie - and I plan to reflect a few minutes about once a week to see how large each slice was. Based on the slices that are my priorities, I am going to work on getting the right proportions to each slice. Hoping that the heaping slices of pie will be the most meaningful to my heart and soul, and the "distraction/tasks" will end up being the smaller parts of the Whole.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Honoré says…
      01/11/2014

      I like your metaphor. Think this is a great way to approach each day.

      Cheers~

  2. Elisa says…
    01/06/2014

    Did this ever hit a chord with me! Thank you.

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. Anjii says…
      02/18/2014

      Good points all around. Truly appeeciatrd.

  3. Cathy Zielske says…
    01/06/2014

    Wow, Ali. This is good stuff. You know, when my kids were little—and let's face it, I'm that much older than you that there is a kid generation gap at work—I had my ways of setting up life to get more work done. Oh, look at me! I'm a stay at home mom! What BS that was, in some regards. I just worked at home and found ways to distract Cole from his babyhood on, so I could get more done, bill more hours, and so on.

    It is one of the biggest regrets of my life, being that tuned out from both of my kids. Of not being the parent they really needed. It took me starting therapy to figure all this out (as you well know) but just because I didn't have an iPhone in hand, didn't mean I wasn't complete disconnected to my life with my family in those years.

    Just felt compelled to share that this morning. I love your honesty and when you share like this.

    Reply 2 Replies
    1. Fanny says…
      01/07/2014

      Dear Cathy, thanks for sharing you too! We love to hear from more experienced moms!

    2. Chrisy@GoodNorthCoastLife says…
      01/07/2014

      Cathy l find you and Ali so very inspiring. Your willingness to be so open with your thoughts and feelings is loved by many. I take the advice of parents with older children very seriously and see an element of me in both yours and Ali's words.

  4. Janet says…
    01/06/2014

    My 2013 Word Adapt lead me to begin to understand how distractions have let me hide. Some are important: work as financial necessity, dinner on the table, etc. But when I read 5 romances in a weekend I can use the excuse it is relaxation, but they are an absolute assurance that I don't have to identify what is hurting my heart. Retirement eradicates many real-time distractions, and I'm too introverted to pretend I can distract myself with meaningless busyness. This year I am grasping to Embrace who I am. One of the great things about OLW is that it gives me permission to over-think. Which I do anyway, now with permission. You are carrying Open with you, Ali.

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. Christin Dukes says…
    01/06/2014

    Ali this was an incredible post that struck a chord with me. It's not only me that is distracted by electronics but it is also my children. I have teens and pre teens. Everyone is always plugged into their phones, iPods, and iPads. The technology we have in these times are amazing as to how much we can do with it but at the same time it is a curse. Kids nowadays don't know how to actually have a conversation with each other. It's all about sending texts. They lose out the most. It's kinda sad.

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Gisele chastain says…
    01/06/2014

    Wow. Thank you for this.
    Just subscribed to your blog yesterday and am so glad I did.

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. Kimberly says…
    01/06/2014

    Yes, yes, yes! This post touched on so many things I need to work on right now. Thank you for being so honest in your writing.

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. Jennifer says…
    01/06/2014

    Lovely. Honest. Thanks you.

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. Scrapstorian says…
    01/06/2014

    I needed this today. My word for 2014 is connect. I've realized that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all been attempts at looking for but not finding real connection. They are preventing me from connecting fully to the people most important to me. Thank you for this honest, hopeful post.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. Louanne Collins says…
    01/06/2014

    I subscribed to the Hands Free Mama blog some time ago after a posting of one of her stores on your website. I find her stories really hit home and like my OLW over the past few years, they make me think twice about those "in a minute" responses or distractions. Change is good. I wish I could get my teen to be less "connected" to his iphone!

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. Tashia D says…
    01/06/2014

    I think this is fantastic! I'm always telling my husband that we are too distracted by our phones. I feel like we pick them up anytime we have a few free minutes...seconds. It's totally out of hand. I would have an easier time letting go than he would (he's a tech junkie). I've been trying to figure out the best way to get us to focus on something more important during those down moments. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It's always nice to know others feel the same way!

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. Laura says…
    01/06/2014

    This post resonated so much with me! I had the realization that I am also distracted when my 14 month old little boy said "phone" as his third word, right after daddy and mama. I preordered Hands Free Mama from Amazon and it should be delivered tomorrow. Thank you for such an insightful post.

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. Jackie says…
    01/06/2014

    Ali,

    Thank you for sharing your heart. Through your blog you are able to touch many lives. Wow, I was a single Mom for 6 years and the hardest thing for me when I was in a relationship again was someone else having input on disciplining my children. That is hard, sounds like you handled it gracefully, not so sure I would have. In my head, no one loves my children like I do. I tend to take things personally, so awesome you knew that Aaron was coming from a loving place. I need to work on that. I have been married again for 16 years but I sometimes forget he really does love my kids as I love his. You are doing this divorce thing with so much grace and mercy that I admire you immensely. Blessings to you and yours!

