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The Loss of Life Beneath Your Skin & How to Revive It

My friend, you have feelings. They are real. They are worth listening to and acknowledging.
09/11/2015 08:40am ET | Updated December 6, 2017
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A few months ago my newly turned 12-year-old daughter got into making iced tea. We seek out new flavors at quaint little farmers' markets and at fancy tea shops in the mall. My child holds the canister and asks questions of the vendor that I do not understand. She pays with her babysitting money.

I stand back and marvel at her maturity and her newfound passion.

She comes home with her wares and goes right to work. It's quite a process, and she takes it very seriously. She makes a large pitcher and offers me a glass. She knows I am trying to stop drinking diet soda once and for all. So whenever she makes a new flavor, she says, "I think you'll like this one, Mama."

She holds out that glass of deep orange liquid as if handing me a sunset made with her very own two hands.

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I didn't know why I felt like crying happy tears at such an offering until my sister-in-law shared something about her own life experience.

She said, "Just when I feel like I am failing as a parent, a moment will come along that makes me feel like I'm doing OK."

Her moment came when her 4-year-old son had earned several dollars to spend at a toy store. But instead of buying only for himself, he bought a toy for his little brother and baby sister.

As she shared her story, I had an epiphany. It dawned on me that the very same place my daughter makes 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 child 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 favorite songs play 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 in spite of 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 tell people how to have a peaceful response? 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 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 child's room to ask for forgiveness. I told her I deeply regretted handling that feeling of overwhelm and hopelessness by breaking a glass 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 that I am not caring for myself properly and need to take an honest look at how I am living.

"I am 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 that she'd been concerned and had been waiting for an invitation to tell me.

I publicly 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 instead continuing to take different antibiotics.

And that is what I did. I immediately began sleeping through the night. I could think more clearly. I could handle frustration better. I went to several doctors until I got to the bottom of my health issue. A highly skilled urologist discovered a gargantuan kidney stone that was taking up over half my kidney. Left unattended or improperly removed, the results could have been extremely serious.

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.

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My 12-year-old makes tea several times a week now. It is in the exact spot where things were broken, but have managed to come back stronger than before.

When she hands me that tall glass of forgiveness, I am given a reminder that brings relief to my parched soul. Today I feel compelled to pass that reminder on...

To you, the one who yelled again today and hangs her head in shame
To you, the one who doesn't even recognize himself anymore
To you, the one who can't remember the last time she laughed
To you, the one who can only see the damage done
To you, the one who feels like he's just going through the motions
To you, the one who can't seem to get herself together
To you, the one who thinks thoughts she could never say out loud
To you, the one who's slowly dying inside

My friend, you have feelings. They are real. They are worth listening to and acknowledging.

You have limits. They are real. They are necessary to keep in place as a means of valuing your time and honoring your health.

You have dreams. They are real. You are worthy of time to pursue what makes your heart come alive.

You have needs. They are real. You deserve affection, rest, sustenance, and grace.

Perhaps you forgot you have feelings. Perhaps you forgot you have limits. Perhaps you forgot that you deserve love and care just like anyone else. Perhaps you forgot that it is necessary to look after you.

It's OK. It's OK. I forget, too.

But today, let us look after ourselves just as we do our loved ones. After all, what good are we if we are not here?

And then maybe we can look after ourselves again tomorrow.

Even the one who holds up the world needs a reprieve.
Even the one who doles out the love needs it replenished.
Even the best fall down sometimes.

And we'll never find out who's been waiting to help us up if we never allow ourselves to fall into the arms of grace.

This piece originally appeared on Hands Free Mama.

Rachel Macy Stafford is the New York Times bestselling author of HANDS FREE MAMA. Rachel's newly released book, HANDS FREE LIFE, instantly hit #1 on the Amazon bestseller list. In it, she describes how she finally started living life, instead of managing, stressing, screaming, and barely getting through life. Through truthful storytelling and life-changing Habit Builders, Rachel shows us how to respond to our loved ones and ourselves with more love, more presence, and more grace. HANDS FREE LIFE released on September 8.