Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Rachel Macy Stafford of Hands Free Mama.
I used to trade loving goodbyes for on-time morning departures.
I used to trade vacation days for getting tasks accomplished.
I used to trade peace for pride… cuddling for career advancement.
I used to trade authenticity for approval.
I used to trade my sanity for rapid text message responses.
I used to trade my family’s emotional well-being for carrying out a well-orchestrated plan.
I used to trade joy for control… happiness for perfection.
I used to make a lot of bad trades, trades that did not support a fulfilling and peaceful life. While I don’t make those particular trades anymore, I still make bad trades when life feels stressful and uncertain. And lately, a few bad trades have been called to my attention.
I trade food enjoyment for calorie counting.
I trade playtime to meet deadlines.
I trade peace of mind to meet my publisher’s goals.
And for what? For what?
At the end of my life, my pant size, book sales, and my ability to reach a deadline on time will be irrelevant.
I know this. I’ve always known this. But it didn’t really sink in until I saw this truth with my own two eyes.
The day before his life ended, my father-in-law, Ben, rejoiced as his children and grandchildren surrounded him. He delighted in the countless memories of time he’d spent with people he loved. Besides those two things, nothing else mattered—not how much money he had in his bank account, not the size of his house, not his list of career accomplishments.
Due to his cancerous tumor, Ben pretty much lost his appetite. But oh how he craved a slice of homemade cherry pie.
My husband, Scott, made a cherry pie for his dad. When Ben took a bite, his eyes lit up. His expression revealed that one mere taste brought forth a wave of fond memories. Ben put the fork down after one bite; he didn’t need any more. Love would sustain him.
Relationships, memories, and love. That was all he needed in the end.
A few days after my father-in-law passed away, Scott and I were walking side-by-side on a busy downtown street. We had no destination in mind. We were walking in an effort to process the painful turn of events that had happened so quickly and unexpectedly.
At one point, Scott stopped right in the middle of the sidewalk, paying no mind to the people and cars rushing past, and made a declaration.
“I want to have more fun,” Scott announced, taking my hands in his.
I can still smell the spring air, the exhaust of the cars, the storm brewing off in the distance. I don’t think I will ever forget those words or the yearning they stirred up in me. I desperately wanted to have more fun, too, but how? What does that even look like in a life of non-negotiable duties, responsibilities, and obligations?
It took me only a few days to figure it out, and it came down to the trades I was not willing to make in my life. This was my declaration:
I’m not trading a conversation with my daughter for a mindless scroll on Instagram.
I’m not trading real human connection for shallow online friendships.
I’m not trading Likes for real love.
I’m not trading sanity for sales.
I’m not trading a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream for a number on the scale.
I’m not trading a walk in the sunshine for stacks of folded laundry.
I’m not trading breath-taking sunsets for stellar stats.
I’m not trading sound mental health for an empty inbox.
I’m not trading tranquility for 24/7 availability.
I’m not trading family closeness for vast wealth.
Perhaps you’d like to make some “no trade” declarations of your own.
Take a moment to think about how your work, your technology, and your life might bleed into each other to the point that there are no longer any protected areas. While it is not always possible to trade productivity and efficiency for human connection or inner peace, it is always worthwhile when we can.
As our family learned in the most painful way, there’s no way to know how much time we have left with our loved ones. Let’s find peace in knowing we’re making good trades, the best kind of trades—the kind of trades that feel like we’re finishing the game with the best possible hand, stacked with relationships, memories, purpose, and love.
“Didn’t we have fun?” we’ll ask our beloveds on that final day.
The answer will be in the faces of love that surround us and the experiences we’ve shared. And nothing else will matter.
This is what I said about it:
“Rachel’s transparent and practical insights inspire us to do just what the title of her new book promises: Live Love Now. Reading it reminded me, yet again, why hers is one of the most important voices of our day.”