Cleaning Up the Heartbreak

#truelove #allowing #dating

GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
Cleaning Up the Heartbreak
We were on our way out the door, which has always been a little stressful since having children. There’s just something about making ourselves and our kids look presentable — all at the same time — that causes tensions to run high.

On this particular evening, I’d actually put on something other than my typical Writer’s Uniform — meaning I was not wearing anything made out of Dri-Fit fabric and my hair was not in a ponytail. We were finally experiencing fall-like temperatures in the South, so it was cool enough for jeans, a sweater and boots.

I was actually feeling pretty good about this departure. My kids were in Dri-Fit material from head to toe, but their hair was combed so we were good to go.

My older daughter decided to use the restroom one last time before we headed out to meet friends. That’s when I heard: “Mom, the toilet is clogged!”

I quickly ran to assess the situation, desperately hoping she was mistaken since The Official Toilet Plunger of the family (my husband) wasn’t home.

Much to my dismay, my daughter’s assessment was accurate. Someone had used the bathroom and apparently it required an entire roll of toilet paper to do the job. The muddy water was scarily close to the top of the bowl.

Although it was tempting to get upset, I swallowed an “Are you serious?” and stifled an exasperated sigh. I didn’t even ask, “Which one of you did this?” although I had my suspicions based on the fact that Little Sister was now cautiously peering from around a corner.

With clenched teeth I said, “I’ll get the plunger.”

I searched every bathroom and even the garage and yet the plunger was nowhere to be found. By now, I was getting sweaty. The cute boots were not made for running around the house and neither was the sweater. I was suddenly irritated that I had abandoned my comfy Dri-Fit.

“I can’t find the plunger!” I hollered as I ascended the stairs. “Everyone look for it!” I demanded.

The girls slowly meandered around the house as if the plunger would be sitting in plain sight on the kitchen counter beside the coffee pot or propped up in the recliner.

“I will go upstairs and look once more,” I grumped.

Finally, I discovered the oddly shaped yet highly effective tool. The toilet plunger was hidden behind the stool in the girls’ bathroom. “I found it!” I announced excitedly, as if anyone cared.

I carefully made my way down the stairs because boots and stairs have been known to be a dangerous combination for me. That’s when I heard it — the distinctive sound of a flushing toilet and the unmistakable sound of rushing water hitting a tile floor.

“NOOOOOOO!” I cried out, practically tumbling downstairs in the hope that I could somehow stop the catastrophe.

I rushed into the bathroom to see my youngest child standing in the middle of a nasty pool of liquid that was growing larger by the minute. She was literally paralyzed.

I felt steam coming off my forehead that was now officially in need of sweatband.

“Why did you flush it?” I yelled, feeling my eyes bulging much too far out of their sockets. I must have looked quite frightening — my child burst into tears. “Why, why, why would you flush it?” I repeated angrily, knowing this was an incredibly stupid question. She thought she was helping. If she knew this action would result in an exploding toilet, she never would have flushed it.

“I am sorry! I didn’t know!” She explained what I already knew between dramatic sobs.

My cute boots were now in toilet water. I felt sweat dripping down my back onto my best pair of jeans. Things could get very, very bad, I thought to myself. I could keep yelling and even throw out a few profane words…


… I could remember to breathe and spare us both some pain.

Instead of yelling one more word, I miraculously released a huge, mammoth-sized exhale. Apparently I had been holding my breath in anger and I needed this release quite badly.

My child did not know how to interpret the exhale. She looked at me nervously — is Mom gearing up for a major meltdown? Just then, Big Sister ran in, armed with two spray bottles of disinfectant and a stack of old cleaning towels. She even had her shoes off, prepared to go to battle.

This small but incredibly kind, sisterly gesture helped me take another deep breath.

My older daughter — who is quick to note when a mess does not belong to her — said nothing of the sort. She was attempting to spare her younger sister from further anguish. Perhaps she remembered more clearly than her sister the wrath of their perfectionist mother who just a few years ago completely lost it when things went awry.

But things are different now. Thank goodness, things are different now.

I calmly took off my boots, set them in the sink, and joined my older daughter in sopping up the putrid mess. Little Sister handed paper towels to Big Sister when they were needed, but she did not mutter a single word.