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. SarahJane says…
    01/06/2014

    I feel like a hypocrite by leaving a comment FOR YOU to read when you are trying to LIVE IN THE MOMENT with less distractions like these (comments), but think that THIS was an AWESOME POST. Sounds like a FANTASTIC BOOK (Hands Free Mama) as well as an EXCELLENT CHOICE for your bonding time with the kids (CHARLOTTE'S WEB).

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. Katie Chapman says…
    01/06/2014

    Awesome post Ali! Thanks for sharing. I need this reminder too...

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. Sara says…
    01/06/2014

    When talking about our New Year's resolutions my 6 year old told me, "you should not be on your phone." It was a huge wake up call to me.
    I stopped using Facebook a few years ago and it was so wonderful. Once you step away from Facebook you start to see how crazy of a thing it is. I will talk to people and everything they tell me is stuff they saw on Facebook. If a friend's child is sick or they are on vacation or whatever else it may be, I want them to tell me. I want to sit and look in their eyes and hear about their life. I don't want to read about it on a social media site.
    I know you use it for your business so quitting Facebook probably isn't an option for you.

    There is a book by Thich Nhat Hanh called You are Here. It is a great book. A few quotes that hit home with me were….
    "….live every minute you are given in a deep way….The only way to deal with insecurity, fear and suffering is to live the present moment in a profound way. If you do that, you will have no regrets."

    "…make this the most magnificent and wonderful moment of your life. This present moment must become the most wonderful moment in your life. All you need to transform this present moment into a wonderful one is freedom. All you need to do is free yourself from your worries and preoccupations about the past, the future, and so on."

    I am a huge work in progress. I need to repeat these quotes to myself all the time. I have a terrible time letting go of what needs to be done and just enjoy the moment.

    Good luck, Ali!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. AnnieB says…
    01/06/2014

    Thank you.

    Reply 0 Replies
  18. Daphne says…
    01/06/2014

    I cant wait to get her book! I preordered so I should have it very soon! Thank you for this great post; I love it and it really hit a chord with me and confirmed the fact that I need to make it public and act on it!

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. Desiree says…
    01/06/2014

    Reading that, gave me goosebumps and one of those "seeing your life fly by" moments before you crash. I'd do a repeat if I could with my kids too. I'm 55 and didn't have a cell phone until this year but I had a job and I was a single Mom. That was my distraction and we all paid a price for that. Great, honest words. You will thrive! xo

    Reply 0 Replies
  20. Evalyn says…
    01/06/2014

    Beautiful, honest post.

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. Robyn G. says…
    01/06/2014

    Great thoughts! It's so sad when I see parents on their phones and their kids are just sitting beside them or playing on iPads and no one is interacting. Maybe you are starting a new movement! Good Luck!

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. Jennifer K says…
    01/06/2014

    Awesome sharing. Reading a chapter book with your kids at night is a great habit! Sometimes kids are bad listeners and it's easy to get frustrated, but if that happens, don't give up! (and sometimes it turns into some great talking/connecting time.) My boys are 10 and 13 and still usually want me to read to them. I try to make sure the book is something I can stand so that I won't resent the time, and I have enjoyed many adventures with them over the years. I have shared some of my favorites also. Reading to my kids is one of those things I love about parenthood that took me by surprise. Enjoy!!

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. Trish says…
    01/06/2014

    Ali, this post has resonated with me! I understand the parenting age with distractions, different than yours, but distractions just the same. Now that I have adult children my challenges are distractions in many forms that prevent me from being the daughter, wife, mother, friend that I want to be. As one commentor said, the key is finding the balance so that we don't lose ourselves in the care of others. So my word of the year,CONNECT, is directly related to yours. I strive to get past the distractions and connect with my loved ones in a more meaningful way. Thank you Ali, for this heartfelt blog post and the dialog that it has generated with your readers.

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. Amy says…
    01/06/2014

    Good for you Ali! I could stand to do that in my daily life, too.

    Chapter books are a great way to spend some quiet time together in the evening. We read Charlottes Web last fall, and loved it. My oldest son will be 12 and so oftentimes he finds himself in the same room as me and my younger son (who is almost 5) doing "something else" but still very actively listening and enjoying the story. We are currently reading the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary and they are fantastic.

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. Heather H. says…
    01/06/2014

    This is amazing and I need to get that book. Thank you for being honest. I am SO distracted. All I ever seem to want to do anymore is spend time with my kids...because that seems to be what I do the least. The chapter book idea is a good one. I keep saying we're going to do that and don't. Because they're busy...and distracted...too. I think we're going to start it anyway.

    Reply 0 Replies

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