Fifteen minutes and one overly disinfected floor later, I discovered my child sitting outside the door with her knees tucked into her chest. Her little pink glasses had slipped to the tip of her nose, her tearful eyes shining. With her head slumped down, my usually cheerful child appeared heartbroken.

Her broken-heartedness hurt my own heart.

“I am sorry I yelled,” I said quietly, the words feeling awkward coming out of my mouth. Even now, admitting any wrongdoing feels clumsy, like I am speaking a foreign language. “I am sorry I blew up,” I continued a little louder. “Next time you see a clogged toilet, please don’t flush it,” I added gently.

“I promise. I won’t, Mama,” she vowed, looking up at me with hopeful eyes. I could tell she wouldn’t make that mistake again.

I slowly sat down next to her and wrapped one arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. Embarrassed by her tears, she buried her face in my sweater that I hoped didn’t smell too badly after the extensive cleaning job.

As I sat there just holding my child, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or to cry. The timing of this experience was truly providential. Just six hours earlier, I’d been interviewed by a national magazine about overcoming yelling. What are the chances, right? And while I was describing a painful yelling memory from my highly distracted and perfectionistic years to the reporter, I unexpectedly got choked up. As I held my child, I replayed the conversation in my mind:

“Why are you crying?” the reporter asked.

“My daughter remembers that incident. She recounted the whole event to me years later. She remembered how angry I was. How scared she was. It hurts to think about it,” I explained, my voice catching.

“But you’ve worked on it, and you have really changed,” she reminded me.

“Yes,” I said, “I make mistakes, but I handle things much better now. I’ve learned to accept that things can’t be perfect. I stopped filling every minute of my life with excessive commitments. I stopped rushing myself and my family through life. I am not under so much pressure now,” I said, finding my voice again.

“You know what?” the reporter began, preparing to give me an unexpected gift. “I think showing emotion is OK. It is healthy. I lived in a family that didn’t. My parents kept feelings bottled up so everything would appear perfect. I never learned how to express disappointment, anger or fear. I never learned to say I am sorry. I never learned how to ask for help or just let my feelings out.” After a slight pause she said, “Give yourself a break. Let it go.”

Let it go.

I am a big fan of those healing, hopeful words.

And that is what I decided to do — because the old me would have never gotten past the soiled floors and the stained boots. The old me would have yelled, “Forget it! We’re not going to see our friends now!” The old me would have sulked for hours and probably ruined a perfectly good evening. The old me would have handed out a mighty dose of blame and shame, but never an apology.

But things are different now. Thank goodness, things are different now.

The Me I Am Now stood up from the spot next to my child and said, “Well, we’d better go. Our friends are waiting on us and rarely do I ever get this dressed up!”

My daughter, who’s always been one quick to forgive, gave me a relieved smile and took my outstretched hand.

As we walked out the door, I had a thought: Maybe my daughter will remember this experience one day. Perhaps her child will overflow the toilet and she will get a little mad at first. But then she will remember that it is just water (mostly), and that it can be cleaned up. And perhaps she’ll remember that we all make mistakes because even her mom did. But it’s what we do with those mistakes that makes or breaks the chance to salvage a broken heart.


This post originally appeared on Hands Free Mama.

Rachel’s newly released book, Hands Free Mama, describes exactly how she transformed her distracted, perfectionistic, hurried life into one of meaningful connection, inner peace, and gratitude. To learn more or purchase Hand Free Mama, a New York Times Bestseller, click here.

Ditch Your Phone, Save a Life
Would you go without your phone so that somebody else doesn’t have to go without water? UNICEF’s newest fundraising endeavor forces each and every one of us to answer just that.

With it’s TAP Project, UNICEF will provide a day’s worth of clean water to a child for every minute you go without touching your phone.

768 million people around the world go without sanitary drinking water, according to UNICEF. And 1,400 children die daily due to water-borne diseases and lack of sanitation.

With these people in mind, I decided to take UNICEF up on their challenge.

I’ve worked abroad on and off for the past two years. I have been in refugee camps, slept on the ground with cockroaches, suffered through malaria, gone a month without a shower and been mugged — twice. I’ve lived without Internet access for days — sometimes weeks — at a time.

So voluntarily giving up my cell phone for a few minutes from my cushy NYC office?

Please. This wouldn’t just be a cakewalk — it would be a mini cupcakewalk.

I had to up the ante. I committed to giving up my phone for the whole day which still seemed like a ridiculous “sacrifice.”

I’m always wary of campaigns that attempt to simulate poverty but that doesn’t seem to be what the TAP project is all about. In my mind, it’s about giving something up to get a bit of perspective — and in my cell phone fast, perspective is exactly what I gained.

Once I registered for the TAP project, my phone was immediately transformed into a bubbling blue water cooler, spitting out facts as it counted the time. Sensitive to movement and touch, the time only counts when the phone lies still — sometimes making it feel more like a live bomb than a clever philanthropic stop-watch.

After marveling at it for a few minutes, I got back to work.

The first, and maybe most notable, realization of the day was how often I felt compelled to ‘check’ my phone for absolutely no reason at all. My phone is usually on silent so I do look at it periodically to see if I’ve received any messages or missed calls that require my attention. I had no idea how often ‘periodically’ was until I was forbidden from doing it. My inability to check-in was at first a minor inconvenience that evolved into a leaching anxiety. What if I was missing something? What if somebody was waiting for an urgent response?

This anxiety was, obviously, misplaced. I had my computer and my email open in front of me. If somebody truly needed to get in touch with me, there were plenty of ways to go about it.

Unfortunately, anxiety can’t always be rationalized away and my growing concern made the next part of my day seem even more tenuous. I had to leave the building — for lunch followed by a meeting. I would leave my phone behind. And, because I wanted to make it hurt, I’d also leave my laptop and my iPad.

Walking through the streets toward lunch, I immediately felt the sad absence of my headphones. When I’m out by myself, I’m listening to music a good percentage of the time — I tried to enjoy the sounds of the city but the bustle of tourists in Union Square and the honking of errant taxis was not particularly endearing.

I did, happily, discover a funky antique store that I must have walked past obliviously a few hundred times.

In the window display, there was a lovely painting of a couple kissing in the rain with a NYC yellow cab whizzing fast behind them. Certainly worthy of an instagram. I rustled around my coat pocket and felt a near instant pang of panic when I didn’t feel the familiar bulk of my iPhone there.

I quickly remembered that it was safe and sound at my desk but that didn’t stop me from feelings its absence again when I needed to get a sense of my timing. I don’t wear a watch. I decided to ask a stranger entering the subway — he made his annoyance rather transparent as he fumbled through his briefcase and pulled out his own iPhone and referred to its display. “Is yours dead or something?” He asked me.

I got to my meeting without too much trouble–though the maps app would’ve come in handy… and I couldn’t help but wonder if there was an email waiting for me at the office indicating that the time and date had changed.

Happily, the rest of my day went off without any major phone problems or lack of phone problems.

Though throughout my little experiment, I did identify a nagging, itching, anxiety-inducing feeling of absence which would be more appropriately assigned to a child’s first day of pre-school.

I realized how much I depend on my phone — as a map, a watch, a camera, a stereo and a security blanket. I felt insecure without it, less informed, less empowered, less resourceful.

But the truth is, I also felt unimaginably stupid for feeling any of these things. After all, I never went without any essential resources.

In the course of the day, I had 3 meals and 4 glasses of water. I have an office and an apartment that are both equipped with a roof, running water and flushable toilets. Had I randomly come down with a water-borne illness, I would have had access to elite medical care.

The troubles I came across from abandoning my phone can best be qualified as #UpperMiddleClassWesternWhiteGirlProblems

I’ve logged 10 hours without touching, moving or using my phone. That’s 600 days of clean water for a kid who needs it OR 1 day of safe, disease-free drinking water for 600 kids. That’s more than worth my inconvenience.

Don’t you think it’s worth yours, too?

To participate, open an Internet browser in your smartphone and navigate to

Disclosure: HuffPost partners with the UN on a number of campaigns and initiatives. It was wholly my choice to participate in this campaign.

Subliminal hypnosis: sports hypnosis, weight loss hypnosis, mental health hypnosis, and 40 different topics hypnosis at, full catalog photo 2163_zps044fb03b.jpg


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